Lewis Hamilton has kept his championship hopes alive by winning the Brazilian Grand Prix for the first time, as his team mate Nico Rosberg took the chequered flag in second position ahead of a stunning Max Verstappen.
The race took over three hours to complete as a delayed start coupled with two red flags and lengthy safety car periods played havoc due to heavy rainfall.
Although for Romain Grosjean the race didn’t start at all, as the Frenchman crashed his Haas on the way to the grid which saw him take a seat on the sidelines rather than take his seventh position on the grid.
Drivers spent seven laps under the safety car before racing conditions went green, where Verstappen immediately overtook Kimi Raikkonen for third position into Turn 1.
With the track still soaking wet, a handful of drivers opted to gamble on the intermediate tyre, with Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button leading the charge. Their times were consistent and challenged those on the full wets, but a spin from Sebastian Vettel highlighted how slippery the track surface was.
The German was running in fifth position until he aquaplaned up the hill on the final corner and dropped to 19th position once he made a late call to jump into the pits.
The race was then neutralised for a lengthy period as Marcus Ericsson crashed his Sauber at the final corner on the 13th lap, hitting the barrier and sending the Swede across the track and on the pit lane entry.
Verstappen managed to dive into the pits and narrowly avoided Ericsson’s wreck before the Stewards closed the pit lane due to safety grounds. However, seconds after the pit lane was closed, Daniel Ricciardo made a pit stop to join his team mate on intermediates, leaving the Stewards with no choice but to award the Australian a five-second time penalty for the infringement.
The safety car remained on the circuit for seven laps before pitting, although the race lasted 15 seconds before Raikkonen lost control on the main straight and ploughed into the barriers, which sent the Finn across the track and into the path of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon.
Raikkonen’s crash brought out the red flag while Marshalls recovered his car and cleared debris off the track. Hulkenberg’s Force India copped a nasty bit of debris driving through the wreck, as a piece of the Ferrari front wing wedged itself into the Force India’s wing.
Under the lengthy delay, the team were permitted to change Hulkenberg’s front wing due to the damage, while Jolyon Palmer retired his Renault after he made contact with Daniil Kvyat before the red flag.
The race resumed under the safety car again on lap 21 but only for another seven laps, as conditions were deemed too dangerous for the drivers to go racing, and the red flag was brought out again much to the dismay of the crowd.
During the safety car period, Hulkenberg, who was running in fourth position, picked up a puncture and was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop which sent him down to 15th position.
On lap 29 the race resumed once again under the safety car, this time for three laps. The field was unleashed on lap 32 as Hamilton led Rosberg and Verstappen into Turn 1.
Verstappen had again enjoyed a brilliant restart and was on Rosberg’s tail down the main straight, with the teenager making a gutsy move on the outside of the Mercedes at Turn 3 to take second position.
As he was making ground on Hamilton for the lead, Verstappen fell victim to the final corner aquaplaning and spun his Red Bull, but made an impressive save to keep it out of the barriers and continue in second position, with Rosberg now right behind.
Vettel meanwhile was making up lost ground after spinning early in the race. The Ferrari driver managed to get himself up to sixth position on lap 45 having disposed of Felipe Nasr’s Sauber.
Both Red Bull’s pitted within three laps of each other to take on the intermediate tyre, with Ricciardo serving his five-second penalty for his pit lane infringement earlier. He rejoined the race in 11th position while Verstappen managed to only lose three positions as he came out in fifth.
Another safety car made an appearance three laps later on lap 48, this time coming at the expense of hometown hero Felipe Massa.
Massa, who had been struggling in the race since he was slapped with a five-second penalty for a safety car infringement, ran wide on the final corner and into the barrier which destroyed his Williams.
The Brazilian was able to walk down the pitlane to his cheering fans while holding a Brazilian flag, and even received a guard of honour from the Mercedes Mechanics while his former Ferrari team members applauded.
Once the race resumed for the final time it became the Max Verstappen show. Both he and Ricciardo pitted again to jump back on the full wet tyre, which dropped both drivers out of the top 10.
Verstappen quickly passed Ricciardo then made a charge for the entire group inside the top 10. He easily passed Ocon for eighth and then Nasr for seventh on lap 62, then set his sights on Vettel for fifth.
Taking a completely different racing line to others, the Dutchman quickly caught Vettel and muscled his way passed the German for fifth position. The following lap he demoted Carlos Sainz for fourth position, then gained three seconds on Sergio Perez and passed the Mexican on the penultimate lap for the final podium position, earning him another driver of the day award.
While Verstappen’s drive was the highlight of the race, Sauber managed to score their first points of the season thanks to Nasr’s ninth place finish.
The result sees the Swiss team jump Manor in the constructors’ championship for 10th position, which will result in millions of dollars in prize money.
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes-Mercedes 3h 01m 01.335s / 71 laps
2. Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes-Mercedes +11.4s
3. Max Verstappen NED Red Bull-TAG Heuer +21.4s
4. Sergio Perez MEX Force India-Mercedes +25.3s
5. Sebastian Vettel GER Ferrari-Ferrari +26.3s
6. Carlos Sainz Jr ESP Toro Rosso-Ferrari +29.1s
7. Nico Hulkenberg GER Force India-Mercedes +29.8s
8. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Red Bull-TAG Heuer +30.4s
9. Felipe Nasr BRA Sauber-Ferrari +42.6s
10. Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren-Honda +44.4s
11. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams-Mercedes +45.2s
12. Esteban Ocon FRA MRT-Mercedes +45.8s
13. Daniil Kvyat RUS Toro Rosso-Ferrari +51.1s
14. Kevin Magnussen DEN Renault-Renault +51.5s
15. Pascal Wehrlein GER MRT-Mercedes +60.4s
16. Jenson Button GBR McLaren-Honda +81.9s
Esteban Gutierrez MEX Haas-Ferrari +
Felipe Massa BRA Williams-Mercedes +
Jolyon Palmer GBR Renault-Renault
Kimi Raikkonen FIN Ferrari-Ferrari
Marcus Ericsson SWE Sauber-Ferrari
Romain Grosjean FRA Haas-Ferrari
Image via XPB Images