Hamilton goes a chillin' in Brazil for showdown in finale

© F1 Pulse, 14 November 2016
© Daimler AG

Lewis Hamilton won the Brazilian Grand Prix for the first time in his career on Sunday with "no mistakes, no issues, no spins" in a chaotic race marred by incessant rain, multiple stoppages and safety car periods.

His 52nd career victory moved him up to second place in the all-time winners list, passing Alain Prost, and is now only behind Michael Schumacher's record 91. He did break a Schumacher record though, by lifting a winners' trophy at 24 different circuits.

"I remember watching Ayrton (Senna) win back in 1991 and thinking 'one day, that’s what I want to do,'" Hamilton said. "All these years it's been so hard to win this race and then today was one of the easiest wins I've had.

"It's the 44th Grand Prix here as well, so it's a really special one for me," said the driver who sports No. 44.

While cars crashed, spun and twitched around the tricky Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Hamilton kept it cool ahead meticulously extending the gap to those behind him.

"I was generally just chillin' up front. When it rains it's usually a good day for me," Hamilton said.

"I love driving in the rain. It must come from years of racing around the UK as a kid!"

Lucky Rosberg gets lucky again

© Daimler AG

But the win isn't enough to land him on an even keel in the title battle going into the finale. With Nico Rosberg finishing the Brazilian GP in second place, all he needs is a third in Abu Dhabi to seal the title.

"I’m hunting and all I can do is do what I’m doing right now," said Hamilton.

The odds are in Rosberg's favour but the last race promises to be a nail-biter, regardless.

"Now, we have a showdown in Abu Dhabi – just as Bernie (Ecclestone) would have ordered it," said Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff.

Unlike Hamilton, Rosberg was nearly caught out by the wet track as he half-spun on lap 47 between Turns 12 and 13 that nearly put him out of the race.

"But luckily this wasn't at high speed, so I was able to catch the car again," said the German. "I can live with a second place today for sure even though I was hoping for the win."

The Verstappen show

© Mark Thompson/Getty Images/Red Bull Racing

Rosberg wasn't the only front-runner who had a moment. Earlier on Max Verstappen miraculously held his twitching Red Bull at the same corner, nearly grinding to a halt close to the barriers.

"I arrived on the straight and I saw him pointing 90 degrees towards the wall! I was like 'what the hell?'" Rosberg recalled.

Even the Red Bull pit wall were impressed.

"Heartbeat went a bit higher there," Verstappen said over the radio after his moment.

Verstappen went on to star the race, as he emerged from a pit stop on lap 55 on the wet tyres, shedding the intermediates, and rejoined the race in 16th place. From there on it was a 'Verstappen show' as he pulled off numerous overtaking moves to finish on the podium, his third place claimed two laps from the end.

Red Bull, Force India and Sauber make gains

Such was the teenager's virtuoso that teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who too swapped his intermediates for wet tyres two laps earlier, could finish no higher than eighth although the Australian had to deal with his visor fogging up.

"I kept opening my visor and trying to wipe it but it's never happened before, and it held me back," Ricciardo said.

Red Bull secured second place in the championship with the result, aided after Kimi Raikkonen - in his 250th start - spun off on the straight on lap 20 and Sebastian Vettel finishing fifth. The German was one of the victims of Verstappen's passes, on lap 66 at Turn 12.

"I was racing side by side to him and he saw me. I still had a little bit of my nose ahead, he was much faster so it was about making the corner and he got past. Not a difficult passing manoeuver, but I don't think it was fully correct," Vettel complained.

Sergio Perez finished fourth, and with teammate Nico Hulkenberg finishing seventh, Force India extended its gap to Williams to 27 points, more than what the latter has managed to score in one race all season. The result almost certainly guarantees Force India fourth place in the standings, its highest constructors' position in the team's history.

Carlos Sainz Jr matched a career-best sixth, a result he obtained in Spain and the United States earlier this season.

In front of home fans, Felipe Nasr scored his and his team's first points of the season in ninth, vaulting Sauber to tenth in the constructors' ahead of Manor.

Fernando Alonso brought home the final points for McLaren, in the team's 800th start.

 

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