F1: Hamilton Dominates To Set Up Desert Showdown

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Lewis Hamilton claimed a first-ever Grand Prix victory at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Place ahead of Mercedes AMG Petronas team-mate Nico Rosberg to ensure the world championship will go down to the wire in the sands of Abu Dhabi in a fortnight.

The two Silver Arrows are now separated by a slender twelve point margin heading into the final round, but a podium finish for Rosberg regardless of Hamilton’s performance will see him claim a maiden title. Hamilton, who surpassed Alain Prost’s total of 51 wins with the victory, will be looking to emulate the Frenchman in claiming a fourth championship.

Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer’s Max Verstappen was undoubtedly the star of the race, finishing third after pitting behind the safety car with sixteen laps remaining, which subsequently left him 15th.  An unorthodox line in the torrentially wet conditions paid dividends for the Dutchman, as he capped off a superlative drive with some silverware.

There was some debate prior to the race about whether the poor conditions above Interlagos would necessitate a safety car start. The debate was silenced when Romain Grosjean crashed heavily coming up the hill towards his starting slot, and the remaining twenty-one runners – after a further ten minute delay – got underway in full safety car conditions.

In truth, Hamilton had the race under control from the word ‘go’ – immediately pulling out an advantage over Rosberg when the cars were eventually unleashed. Verstappen made a move on Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari for third and completed the pass into the Senna S.

The first stint was typified by drivers experimenting with a switch to the intermediate compound tyre, however conditions remained poor and several were forced to stop once again to return to the full wets.

Marcus Ericsson brought out the safety car for a second appearance after taking too much of the kerb on the final corner, and was left a passenger as the Sauber careered into the wall.

When proceedings next resumed, Kimi Raikkonen became the third casualty of the conditions, losing control of the Ferrari in a straight line before hitting the wall and spearing back across the circuit, narrowly missing Verstappen’s Red Bull.

It would be over an hour – and two more stoppages – before the race finally ran it’s distance. Verstappen’s Red Bull found superior grip around the outside of turn three and passed Rosberg for second, before the 19-year old impressively held a huge moment as he spun coming through the final corner. Cue a mesmerizing display of car control as he rejoined, without even having relinquished position to the German.

Felipe Massa, who will retire from the sport in Abu Dhabi after a thirteen-year stay, crashed out of his final home Grand Prix – an event he has won three times and narrowly lost the championship at in 2008 – and was given a standing ovation as he returned down the pit lane by several rival teams, a Brazilian flag draped across his shoulders, before reaching the embrace of Williams.

Verstappen took the resulting safety car as an opportunity to stop once again for fresh rubber, relegating himself to near-last before banishing all memory of his questionable driving in Mexico with a series of stunning moves to claw himself back onto the rostrum.

Carlos Sainz had been on course for a career-best fourth place, but he was ultimately forced to settle for sixth behind Sebastian Vettel and Force India’s Sergio Perez, whose points see the Indian outfit leapfrog Williams in the fight for fourth in the Constructors standings.

In finishing ninth, Felipe Nasr scored Sauber’s first points of the season and leveled them with Manor Racing at the foot of the same category.

Hamilton led the race from start to finish to claim a third consecutive victory of the season – but he still faces a tall order if he is to claim a third consecutive world title in the desert in two weeks.

“It’s crazy – all these years it’s been so hard to win this race and then today was one of the easiest wins I’ve had.” admitted Hamilton.

“Of course, in those conditions I could easily have made a mistake at any point. But I was generally very relaxed out there today and felt completely in control. I love driving in the rain. It must come from years of racing around the UK as a kid! It’s all in the mind – keeping your cool, not making mistakes, having great reactions and knowing where to put the car.

“It was one of those races where I was able to focus purely on driving. That one set of tyres just kept going and going, I didn’t have any problems at all and the car was really fantastic. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone back at both factories who have worked so hard to give us such an incredible car. This result is all down to them. Every week we’re making another piece of history and we’ve out-and-out proven that we’re the best team by far, in every area.

“All I can do is focus on being as strong as I have been in these past few races. If I can do that, I’ll know in my heart what I’ve achieved this year.”

“Lewis did a better job today and deserved the win, so I must be happy with P2. Thank you very much to my team for choosing the right strategy and letting me stay out on the full wet tyres. Now I look forward to Abu Dhabi, where I have good memories from last year. I will be going all out for the win there.” commented Rosberg.

Pos. Name Team Margin
1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 3h01m01.335s
2 Nico ROSBERG Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team +11.455s
3 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer +21.481s
4 Sergio PEREZ Sahara Force India +25.346s
5 Sebastian VETTEL Scuderia Ferrari +26.334s
6 Carlos SAINZ JR Scuderia Toro Rosso +29.160s
7 Nico HULKENBERG Sahara Force India +29.827s
8 Daniel RICCIARDO Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer +30.486s
9 Felipe NASR Sauber F1 Team +42.620s
10 Fernando ALONSO McLaren-Honda +44.432s
11 Valterri BOTTAS Williams Martini Racing +45.292s
12 Esteban OCON Manor Racing +45.809s
13 Daniil KVYAT Scuderia Toro Rosso +51.192s
14 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Renault Sport F1 Team +51.555s
15 Pascal WEHRLEIN Manor Racing +1m00.498s
16 Jenson BUTTON McLaren-Honda +1m29.944s
DNF Esteban GUTTIEREZ Haas F1 Team
DNF Felipe MASSA Williams Martini Racing
DNF Jolyon PALMER Renault Sport F1 Team
DNF Kimi RAIKKONEN Scuderia Ferrari
DNF Marcus ERICCSON Sauber F1 Team
DNS Romain GROSJEAN Haas F1 Team
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