Brazilian GP | Rain plays havoc as Hamilton takes glory and Verstappen shines

Lewis Hamilton wins the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Pouring rain and pouring hearts for a safety car start at the Brazilian Grand Prix. But when Raikkonen crashed out 10 seconds into a restart to instigate a red-flag, race control’s safety concerns were warranted. Yet when the race got going, more hearts bled for Massa and fans cheered for Verstappen – but it was Lewis Hamilton controlling the race for his first Brazilian victory.

Rain falling in Sao Paulo had been on the cards all weekend. With final free practice beginning damp before drivers took on slicks and qualifying progressed without a hitch.

A Sunday morning downpour, however, set the tone for the day. With the chance of rain for the race sitting at 100% and the start being pushed back by 10-minutes as rain become heavier.

Race control had sought to start the race from a standing start. But with the rain worsening and Romain Grosjean crashing out on his reconnaissance lap, their hands were tied and a safety car start was called for.

For Romain, he was out of the race with half an hour still remaining before the scheduled lights out. But as he began his climb up the hill, the Frenchman aquaplaned into the wall. Spinning and snapping his front suspension.

The wait for the race to get going following the safety car start was certainly delayed by the mixed messages coming from the drivers.

For while the race leading Hamilton was complaining of a lack of visibility behind the safety car and Ricciardo claimed the final corner had become “worse than the lap to the grid”. Drivers such as Magnussen and Sainz were calling for the race to begin.

Sainz: “It’s possible to start the race. Visibility is on the limit.”
Magnussen: “It’s easily ready to race.”

Eventually, though, the race truly began with the safety car pulling in – with Hamilton getting a great exit onto the hill to pull away from Rosberg.

Verstappen, too, was already on a move. Getting up to pace quickly and darting down the inside of Raikkonen at turn one for third. Then swiftly latching onto the rear of Rosberg as the championship leader took things easier.

Massa, meanwhile, in his final home Grand Prix was not taking things easy. Looking to overtake Gutierrez the moment the race got going. But unfortunately making his way past the remaining Haas moments before they crossed the safety car line and incurring a five-second penalty.

Drivers were also already coming into the pits to make the change from full wets to inters. Even though others were still complaining about the spray, with Ricciardo claiming he could not go flat out due to the lack of visibility.

A lack of visibility, thankfully, did not see anyone crash into Vettel when the German spun up the hill. Aquaplaning off the road as he lit up the rear tyres, before coming to a rest facing the wrong way.

But while Vettel was able to continue, Ericsson was not. Binning the Sauber at the top of the hill as he touched the painted inside kerb and losing control. Ending his race blocking the pit lane and enforcing the safety car.

Yet despite Ericsson blocking the pit entry, Verstappen had already committed. Forcing the Red Bull to jink to the side as he took avoiding action as the pit lane became closed.

Ricciardo then followed his team-mate into the pits. But unlike Verstappen, this was too late and Daniel received a five-second penalty for entering a closed pit lane. Despite Red Bull claiming Daniel feared a puncture.

Magnussen, meanwhile, was fearing the conditions. Reporting “it’s way to wet now – it’s much worse now than when we started”. But this did not stop the safety car from coming back in.

The safety car, though, was not back in for long. As just 10 seconds into the restart, Raikkonen had crashed out of the race.

Kimi had kept in tow of the cars ahead, but as he approached the start/finish line he aquaplaned into the wall. He had initially fought for control, wrestling with his steering wheel to prevent the inevitable contact with the wall.

More worryingly, after hitting the outside wall Kimi rolled back across the oncoming field. Luckily avoiding the cars lost in the midst, but Ocon was only narrowly able to avoid the Ferrari as he took a very late change of direction.

With Raikkonen’s car left to lay in the pit straight, the red flag was needed in order to recover it. A moment that left Sauber in P7 with Nasr while Manor had Ocon and Wehrlein just inside the points.

As for Renault, their had a man out of the race as Jolyon Palmer was forced to retire. Amidst the spray upon the restart, Palmer was able to pick up more grip and lined up Daniil Kvyat. But the gap he was aimed up for was too narrow and he clattered the Toro Rosso’s rear tyre – bringing his race to an end.

Verstappen also nearly saw his race end alongside Raikkonen. But unlike the Finn, Max caught his sudden loss of traction to control the ‘Bull. Then luckily not collecting the already crashed Ferrari.

Hulkenberg, though, did not have the same luck as Verstappen as he ran over the Ferrari’s front wing – forcing him to pit under the safety car before the red flag was waved.

The red flag also signalled a large stop in play for Formula One. Missing a period of light rain as race control feared more drivers crashing with another heavy shower looming.

When the race eventually restarted again, 2 hours after the scheduled start time and with only 31 laps completed, Perez had a great restart. Latching his Red Bull onto Verstappen despite Max lining up Rosberg for second.

