Nico Rosberg has kept his Formula 1 championship title hopes alive after claiming victory in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
The German narrowly hung on to win after surviving intense pressure from teammate Lewis Hamilton over the race’s final 20 laps; Hamilton had a spin midway through the race that would no doubt leave him ruing what might have been.
That should not detract from Rosberg, however, who was quickest in every practice session and claimed pole position in the lead-up to Sunday’s 71-lap race.
With the points gap now reduced to 17 points, it sets us up for a tantalising finale at Abu Dhabi in two weeks’ time, where the controversial ‘double points’ rule will make its first (and hopefully last) appearance.
Just over a second on the stopwatch separated the two Mercedes runners at the end of 71 intense laps, with Rosberg coming under attack from a resurgent Hamilton after the pair’s third and final pit stops.
With track conditions reading north of 50°C, tyre management was going to be a key feature in the race. Having learned his lesson from the previous race in Austin, Rosberg stormed off the line to take the lead, leaving Hamilton to fend off the two Williams’ starting from the second row of the grid.
Rosberg kept his buffer until the first round of pit stops and emerged comfortably ahead, looking to have the race in the bag.
Hamilton, however, had other ideas and began to repeat his charge from a week ago in Texas. He steadily chipped away at the German’s lead and put in a rapid lap as Rosberg peeled into the pits for a second pit stop.
But his efforts were wasted when he locked his rear brakes at Turn 4 and spun into the tarmac run-off on his in-lap. The lost time was enough to ensure Rosberg’s lead was healthily increased, leaving Hamilton with it all to do once again over the remaining two stints.
Hamilton’s pace was such that he almost took the lead at his final pit stop, emerging from the pit lane just a few metres behind his rival. Over the final twenty laps, the gap between the two never stretched to more than a few seconds, but Rosberg kept his defence tight and never gave Hamilton a sniff at a passing opportunity.
To the delight of the raucous Brazilian fans, third place went to Williams’ Felipe Massa, who finished over half a minute adrift to underscore the works Mercedes team’s dominance of the weekend. By no means was it a brilliant showing from the little Brazilian, however, as he incurred a five-second stop/go penalty for speeding in the pit lane and then suffered an embarrassing gaffe by pulling into the similarly-liveried McLaren pit bay!
McLaren’s Jenson Button was a solid fourth on what is almost certainly his penultimate race for the Woking squad, and he managed to keep Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel at bay in the closing laps, finishing a few seconds ahead of the outgoing four-time World Champion.
Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo saw his 15-race stretch of consecutive points’ finishes finally come to an end, however, with the Australian suffering a front suspension failure while running in the points.
Fernando Alonso was sixth in his Ferrari, with his performance hampered by a slow pit stop that saw him emerge behind the two-stopping Kimi Räikkönen. The pair waged a terrific scrap in the closing laps, with Alonso ultimately prevailing thanks to his much fresher rubber.
Starting well down the order in his Force India, Nico Hülkenberg took an alternate strategy by starting the race on the Pirelli Medium tyres and briefly led the race as the softer-shod cars ahead of him pitted for the first time. The German ultimately finished eighth – a solid result for Force India, but not enough to keep their slim hopes alive of nicking fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings off McLaren.
The final two points’ paying positions were claimed by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas; the latter had his race ruined after an apparent problem with his seat belts that took a long time to be sorted during his first pit stop.
2014 Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (71 laps):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||71||1:30:02.255|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||71||+ 1.757|
|3.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||71||+ 41.331|
|4.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||71||+ 48.958|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||71||+ 51.720|
|6.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||71||+ 1:02.206|
|7.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||71||+ 1:04.030|
|8.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||71||+ 1:04.234|
|9.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||71||+ 1:10.385|
|10.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||70||1 lap behind|
|11.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||70||1 lap behind|
|12.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||70||1 lap behind|
|13.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||70||1 lap behind|
|14.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||70||1 lap behind|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||70||1 lap behind|
|16.||Adrian Sutil||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||70||1 lap behind|
|17.||Romain Grosjean*||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||64||Engine|
|DNF.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||40||Suspension|
Images via Sutton Images