In a chaotic and frantic Brazilian Grand Prix that involved two red flags, multiple spins, and a stunning comeback drive, Lewis Hamilton came home to ensure that the title battle with Nico Rosberg will go down to the final race of the season at Abu Dhabi.
In a race that lasted for over three hours, Hamilton was never headed as he came home to secure a 52nd career win, and his 1st in 10 attempts in Brazil.
Rosberg was comfortably second best and in Alain Prost style, came home to collect 18 points and edge closer to the title.
In future times, the Spanish Grand Prix will not be the one that defines Max Verstappen’s early career, but this one.
His drive will go down as one of the greatest, that involved an amazing overtake on Rosberg, and a spin that Gilles Villeneuve would’ve been proud of.
Sergio Perez came home for fourth, being edged out for the podium in the closing stages by a recovering Verstappen, after Red Bull’s strategy meant he had to make a late stop for Wets, which dropped him to P16.
Sebastian Vettel overcame a frightening spin to come home fifth, ahead of Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo.
By coming home in ninth, Felipe Nasr could’ve just earned Sauber an extra $30 million, as the team now vault Manor in the constructors’ into 10th.
Fernando Alonso hauled the final point for McLaren, despite a late spin.
The two red-flags were caused by a scary crash for Kimi Raikkonen on a Safety Car restart and then after an attempt to get going again was aborted, due to the forecast and conditions being unfavourable.
Rain, rain and more rain
Even before lights out, there was drama, as Romain Grosjean , due to start deventh after a fantastic qualifying, crashed his Haas on the Recon lap, plucking the front suspension out and leading to his second DNS of the season, after Singapore. The start of the race was then delayed by 10 minutes, as Charlie Whiting hoped conditions would improve.
When they finally got going, during the seven lap stint behind the Safty Car, many voiced their opinion that racing should get underway, although unsurprisingly, Rosberg was not one of them.
On the restart, Hamilton got the jump on the field, as Verstappen tried an audacious and successful lunge on Raikkonen’s Ferrari to slot into P3 and chase after the Mercedes’.
Felipe Massa, in his final Brazilian GP, was handed a 5s penalty for overtaking Esteban Gutierrez before the first safety car line had been passed.
Climbing the hill from Juncao, Vettel then spun around to face the oncoming traffic, who would’ve been blinded by spray. Thankfully the Ferrari re-joined in clean track and immediately made a stop to switch to Inters, which had been triggered by Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button.
As most of the mid-field and back-markers switched to Inters to try and undercut the front-runners, who were all united in their belief that conditions were just too wet.
The track itself was drying, but spray was the issue, as Ricciardo pleaded with his team to do something to increase his visibility.
On lap 13, Marcus Ericsson aquaplaned his Sauber into the barrier climbing up from Juncao, coming to rest in the pit-entry.
As the C35 was blocking entry into the pit lane, it was closed, meaning you couldn’t enter the pit-lane.
Verstappen narrowly avoided the stricken car and made it in before the message appeared, but team-mate Ricciardo wasn’t so lucky, being awarded a 5s penalty, despite Christian Horner’s protests of a puncture for the Aussie.
Raikkonen brings out the red-flag
After a seven-lap stint behind the safety car, the pack was released again, albeit briefly.
Crossing the starting grid, Raikkonen lost control of his Ferrari, cannoning into the barrier to the right, before crossing the track and hitting the pit-wall, coming to rest.
Hulkenberg was lucky that his front-wing deflected Raikkonen’s own, with a piece of the Ferrari being wedged into the Force India’s, as Esteban Ocon won the award for quickest reflexes of the day, jinking to avoid Raikkonen, who he had seen at the last moment.
The first red-flag was thrown to give officials time to clean the mess Raikkonen, in his 250th Formula One start had made.
Sitting in P4 after the delay, Hulkenberg was forced to make an unscheduled stop, the legacy of a right-rear puncture, that dropped him down to P15.
Some clever strategy from Manor and Sauber had vaulted Pascal Wehrlein, Ocon and Nasr in and on the cusp of the points, as they had yet to make a ‘live’ pit-stop.
Jolyon Palmer was unable to take further part in the race, as he and Danill Kvyat had made contact on the restart, the Renault colliding with the Toro Rosso sidepod.
