Lewis Hamilton inched a little closer to Mercedes stablemate Nico Rosberg taking victory at Interlagos, Brazil. However, Rosberg is doing what he needs to do to win the world drivers title. He just needs to finish second to Hamilton for the remaining races; which he has done so far, just one more to go.
The race started off as a damp squib; starting behind the safety car on full wet weather tires and round and round they went for seven laps. The safety car came in at the end of lap seven and we went racing but only for six laps; which was enough time for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to slide down the inside of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari for third at turn one on the restart. Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson brought out the safety car again after he lost control coming out of turn 14, hitting the wall coming to rest at the pit entry.
Sebastian Vettel also lost control at the same spot a couple of laps earlier but unlike Ericsson managed to gather it up and continue. The German went on to whine over the radio to his team about the conditions and that a red flag should be thrown and lo-and-behold after team mate Raikkonen lost control on the main straight, hitting one wall, then the other, a red flag was thrown and the race was halted.
I’m just going to pause here for a moment to raise the subject of full wet tires and their lack of effectiveness. Back in the day; it was fairly rare that rain stopped the race as we had monsoon tires. Modern Pirelli full wets are not even close to those tires and according to Kimi Raikkonen, whose crash caused the lap 20 red flag suggested current full wets are not as good as years gone by.
The race restarted under the safety car for a second time when the rain subsided; only for the cars to circulate for 8 more laps behind Bernd Maylander before the race was red flagged for a second time.
After another red flag break for the drivers; the race restarted for the third time behind the safety car; this time for four laps before the track going green and we went racing in anger on lap 32. Verstappen pounced again on the racing restart; this time it was world championship leader Rosberg that fell victim. The young Dutchman clean drove around the outside of turn 3 to snatch second place from the German.
Vestappen himself fell victim to the turn 14 curse; having a half spin and narrowly avoiding the barrier at the pitlane entry. Watching the replay of the incident; it shows how he worked with the steering wheel to regain control with no brake lock ups while sounding cool as a cucumber over team radio.
Rosberg also spun in the same section of track but recovered while Williams’ Felipe Massa’s final Brazilian Grand Prix ended in retirement, bouncing off the wall out of turn 14. There was a nice moment in the pitlane where all the teams lined up and applauded the home town favourite in his penultimate F1 race.
Massa’s accident inevitably brought out the safety car for the third time and stayed out for eight laps. And on the racing restart; turn 14 claimed another former world champion; Fernando Alonso losing the back end, spinning onto the grass before recovering to the track. Prior to the green flag lap on lap 56; Verstappen stopped to change back to full wet tires which dropped him back to outside of the top 10.
Then came the mighty fight back from 11th to third from the young Dutchman; firstly picking off team mate Ricciardo, driving around the outside of turn 13 and 14 moving him back into top 10. On his way to the podium, the year 2 rookie overtook Kvyat, Ocon, Nasr, Vettel, Sainz and finally Perez all within 11 laps.
Outside of the podium, it shook out as follows; Sergio Perez, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Nasr and finally Fernando Alonso. Solid drives from Perez, Sainz and Nasr who scored Sauber’s first points of the year. This is a huge boost for the team and their chances of claiming 10th place in the constructors championship and the millions in prize money that goes with it.