Nico Rosberg won the latest Mercedes battle, which almost involved first lap contact, to deny Lewis Hamilton a first Brazilian Grand Prix victory.
With Rosberg chasing second in the Championship and Hamilton determined to claim his first Brazilian GP win it was always going to be a closely fought contest between the team-mates. And they delivered.
Rosberg led off the line and held his nerve in the face of a robust challenge from his team-mate. Hamilton, though, refused to let him race away and dogged the German through the first round of pit stops to the detriment of his own tyres.
“Can you get me on a different strategy somehow?” Hamilton asked. “I’m faster but it’s impossible to overtake.” But concerned about Ferrari’s pace Mercedes only left it open to the possibility of delaying his final stop which would give him fresher tyres at the very end.
That, though, did not happen as Rosberg pitted for the third and final time on lap 48 and Hamilton stopped one lap later. He emerged 1.6s behind his team-mate making it a straight fight to the chequered flag.
The team-mates raced to the line in formation with Hamilton unable to challenge Rosberg and in fact dropping well behind his tema-mate, who claimed his second race win at the Interlagos circuit seven seconds up the road. In doing so he also wrapped up second place in the Drivers’ standings.
Sebastian Vettel, who also opted for a three-stop strategy, claimed his 13th pole position of this season as he drove a quiet to third place. In sharp contrast to his Mexican GP, the Ferrari driver put in a faultless performance but just never had the pace to challenge the Mercedes team-mates.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, the first of the two-stoppers, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg. Such was Mercedes’ pace on the day that Bottas was the first of those that were lapped.
Daniil Kvyat was seventh for Red Bull while Felipe Massa scored in his home race, bringing his Williams across the line in P8 ahead of Romain Grosjean and Max Verstappen. Pastor Maldonado, who was P11, served a five-second penalty for colliding with Marcus Ericsson at Turn 1 on lap 36.
Carlos Sainz was the day’s only retirement as his race was over almost before it began. He broke down on the way to the grid and had to start from the pit lane. His troubles weren’t over as he stopped in the second sector reporting “I have no power.” Game over.
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:31.09.090
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +7.70
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +14.2
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +47.50
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1 Lap
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1 Lap
7 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull +1 Lap
8 Felipe Massa Williams +1 Lap
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus +1 Lap
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +1 Lap
11 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +1 Lap
12 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1 Lap
13 Sergio Perez Force India +1 Lap
14 Felipe Nasr Sauber +1 Lap
15 Jenson Button McLaren +1 Lap
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren +1 Lap
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber +2 Laps
18 Will Stevens Manor +4 Laps
19 Alexander Rossi Manor +4 Laps
Did Not Finish
Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso +71 laps