Unfortunately for Perez, he was unable to make a move on the Red Bull. Yet for Max, hidden by spray, he had his way on Rosberg down the straight into turn four following a great exit with the outside line of turn three.

All the while, Wehrlein was falling out of the points as he was overtaken by Alonso and Vettel. And continued to fall down the order as he struggled for grip.

Verstappen, after pulling away from Rosberg, was then forced into making a great save to stop him from smashing into the wall. Dipping onto the kerb at the top of the hill, losing grip and spinning 90 degrees. Flicking his car back on track at the exact moment for the front tyres not to hit the wall

Engineer: “Well held Max!”
Verstappen: “Heartbeat went a bit higher there,”

While Verstappen recovered the lost ground on Rosberg following his spin, Ricciardo was catching Perez for fourth. But as soon as Ricciardo could see the Force India’s rain light, he was coming into the pits for inters and serve his five-second penalty.

The call to pit Ricciardo appeared to some to be the wrong call, with Force India telling Perez that heavier rain was expected in five minutes time.

That rain, however, took longer to come and track conditions played to the inters with Ricciardo laying down blistering pace. So much so that Red Bull brought the podium fighting Verstappen in for a change of tyres as well.

But while Ricciardo set a new fastest lap of the race, Button was pleading for McLaren to switch him back onto the full wets as he endlessly struggled for grip. Rosberg, too, was struggling as he suffered a half spin at turn 12 – but the German was able to get back pointing in the right direction with ease.

Massa, however, soon saw his final home Grand Prix end with a crash while running on worn intermediates. Dipping a wheel onto the painted kerb that caught out Ericsson, and spinning his Williams into the wall before coming to a rest blocking the pit entry too.

With Massa blocking the pit entry and debris spread across the track, another safety car was needed. Whipping out Hamilton’s 18-second lead over Rosberg and 35-seconds on Verstappen after his pit stop.

With the pit lane closed as well, Massa stood proudly with a Brazilian Flag and tears in his eyes. Taking in the applause of the passionate crowd and receiving a guard of honour from the teams as he entered the pit lane.

But when the pit lane re-opened, Red Bull was called back into action as Ricciardo returned for a full wet set as the rain intensified again. Verstappen, too, came into the pits from fifth after claiming “we are waiting for a crash to happen like this”. Relating to his struggles for grip on inters through the hill climb.

Under the safety car, the race also passed the three-quarters distance mark – ensuring full points would be rewarded had it then been red flagged and stopped.

But when the race was go again, Rosberg was able to keep pace with Hamilton for the first time today. Keeping in touch with the race-leader while Alonso lost control up the hill and spun his McLaren.

Rosberg, however, was not able to keep in touch of Hamilton for long. Losing ground on the Briton who eased comfortably away.

As for Verstappen, the Dutchman was flying. Taking the outside line through the corners and picking up more grip than the men he was overtaking. Disposing Ocon at turn 10 before setting about passing Nasr.

Verstappen then remained a man on the move, reeling in Vettel for fifth and taking the German down the inside at T12. Slowly edging Sebastian out onto the grass, much to the German’s annoyance, before taking Sainz for fourth moments later.

With Vettel and Sainz cleared, Max even took two seconds out of the leading duo in a single lap and eating six seconds out of Perez’s lead for third. Lapping so much faster than the Mexican to tee up a late fight for the final step of the podium.

Sticking to the outside line, Max lined up Sergio on the run up the hill. Closing in with every yard, reducing the gap with every inch. But the door was slammed shut, with Perez moving over onto the inside line at the crest.

Perez, however, could not keep Max behind for long. Taking the outside line at turn 10 again and picking up the traction for the inside line for turns 11 and 12. Making the crowd rise to their feet to applaud Max’s move for the podium place.

And while Verstappen stormed through the field, Hamilton out in front eased to his first Brazilian Grand Prix victory. Reducing Rosberg’s championship lead to 12-points heading into the season finale in a fortnight’s time.

Felipe Nasr was also able to come home in ninth place. Securing Sauber’s first points of the season at his home Grand Prix to move the Swiss manufacturer ahead of Sauber in the constructors’ championship.

Pos Driver Team Gap Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 3:01’01.335 25
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 11.455 18
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 21.481 15
4 Sergio Perez Force India 25.346 12
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 26.334 10
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 29.16 8
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 29.827 6
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 30.486 4
9 Felipe Nasr Sauber 42.62 2
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 44.432 1
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams 45.292
12 Esteban Ocon Manor 45.809
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 51.192
14 Kevin Magnussen Renault 51.555
15 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1’00.498
16 Jenson Button McLaren 1’21.994
17 Esteban Gutierrez Haas DNF
18 Felipe Massa Williams DNF
19 Jolyon Palmer Renault DNF
20 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari DNF
21 Marcus Ericsson Sauber DNF
22 Romain Grosjean Haas DNF