Three hours, five safety cars, and two red flags all combined to deliver a Brazilian grand prix that was high on intensity and high on emotion. But none of it fazed Lewis Hamilton as he cruised to his first ever victory in Brazil.
Conditions proved so difficult that race director Charlie Whiting ordered a ten minute delay to the start of the proceedings in the hopes that the rain would ease. This wasn’t enough for Romain Grosjean though as his Haas speared into the wall while making his way to the starting grid. The race commenced behind the safety car and it quickly became apparent that visibility up the long start/finish straight was the biggest issue.
Nevertheless, a handful of laps later conditions calmed enough to get some proper racing underway. Pole man Lewis Hamilton easily controlled proceedings and scampered off into the distance while Rosberg fended off a feisty Max Verstappen who had already made short work of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari at the start.
Ferrari’s afternoon got more difficult as Sebastian Vettel spun at the exit of the final corner which dropped him down to fifteenth. Several drivers dived into the pitlane for intermediate tyres despite track conditions being more conducive to the full wet tyre. The first big crash came in the form of Marcus Ericsson who clipped a white line in the run-in to the pitlane and destroying the Sauber in the process. Ericsson’s stricken car ended up in the pitlane entry which prompted its closure. However, quick thinking from Red Bull saw Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo into the box. While Verstappen made it into the pitlane before the red light Ricciardo was as fortunate and was given a five second penalty for his troubles.
The safety car once again led the field and just as racing commenced on lap 20 Kimi Raikkonen lost control of his car on the main straight which left him facing oncoming traffic in a situation with low visibility. Several drivers, including Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon, reacted brilliantly to avoid hitting Raikkonen’s car. This prompted the first red flag of the race with Hamilton still in the lead.
Nearly fifty minutes later the race re-started behind the safety car but the field completed only eight laps before another red flag stopped it. It wasn’t too long before drivers clambered back into their cockpits for the re-start and this time the race ran until lap 48 until the safety car was required in order to recover the Williams of Felipe Massa which had shunted in a similar fashion to Ericsson. It was an bittersweet end the popular Brazilian’s last home race. While a solid result eluded Massa it did afford him an opportunity to salute the thousands of fans in the grandstands with a Brazilian flag draped over his shoulders and a few tears to boot. As Massa made his way into the pitlane it produced one of the most emotional scenes as team mechanics and personnel from several teams, including Mercedes and Ferrari, stood outside the garage to applaud him.
On lap 55 the race re-started with the spotlight focused on a fast-charging Verstappen in 14th who swopped inters for new full wets. The teenager scythed through the field with some stunning overtakes which had more to do with his bravery than his new rubber. Verstappen eventually finished a miraculous third.
As rain transformed the Interlagos circuit into a treacherous roller-coaster every F1 driver had to ply the maximum of their ability to keep their cars on track. Several drivers failed to reach the chequered flag but others impressed. Force India’s Sergio Perez was fourth ahead Vettel in fifth and Carlos Sainz in sixth. Nico Hulkenberg took seventh ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in eighth while Felipe Nasr scored Sauber’s first points of the season with a fine ninth place finish. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso survived his own spin to finish tenth.
Nico Rosberg wasn’t able to clinch the title but he delivered the next best thing with a second place finish. He now takes a 12 point lead to the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi.