Nico Rosberg finally avenged himself on his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton after resisting everything the 2008 world champion could throw at him in a nail-biting Brazilian Grand Prix. And by reducing the points gap between them to 17, with 50 available to the winner of the double-points finale in Abu Dhabi on 23 November, the German kept his title hopes alive by proving he can resist the strongest pressure.
“I was very happy all weekend,” Rosberg beamed, having dominated Hamilton in practice, qualifying and an extremely tough race. “The whole weekend I’ve been comfortable in the car, and in the race I could attack and control the gap to Lewis. Austin was a tough day for me so it was important for me to improve as I didn’t do a good enough job there. Today was a big step in the right direction.
“Now it’s still all to play for and I just hope to keep this going now. It was a great race with Lewis, and I always needed to make sure the gap was such that he could never go for the overtake.”
As Bernie Ecclestone and great Brazilian champions Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet were cheered on the grid, and home hero Felipe Massa’s Martini Williams was pushed into third slot, the cars lined up in far more clement weather than anyone had dared hope for. And that meant that far from having to worry about rain, it became a matter of nursing tyres which had shown signs of stress in similar 50C track temperatures on Friday.
Rosberg took the lead from his 10th pole of the season, with Hamilton slotting into second ahead of Massa and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, and fast-starting Jenson Button’s McLaren.
It was immediately clear that the Mercedes pair were going to be in a class of their own again despite the closeness of the qualifying times, and up until the first pit stops Rosberg was in control. He stopped after seven laps, Hamilton after eight, to ditch their fragile soft-compound Pirelli tyres for the more durable mediums. Hamilton then lost time in traffic and as he had to nurse his rear tyres, and Rosberg was still ahead when he changed tyres again on the 26th lap. But Hamilton had been closing in steadily again and had begun to look very dangerous as he went two laps longer before the turning point of the race came on the 28th lap.
Going into the tricky fourth corner, Hamilton locked the rear wheels and got into a wild slide which took him off the track, and though he was able to retain control and not spin, by the time he had pitted at the end of that lap and things had stabilised, Rosberg was 7.4 seconds ahead.
Hamilton then launched a superb counter-attack, clawing the gap down to 1.9sec when Rosberg stopped for the last time on the 50th lap. Hamilton came in next time around, and emerged right on his team-mate’s tail. For a while, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would overtake, given his earlier pace, but crucially Rosberg proved equal to the challenge despite his team-mate’s relentless presence in his mirrors, and as they raced through the traffic in their silver game of cat and mouse, he never put a wheel wrong.
Mercedes apologised to Hamilton, who had expected to be told to pit on the 27th rather than the 28th lap.
“Ultimately the half spin cost me the win,” he said. “I was much quicker to that point and would have been a second quicker while Nico pitted, but I thought I was coming in on lap 27 and had used up my tyres, so when I had to go to lap 28 there was nothing left. I locked the rears in turn four and that spun me round. It was nobody’s fault but my own. Nico did drive a great race without any mistakes and I pushed to the chequered flag. I loved every minute of it.”
Mercedes’ 11th one-two of the season set a new record.
Behind them, Massa took a long overdue podium finish, but not without plenty of drama. “I’m not happy with my mistakes,” he admitted. “I got a five-second stop-and-go penalty because the speed limiter didn’t work in my first stop, and in the second I went to the McLaren garage instead of Williams – they have similar colour overalls!
“I lost a lot of time because of that, but was able to do quick laps again and manage the tyres. It was fantastic, just amazing the energy and emotion here this weekend.”
It was a good day too for Button and McLaren. Another very strong drive, to fourth place, firmly staked his claim to be retained whoever else might be driving for McLaren next year.Reuse content