Brazilian GP 2016

NOVEMBER 14, 2016

Race Report - Serene chaos

Lewis Hamilton
© The Cahier Archive


By Dan Knutson in Interlagos

The Brazilian Grand Prix was a chaotic affair with spins, crashes, red flags, safety cars, passes and drama. But it was cruise in the rain for Lewis Hamilton who had a serene time out in front as he led every lap. His only problem was water coming into his helmet.

"That was the only drama today, no mistakes, no issues, no spins," he said. "It was kind of interesting to hear along the race how many people behind were spinning and that but I didn't have that problem. Probably one of the easier ones. It was a very easy race. Usually in the rain here it's the hardest. I didn't have any moments and it was pretty straightforward. Silverstone 2008 was way harder than this."

"I was generally just chilling out front. When it rains that's usually a good day for me. Today was tricky for everyone; there was differently opportunities for aquaplaning, which everyone did. I want to say a big thank you to my team; we are creating history in this team. This year, the stuff that we've done this year, is just incredible. I'm so proud to be a part of it."

Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg finished second, and so Rosberg has a 12 point lead in the world championship with one race to go.

"The conditions were really tricky out there today," Rosberg said. "Up the hill there was heavy aquaplaning and a lot of drivers went off the track. I had a bit of a moment when I spun at one point but luckily this wasn't at high speed, so I was able to catch the car again. Lewis did a better job today and deserved the win, so I must be happy with P2."

Max Verstappen drove an astounding race, passing a myriad of drivers and, in his final stint, charging from 14th to third.

"At the end when I crossed the line it felt like a victory, it was almost as beautiful as my race in Barcelona," Verstappen said.

It had been raining and drizzling all morning, and it was still raining when the drivers headed for the grid.

Hamilton would start from pole with Rosberg lining up second. Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel started third and fifth, while Red Bull's Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo qualified fourth and sixth.

Romain Grosjean qualified seventh but lost control of Haas on the reconnaissance lap and spun into a wall.

"Hero to zero in 24 hours," he said later. "I feel so bad for the team. I was just doing laps to the grid, not even flat out. I picked up wheel spin like an 'on/off' switch, not pushing at all. Very strange."

Force India' Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were eighth and ninth on the grid, and Fernando Alonso (McLaren) rounded out the top 10.

The ambient temperature at the start of the race was 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Centigrade).

Ten minutes before the race was due to start, officials announced that that start would be delayed by 10 minutes. Then they announced that the 71-lap race would be decided behind the Safety Car. In this case there is no parade lap, so lap one of the race commenced when the drivers pulled into line as the Safety Car set off.

"Race will start behind the safety car. #Cinturato blue on every car: these evacuate 65 liters of water per second at 300kph," Pirelli tweeted.

Various drivers radioed in about various levels of water around the circuit and various levels of visibility.

The Safety Car came in to the pits at the end of lap 7 and the race began in earnest. Verstappen dived inside Raikkonen in Turn 1 to take third.

With no spray to contend with, Hamilton pulled away and had a two second lead over Rosberg by lap 8.

When would the time be right to pit for intermediate Pirelli tires? A number of drivers did just that at the end of lap 9.

"Way too early," was Rosberg's verdict. He may have been right as Vettel spun. But Vettel recovered and headed to the pits for the inters.

Ericsson, on the inters, spun into the barriers in the final corner on lap 12 and that brought out the Safety Car. Both Red Bull drivers pitted for the intermediates, and moments later the officials announced that the pit entry was closed as the wrecked Sauber was in the pit entry road.

The order behind the Safety Car was: Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Sainz, Nasr, Ricciardo and Ocon.

The pit lane was reopened after being closed for seven minutes. Magnussen radioed in that it was way too wet for the intermediate tires. Ricciardo was now under investigation for entering the pits when the entry was closed. The stewards later gave him a five second time penalty.

The Safety Car came in at the end of lap 19, but moments later Raikkonen spun and crashed on the pit straight.

"The uphill section was, at least for me there was a lot of aquaplaning, even on the turn before," he said. "I got aquaplaning and spun off. I almost got it back but then went off in a pretty bad place; I couldn't do anything about it. I didn't expect to get aquaplaning there and went off."

Out came the Safety Car, and then officials red flagged the race.

"Conditions are mad. It's just stupid," Vettel had radioed moments earlier. "We need extremes and we need to stop the race. How many people do you want to crash? I nearly crashed into Kimi on the straight."

After a 35-minute stoppage to clear up the debris on the track, the race was resumed behind the Safety Car. It had mostly stopped raining, but the FIA ordered that all cars had to start with the extreme wet tires fitted.

