Lewis Hamilton wins chaotic Brazilian GP to take F1 title fight to last race
A breathless and chaotically wet Brazilian Grand Prix concluded with yet another Mercedes one-two at Interlagos, as won to draw level with Nico Rosberg on nine wins apiece for the season. With five appearances of the safety car and two stoppages this was one of the wettest races ever witnessed, eclipsing even that title decider played out here in 2012. It added up to over three hours of high skill and considerable bravery.
It was another great day’s wet driving from Hamilton, evoking memories of his superb win at Silverstone in 2008, as he won his third straight race. It was also his first win here in 10 attempts.
More than that it was the 52nd of his career, taking him ahead of Alain Prost in the all-time list, with only Michael Schumacher (91) ahead of him now.
But it was still another good result for Rosberg, even though his championship lead was cut from 19 points to 12, because it means he has only to finish in the top three in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi in a fortnight’s time to collect his first world championship. Hamilton can only hope to win again and that something occurs in his rear-view mirror to knock back his team-mate.
Remarkably this was Mercedes’ 50th victory in 58 since the new 1.6-litre power units made their debut in Melbourne at the start of the 2014 season. But the best drive of the day came from 19-year-old Max Verstappen, who made memorable passes on Kimi Raikkonen and then Rosberg to go into second place. But he saved his best to last after falling to the back of the field. He battled his way from the back of the field to take the final podium place with some hair-raising overtaking manoeuvres. He made up 13 places in 16 laps.
It was a less pleasing result for the local hero Felipe Massa, never at his best in the wet, who failed to complete his last Brazilian Grand Prix. Ultimately the race officials were vindicated for their many difficult decisions. But at one point they were questioned by the drivers. After the second red flag Hamilton said: “The track is fine. It’s not even that wet now. I don’t now why we’re stopping. We should be racing, Charlie.” His comments were directed to the race director, Charlie Whiting.
He sounded a little like Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront:“I could have been a contender, Charley.”
But conditions for most of the afternoon were appalling. At one stage Britain’s Jolyon Palmer, who was involved in a crash with Daniil Kvyat, said, “From where I was, the visibility was impossible, you just can’t see anything. It is bad but it is just the standing water. Kimi [Raikkonen] lost it on full wets in a straight line.”
And Carlos Sainz from Toro Rosso said: “It’s unbelievable how difficult it was, how dangerous it was. I don’t blame the race director for being that tiny bit easy on the conditions, because it was very, very difficult.”
There was even a crash before the race started. Romain Grosjean, who had done splendidly to qualify in seventh, lost control of his car on the installation lap and had to withdraw.
The race started 10 minutes late, behind a safety car, and that was going slowly. After seven laps it came in and the drivers started racing. After a single lap Hamilton had already built up a two-second lead, even though he complained about water dripping through his visor and into his eyes.
But conditions were still poor and four laps later Sebastian Vettel spun out of control. Surprisingly, like others, he came straight in to swap his wet tyres for inters. Two laps after that, the 13th, Marcus Ericsson, on the difficult run out of the final turn, crashed into the barriers and the safety car was again deployed. “Aquaplane,” he said over the radio.
But immediately after the race was restarted Raikkonen crashed into the barrier when he had been going in a straight line, and was almost hit by a number of cars with Esteban Ocon in particular danger.
This time the red flag came out and they stopped the race. There had been only 36 minutes of action. There was a delay of 35 minutes before they came out again, behind the safety car which by now had hogged most of the limelight.
The action was red-flagged for a second time on the 29th lap, as Whiting looked at reports of further heavy rain. At this stage it looked unlikely that the 71-lap race would last for 54, the minimum needed for full and not half points to apply.
When the race started for a third time, this time after a delay of 27 minutes, some of the best entertainment of the afternoon took place, especially from the sensational Verstappen.
It was an unhappy final Brazilian race for Jenson Button, who regularly complained about his car before finishing last. But his fellow Britain Palmer did not even finish after driving into Kvyat.
There were plenty of boos and thumbs-down from the crowd when the safety car and red flag were employed. But in truth they had one of the best rounds of the season.