As Verstappen shines, Lewis Hamilton wins an eventful and exciting 2016 Formula1 Brazilian grand prix to set up title showdown in Abu Dhabi in two weeks time.
The order of the day was rain, crashes, safety cars, red flags, and more rain at the 2016 Formula1 Brazilian grand prix. But, Lewis Hamilton kept his cool and hardly put a foot wrong to take the victory in front of a less-comfortable Nico Rosberg. Hamilton’s win ensures that the driver’s championship will now go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Behind Rosberg on the rostrum was Max Verstappen who had a brilliant late-race surge through the field. This also earned him a well deserved ‘Driver of the day’ award, voted by the fans.
It is no secret that Hamilton looked up to Ayrton Senna and the victory at his hero’s home track eluded him for 10 years. This victory was his 52nd and he now stands second in the all-time record for wins, only behind German legend, Michael Schumacher. His victory though didn’t come easy, as he maintained a steely resolve to be focussed despite the interruption caused due to crashes by Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Williams’ Felipe Massa.
In fourth place was Force India’s Sergio Perez who was on aging wet tires. He missed finishing on the podium for the third time this season when he was passed by a charging Verstappen with three laps to go. Behind Perez was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in fifth, Carlos Sainz sixth in his Torro Rosso followed by the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg in seventh. In eighth was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Felipe Nasr finished ninth for Sauber’s first points of the year, lifting them above Manor at the bottom of the table, while Fernando Alonso completed the top ten for McLaren.
While Hamilton had to fight only the conditions for the bulk of the race, points leader Rosberg was at one stage overtaken by Verstappen, survived a near-spin in the very slippery final corner and his distant second place was enough to take him to the showdown in Abu Dhabi with a 12-point lead and the need if necessary just to follow Hamilton home again if the Silver Arrows continue their one-two domination.
The grid hosted 21 cars instead of the usual 22 because, in an unusual event, Romain Grosjean in his Haas hit the barriers on his out lap to the grid. The 2016 Formula1 Brazilian grand prix started 10 minutes late and behind the safety car for the first seven laps thanks to the rain.
For the first seven laps, Maylander led the field, before racing finally began on the eighth. Hamilton immediately began to open a gap over Rosberg, and Verstappen pounced on Raikkonen in Turn 1 and took away third place.Ferrari’s race got worse when Vettel spun on the exit of the last corner on lap 10, before joining Renault’s Kevin Magnussen, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Alonso, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Massa, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Ericsson in switching from full wet to intermediate tyres.
By the 13th lap Hamilton was 5.8s ahead of Rosberg, but then Ericsson lost his Sauber in the run to the pits, removing the left front wheel and then finishing up in the pit entry. Red Bull smartly brought Verstappen straight in, but then the entry was closed so the Sauber could be removed. Ricciardo had also followed Verstappen in but was investigated for coming in when the pit lane had just been closed. He was given a five-second time penalty.
Maylander went back to work while the Sauber was cleared away, but no sooner had the safety car entered the pits for racing to commence on the 20th lap than Raikkonen lost his Ferrari on the main straight, spinning and triggering some phenomenal avoidances, most notably from Hulkenberg who was running fifth for Force India. His car sustained some debris damage as he dodged the red car which was by then facing the oncoming traffic from its resting place by the pit wall. Ocon, running a superb 10th, was also very lucky not to hit the Ferrari.
Out came the safety car for the third time, and then the race was immediately red flagged at 14.46. Eventually, the race was restarted at 15.21, again behind the safety car. Everyone was required to restart on full wets, throwing a lifeline to those whose earlier gambles on intermediates had been doomed as the rain increased.
This time the ‘race’ lasted another eight laps behind the safety car, with 50 minutes of heavy rain forecast within the next 20 minutes. Then race director Charlie Whiting had it red flagged again.
The new restart came at 16.02, again behind the safety car, with the full expectation now that the race would be time limited. It would go to 52 minutes of racing, with a two-hour limit on that, but it had taken two hours and two minutes of time to get that far, and there was a four-hour limit on that.
This time, the race ran until the 48th lap before the safety car was yet again required after Massa repeated Ericsson’s shunt, even down to blocking the pit lane.
Up to that point, Hamilton had again led easily, even after Verstappen had immediately jumped Rosberg in the first corner. But then Red Bull chose to bring the Dutchman in for intermediate tires on the 43rd lap, soon after he’d brilliantly caught a big sideways moment up to the hill on the 38th lap, even though more rain was predicted.
After the Massa shunt the safety car stayed out until the 55th lap; on the 54th Red Bull had thrown in the intermediate towel and brought Verstappen in for full wets. That dropped him down to 14th, but a fabulous recovery drive would ultimately take him past teammate Ricciardo, who had stopped for intermediates on lap 40 and ditched them for wets on the 52nd.
Verstappen was unstoppable as he gained one position after the other until he ended up third. Out of the points was Bottas who took 11th for Williams ahead of the disappointed Ocon, with Kvyat next ahead of Magnussen. The Dane’s Renault partner Palmer was one of the non-finishers after hitting Kvyat just prior to Raikkonen’s shunt. Pascal Wehrlein was 15th in the second Manor from an unhappy Jenson Button in the second McLaren, which simply didn’t work for him on intermediates. The another non-finisher was an angry Gutierrez, with mechanical trouble on his Haas.
Hamilton’s victory, the 52nd of his F1 career, moves him ahead of Alain Prost in the all-time stakes but also makes him the only man in history to win on 24 different tracks.
He still needs to win and for Rosberg to finish fourth or lower in Abu Dhabi if he is to take a fourth title, but he described his success as “easy” despite the conditions, and added: “I’m in hunting mode.”
2016 Formula1 Brazilian grand Prix image gallery
Image source – Formula1