The restart order was: Hamilton, Rosberg, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Sainz, Nasr, Ricciardo, Ocon and Wehrlein as they headed off on lap 21. Ocon radioed in that the spray was even worse than before they stopped, and Vettel said it was "still bad." Rosberg radioed that the conditions were "still very difficult."

Weather forecasts predicted that the rain would increase in about 20 minutes, but the Vettel was already reporting conditions were worsening. Hamilton, however, said: "We should be going, Charlie (Whiting, the race director)."

The Safety Car stayed out until the end of lap 28 when the race was red flagged again. Upset fans booed and gave "thumbs down" to that.

"It is not even that wet now," Hamilton said. "I don't know why we are stopping."

This time the stoppage lasted 17 minutes. Once again all cars had to have Pirelli's extreme wet weather tires fitted. The "action" resumed on lap 29.

Force India told Hulkenberg that the same intensity of rain, or worse, was expected for the next 50 minutes.

In came the Safety Car at the end of lap 31, and out in front Hamilton streaked away while Verstappen passed Rosberg on the outside if Turn 1. Ricciardo overtook Sainz to move into fifth place.

So Hamilton led over Verstappen, Rosberg, Perez, Ricciardo, Sainz and Nasr. At the end of lap 38 Verstappen had a half spun in the final corner but stayed ahead of Rosberg.

Ricciardo pitted for intermediates at the end of lap 40. It was a slow stop, and he rejoined in 11th place. But he set the fastest lap of the race on lap 42. But then he got caught behind Nasr, Alonso and Hulkenberg.

Verstappen came in at the end of 43 for inters and came back out in fifth place.

"I think the word for today is 'Exciting' he said. "I overtook Nico around the outside of Turn 3 which was really fun to do, I just seemed to find a bit more grip out there. I then started chasing Lewis which resulted in me having a massive moment in the final sector, I was really lucky to keep it out of the guard rail. After that scare my pace was still good and I held onto P2.

"The rears then started to lose grip and I was told Daniel (Ricciardo) had pitted for Intermediates and was going fast so I followed that plan. For a lap or so it was really good but then more rain came which resulted in no grip in the last sector. There was no way we could carry on so had to pit again for wets."

Massa crashed at pit entrance at the end of lap 47. Out came the Safety Car and the pit lane entry was closed again. This time for 8 minutes. Hamilton's lead of 25 seconds over Rosberg was wiped out.

"It's impossible to explain my feelings from today, for everything that has happened," Massa said. "So much love. We couldn't finish the race. I wanted to finish in the right way, with the flag on the top. Unfortunately, I couldn't, but I think God knows what to do. I was just walking, in front of my people, with this amazing reaction. Not just from the fans but from all the people in Formula 1 coming out to clap their hands for me. It's impossible to explain these emotions.

"I never expected this in my life, I don't think I deserved as much as this. The minimum I can say is thank you very much to everyone, all the people I've worked with, all of the fans. I will never forget this day."

Massa received a standing ovation from the fans and the mechanics as he walked back to the Williams garage.

Ricciardo pitted for extreme wets.

The race reached the 75 percent point on lap 54, so now no matter happened the top 10 drivers would be awarded full points. The restart came at the end of lap 55, and the top 10 at this stage were: Hamilton, Rosberg, Perez, Sainz, Vettel, Nasr, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Kvyat and Bottas.

From 14th, Verstappen tore his way through the competition.

"From there on the race was really good fun, plenty of overtakes around the outside because if you stay behind them there's too much spray," he said. "I had to find another line. I just kept my head down and managed to get past quite a few cars in the remaining laps. I could hear the crowd going crazy when my engineer was on the radio, so I'm very thankful for the Brazilian fans for getting behind me."

Perez held on to third until three laps to go.

"What a fun but tense race today!" he said. "It's a shame to lose a podium place in the last two laps, but Max just had a different pace: he was the fastest on track and there was nothing I could do to keep him behind."

Vettel had an eventful afternoon on his way to eventually finishing fifth.

"In the first part of the race I spun," he said. "I had some aquaplaning but I wasn't the only one. I think it was a good recovering in the end, it was difficult to come back, and I struggled to get past (Carlos) Sainz: I don't know why it took me a lot of laps before I really started to feel well in the car, and then it was too late.

About the duel with Verstappen, I think 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 maneuver, but I don't think it was fully correct. But I wouldn't complain about anything today: I think I was not the only one who got caught out by the aquaplaning, but luckily I didn't crash."

For all the crashes and spins, nobody was hurt.

The championship will be decided in the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

"I'm hunting. I'm hunting," said Hamilton who trails Rosberg by 12 points. "I'm going to go and give it everything I have in Abu Dhabi, but right now I'm going to live in the moment. This has been my dream ever since I grew up watching Ayrton (Senna), my first win here!"