However, a further seven laps were spent under the safety car, before Whiting decided to throw another red-flag, as conditions were too deemed too risky by Race Control, that is despite the drivers’ being unified in their want to get going - "The track is fine, it's not even that wet now. I don't know why we're stopping. This is extreme-wet conditions, this is normal." commented Hamilton.
Full-points would only be awarded if 53 out of 71 laps had been completed, at this stage, only 28 had been done so, and the rules dictate a two-hour race can take place, in a four-hour period.
There were fears of a timed race, or half-points being awarded for the first time since Malaysia in 2009.
During the second stoppage, the crowd audibly and visibly showed their thoughts on it, booing, jeering and making the thumbs down sign. Some even left early.
On the final restart, Verstappen tried another move into T1, and although unsuccessful, he pulled off one of the all-time great overtakes into T3 on Rosberg.
Powering the RB12 around the outside on the W07 Hybrid, Verstappen slotted into P2, and began to chase after Hamilton, the two trading fastest laps.
On lap 38, again climbing the hill, Verstappen’s car control was nothing short of genius. Losing the back-end he somehow avoided planting it in the barriers and composed himself and began the chase of Hamilton once again. Villeneuve and Ronnie Peterson would’ve respected that one.
Renewing their famous battle from Silverstone 2014, Vettel and Alonso went side by side through Bico de Pato before, the Ferrari edged the McLaren out of road into Margulho.
The Spanish driver wasn’t overly impressed, complaining “the Ferrari pushed me off the track, very clearly.” The stewards saw nothing and no investigation was forthcoming.
Rosberg was then the latest driver to lose it climbing the hill, just golding on to the Mercedes, as the world championship flashed before his eyes.
Massa’s Guard of Honour
On lap 48, Massa had a similar accident to Grosjean and Ericsson, leading to a DNF in his final race in front of the adoring crowd.
As he memorably did in 2008, after losing the title in the cruellest of circumstances, he showed pure class and dignity, holding aloft the Brazilian flag, and back the tears.
Entry to the pit-lane was again closed as the Williams racer trudged back up to his garage. Every single Mercedes mechanic was outside their garage, applauding the Brazilian and the Ferrari team where he is still revered also did the same.
The leading drivers, Rosberg in particular, then made another request for the race to be stopped, and thus helping himself by asking: "How many more crashes to they want to see? There's so much aquaplaning – especially for those on inters."
Red Bull’s earlier call to bring Verstappen in for Inters back-fired and he was forced to box for a set of fresh wets, relegating him from P5, to P16.
At the final restart, Hamilton led Rosberg, Perez, Sainz, Vettel, Nasr, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Wehrlein and Alonso, although the McLaren was the final victim of the treacherous climb up the hill, spinning around and dropping behind Button, who was having a torrid race.
Wehrlein quickly dropped back, his Manor lacking downforce, as the Red Bull duo were charging, Verstappen making mince-meat of his opponents.
Ricciardo, Kvyat, Ocon and Nasr put up little fight as the possibility of a podium was begin to dawn for the 19-year-old.
After Ricciardo had made a move on Nasr, the Sauber was running ninth and the Manor of Ocon 10th. That would’ve meant the two teams were level on two points in the standings, but Ocon then fell away and out of the points.
Verstappen made light work of Hulkenberg for sixth at Descida do Lago (T4), before giving Vettel a taste of the medicine he gave to Alonso, nudging him off track at Juncao.
The charge was then completed after Sainz was dispatched before a stunning move around the outside of Perez for third through the slow right hander of Bico de Pato and the fast downhill left of Mergulho.
Late moves saw Vettel get the better of Sainz, for P5 and Alonso recovering from the spin to nab the final point.
Throughout the race, Gutierrez was suffering with an electronics problem, and when his team told him to box in to retire, he furiously threw his gloves and tensed up to Team Principal Gunther Steiner. Not the best thing you want to do when looking for a new job.
|3.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+21.481||15|
|4.||Sergio Perez||Force India||+25.346||12|
|6.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Toro Rosso||+29.160||8|
|7.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+29.827||6|
|8.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+30.486||4|
|13.||Danill Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+51.192||0|