Almost a perfect weekend for Nico Rosberg with victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix. The German now sits just 17 points behind Lewis in the drivers championship after Hamilton was forced into settling for second best in Brazil.
Throughout the weekend Rosberg has held the advantage over Hamilton, topping each individual free practice session and then each individual qualifying session. Leaving Lewis second on the grid, behind Nico but ahead of the flying Williams’.
Two drivers were forced into dropping back down the grid after qualifying with Sergio Perez demoted to eighteenth and Kvyat demoted to seventeenth. As for Sutil, the team discovered a late problem with his car and were forced into a technical change leaving the German with a pit lane start.
But when the five red lights were turned back off, the 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix was underway with Rosberg leading the field through the Senna S.
A calm opening to the race saw no first corner contact but come the end of the back straight Vettel was falling behind Alonso and Magnussen after the reigning World Champion ran wide.
As the short laps began to get ticked off, Rosberg began to extend his lead to Lewis. But for some, the soft tyres had begun to degrade too much and pit stops were the new trend.
Maldonado had engaged the pit stops frenzy on lap 5 but the high temperatures at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace meant even once drivers were on the mediums, degradation levels remained high and blistering became a serious threat.
When the two Mercedes men completed their first pit stops they found themselves running behind Hulkenberg and Kvyat for the lead. But by pitting a lap later Lewis had been able to reduce the gap to Rosberg and now found his Silver Arrow under Rosberg’s gearbox.
Unfortunately, as the two worked their way back into first and second, Rosberg was able to regain the lost ground. Then over the subsequent laps Nico maintained his lead as Hamilton’s front right tyre began to heavily degrade.
Degradation had been an issue for all with the high temperatures, but after 22 laps Lewis did not seem to be affected by the wearing tyres and posted a new fastest lap of the race.
On the other hand, down at Lotus it was a different matter as Grosjean continued to lap without pitting. The Frenchman had started the race on the medium tyres unlike most of the grid and found the life to last twenty-five laps on one set of tyres. But before he could pit, he was forced into allowing Magnussen, Alonso and Vettel to all to power ahead.
One lap after Maldonado and it was pit stop time for Massa. The Brazilian from Sao Paulo took to the pits for the second time, but sat in his box for a little longer thanks to a 5 second stop/go penalty after speeding in the pits during his first stop. However, his nine second stop was nothing compared to his team-mates, when Bottas was forced into a lengthy stop after his mechanics needed to adjust his seat belts.
Two lengthy stops for Williams meant a podium finish was fading out of sight but in terms of the lead, Lewis was pushing hard.
Nico had himself pitted for a second time handing the Brit a temporary lead. But ahead of Lewis’ stop, he posted an even faster fastest lap of the race. However the potential to gain the undercut was snatched away from Lewis after a half spin at turn 4 when his rear stepped out under breaking.
Once Lewis regained control he carried on his way but took to the pits and upon his exit he was sat with a 7 second deficit to his team-mate for the lead. Given his speed before the stop, Lewis was aggravated at the spin and floored the throttle as the began to reel in Nico.
Over the next few laps Lewis continued to eat away at Nico’s lead but for Ricciardo, it was the end of his race. As Daniel made his way around the circuit he felt a problem with his front brakes on lap 40 and crawled back to the pits. The team later confirmed that it was actually a front suspension failure that caused his retirement.
Ten laps later, and after another round of pit stops, the gap between Hamilton and Rosberg for the lead had been reduced even more. Now Lewis sat within a second of his team-mate and kept an ever looming presence behind Nico and within DRS range.
However for Massa, his next pit stop caused a bit of laughter in the Williams garage when their driver originally pulled into the McLaren box instead of his own. The mistake only cost the Brazilian a second and before pitting he sat in no mans land between the Mercedes & fourth place. Then once Massa was back on track, he picked off Hulkenberg and regained the final podium spot.
A little further down the road came Raikkonen and Button as the two spared for fifth place. Jenson made an early attempt to move ahead of Kimi on lap 56 but the Ferrari man held strong and dove back down the inside.
Jenson had been forced to sit behind the Ferrari a little longer before he could make his next strong move. But on lap 61 he moved his McLaren in front at turn 4. Unfortunately for Kimi, Sebastian Vettel used this moment to move ahead of his potential new team-mate and chase down Button.
Over the next few laps Lewis and Nico began to trade fastest laps as the Brit searched for a way into the lead. However the two latched onto traffic and were forced to delay their fight.
But fights were not hard to find in Sao Paulo as Alonso attacked Raikkonen. The two Ferrari men were on different strategies at the time with Fernando on much fresher tyres but that did not stop Kimi from defending.
Alonso had attempted numerous manoeuvres to gain the position from Kimi but on lap 68 he finally found his way in front. The Spaniard charged up the hill, latching onto Kimi’s slipstream and engaged the DRS before blasting into sixth place.
Now as the chequered flag came into sight Rosberg continued to keep Hamilton at bay and after 71 laps of racing, Nico picked up his first win since Germany back in July.
Hamilton finished the race 1.4 seconds behind his team-mate and saw his championship lead cut down to 17 points. This means Lewis can still settle for second place behind Rosberg in Abu Dhabi and still win the championship. But, with double points, third or worse whilst Nico wins would mean Rosberg becomes the 2014 World Champion.
Felipe Massa may have finished the race 39 seconds behind Lewis in Brazil, but the Sao Paulo boy picked up the podium position ahead of Button, Vettel and Alonso.
As for Massa’s team-mate, Bottas had to settle for tenth place and the single point just six tenths of a second ahead of Kvyat.
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||71||+1.4 secs||2||18|
|3||19||Felipe Massa||Williams-Mercedes||71||+41.0 secs||3||15|
|4||22||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||71||+48.6 secs||5||12|
|5||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||71||+51.4 secs||6||10|
|6||14||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||71||+61.9 secs||8||8|
|7||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||71||+63.7 secs||10||6|
|8||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||71||+63.9 secs||12||4|
|9||20||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren-Mercedes||71||+70.0 secs||7||2|
|10||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Mercedes||70||+1 Lap||4||1|
|11||26||Daniil Kvyat||STR-Renault||70||+1 Lap||17|
|12||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||70||+1 Lap||16|
|13||25||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Renault||70||+1 Lap||15|
|14||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||70||+1 Lap||11|
|15||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||70||+1 Lap||18|
|16||99||Adrian Sutil||Sauber-Ferrari||70||+1 Lap||13|
|17||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||63||+8 Laps||14|
|Ret||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||39||Suspension||9|