Continuing his fine late season form, Nico Rosberg controlled the Brazilian Grand Prix from lights to flag to win ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel – in what has become the usual podium this season.
With that win, Rosberg guaranteed second place in the Driver’s Championship with Vettel concreted in third in the standings with only one round to go.
It was the German’s fifth win of a frustrating season, but one that will do something to dull the pain of losing out on the World Championship to Hamilton in the last two seasons. With this, Rosberg can push on over the winter, give Hamilton a nudge as if to say “I’ll still be here next season.”
On Saturday, Rosberg claimed pole position for the sixth time in 2015, his fifth in a row – the last time anyone else held the top spot on the grid was Sebastian Vettel back in Signapore, in September. As ever, Hamilton lined up alongside Rosberg with the Ferrari’s of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen tucked in behind. Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and one of the home crowd favourites Felipe Nasr all suffered grid penalties, while Fernando Alonso soaked up the Sao Paulo sunshine after grinding to a customary halt in the first qualifying session. The hashtag #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe was thus born.
After the pre-race silence to pay tribute to the casualties of the Paris attacks this weekend, Rosberg and Hamilton had equally good starts, Rosberg keeping ahead of Hamilton into and out of the Senna S. The best start came from Bottas, eager to make up for the 3 place penalty he got for overtaking under red flags in Friday Practice as he jumped up to 5th, behind Raikkonen, Vettel and the two Mercedes.
In a sterile race – in terms of a Brazilian Grand Prix, the race was heavily determined by strategy, Nico Hulkenberg and Bottas trying the undercut. At the sharp end of the field, Rosberg lost the lead for a lap during his first stop, but did come under pressure from the Brit just before the half way mark, making an error at Turn 1, allowing Hamilton to close perilously. As Rosberg seemed to struggle with brakes, Hamilton loomed closer, begging to have a change of strategy due to his high tyre degradation, thus losing precious tenths then seconds to Rosberg as the German opened up a comfortable 3 second gap.
A lot of the action came from the exciting Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman making Turn 1 his overtaking spot, forcing his way past Romain Grosjean and then having the audacity to go right round the outside of Nasr and Pastor Maldonado on lap 59 and 68 on his way to tenth place and one World Championship point.
Both the Ferrari drivers had a quiet and uneventful race on their way to third and fourth, followed by Bottas who had no one to fight after his lightning start. Hulkenberg drove another solid race on his way to 6th place, whereas Sergio Perez could only muster 13th after having problems getting his tyres to work – an anomaly for the Mexican.
Whilst the championship may have been decided weeks ago, Rosberg continues to eat away at Hamilton’s victory margin. If he wins in Abu Dhabi, who knows what season we will have in 2016 with the German potentially carrying three straight victories back to Monaco for the winter.
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