Rosberg makes it two in a row with win in Brazil, Hamilton P2; Vettel earns a familiar P3 for improving Ferrari
With the Drivers’ Championship eluding his grasp for the second year in a row, Nico Rosberg’s only remaining mission is to finish out the season with as many race wins as possible in order to gain momentum for another title chase in 2016. With his victory this weekend in the penultimate race at Interlagos in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the German Mercedes driver and Championship runner-up is doing just that. Playing out very much like his win two weeks ago in Mexico, Rosberg started the race from pole and prevented his World Champion teammate and chief tormentor Lewis Hamilton from making a first corner overtaking move. From there, with both Mercedes running the identical race strategy, Hamilton was never able to pass Rosberg on the tight track and Rosberg sailed away to a relatively easy win. One could say that Hamilton no longer has the same manic drive that he displayed prior to clinching his second consecutive title in Austin three races ago. His antics out of his F1 ride would seem to indicate that, as well, with an inexplicable 3 AM collision with parked cars in Monaco last week. And one might also infer that Mercedes is actively trying to boost Rosberg’s fragile confidence after his remarkable unforced error at COTA gifted Hamilton the win and doomed his championship dreams. With Mercedes’ unwillingness to split their race strategy despite Hamilton’s pleas, deciding they would rather cover Ferrari’s 3-stop decision rather than risk Vettel sneaking ahead of one of their men, it might seem as if the team were putting their thumb on the scales in favor of Rosberg. But in truth, Rosberg was quicker these last two Grand Prix and Hamilton has lifted ever so slightly, which is only natural when you’ve got nothing left to prove. And it must feel good for the German to stand on the top step again in back-to-back races even if the bigger contest has been lost. Having finally secured his second place in the Championship over a game Sebastian Vettel with this win, Rosberg will surely be looking to finish out the season with a hat trick in Abu Dhabi in two weeks time, if only to convince himself that he can mount a credible challenge to Hamilton’a dominance come next season.
Ferrari showed the continuing improvement of their F15-T chassis, especially at high downforce circuits like the short, slippery Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Vettel once again was the best of the non-Silver Arrows, re-taking his very familiar P3 after an uncharacteristically poor effort in Mexico. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen managed to avoid any incidents on track with his fellow Finn and new nemesis, Valtteri Bottas, and was able to play the loyal tail gunner to Vettel by coming home a solid P4. Williams’ Bottas, who had clashed with Raikonnen in Mexico for a second time after their tangle in Russia, also managed to keep it clean and bring his car home in P5. That earned enough championship points to secure third in the Constructors’ Championship for Williams Martini Racing, a very impressive result even if their chassis was well short of downforce all season long. Bottas’ teammate Felipe Massa had an awful day, however. After a mediocre qualifying effort saw him starting from eighth on the grid, the native Brazilian finished exactly there but then had his results disqualified due to excessive tire temperatures at the start. All in all, a weekend to forget for the veteran at his home Grand Prix.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg had a great race, on the other hand, out-dueling Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat for 6th place. The talented German has now made it two strong finishes in a row, outscoring teammate Sergio Perez both times and rebounding from bit of a let down after his epic 24 Hours of Le Mans win for Porsche this past summer. Kvyat’s P7 was well ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, however, although the Russian was running the older spec Renault engine while the Aussie was saddled with an “upgraded” version, which forced Ricciardo to start from the back after penalties for that change. The team rolled the dice with an early pit stop for a tire change to the harder compound but it didn’t really work out, especially as the new engine was not actually that powerful, and Ricciardo finished out of the points in P11. Rounding out the top 10, Romain Grosjean had a strong run for Lotus with a P9 (promoted to 8th after Massa’s penalty), Toro Rosso wunderkind Max Verstappen aggressive as usual for a P10 (promoted to P9) and Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado lucky to get the last championship point with a promotion to 10th despite a time penalty for a collision with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.
Top 10 finishers in Brazil:
|5||VALTTERI BOTTAS||FIN||WILLIAMS||+1 lap||10|
|6||NICO HULKENBERG||GER||FORCE INDIA||+1 lap||8|
|7||DANIIL KVYAT||RUS||RED BULL RACING||+1 lap||6|
|EX||FELIPE MASSA||BRA||WILLIAMS||+1 lap||0|
|8||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||FRA||LOTUS||+1 lap||4|
|9||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NED||TORO ROSSO||+1 lap||2|
|10||PASTOR MALDONADO||VEN||LOTUS||+1 lap||1|
Th final race is two weeks from now, the beautiful day-into-night contest at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. We’ll see if Rosberg’s can continue his momentum or if Hamilton can get his mojo back in the season finale. Hope to see you then!