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The Brazilian Grand Prix weekend roared into action on the back of the tragic events in Paris. FOFA joins the teams and drivers in wishing everyone affected by the attacks well.
Rosberg ultimately took his 5th straight pole position from Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Bottas [down from 4th for overtaking under red flags], Massa, Verstappen and Nasr. Sainz and Perez took the 6th row, Ericsson 13th ahead of the Lotus pair. Button was 16th followed by Rossi and Stevens. Ricciardo took the 19th slot after being demoted 10 places from 9th for taking a new, upgraded, Renault engine. Red Bull probably weren’t best pleased that Kvyat beat Ricciardo with the older engine, although Kvyat was likely more happy. Alonso rounded out the field, not setting a time as he struggled with a lack of power.
Some blatant blocking by Nasr on Massa almost saw the Williams fall in Q1, and Nasr was investigated after the session. He was given a 3-place penalty so dropped to 13th behind Sainz, Perez and teammate Ericsson.
Sainz got to the pit exit and the car turned off before he could do his practice start. Providing he could get ready for the start, he would start the race from the pits.
The remaining 19 cars took to the grid a few minutes past 2pm local time, Sainz not at the end of the pit lane when the lights went out. Rosberg led from Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Bottas and Kvyat. Hulkenberg and local boy Massa were both struggling by the Senna S, sitting 7th and 8th. Although he wasn’t ready for the lights, Sainz got out onto the track. 2 corners later, the car died again. His teammate sat behind Perez in the fight for 9th.
Ricciardo pitted on lap 4 to change his tyres early, replacing soft with medium.
Nasr led the non-scorers until lap 5 when Grosjean passed him. They were followed by Button, Alonso, Maldonado, Ericsson, Rossi, Stevens and Ricciardo.
Hulkenberg pitted from 7th on lap 9, Massa doing the same a lap later. Kvyat led the Williams and the second Force India in as well. Grosjean’s Lotus also took the chance. Hulkenberg cleared Kvyat thanks to his strategy call.
Bottas’ lap 11 stop dropped him to a temporary 10th but effectively holding his 5th. Verstappen had an incredible 2.3 second stop, salvaging some of his advantage over Grosjean that the Lotus had been eating into.
Raikkonen stopped on lap 12 to cover off Bottas, the lead trio for now staying on track. Button also pitted, while Rosberg was called in at the end of lap 13. Behind them, Bottas was stuck behind Williams’ last race winner in his Lotus. Thankfully for the Finn, the position was soon his.
Vettel followed Rosberg’s strategy, forcing a slight delay for Rosberg’s stop. Hamilton now had a chance to make a move for the lead.
Hamilton pitted on lap 14, technically leading into the first corner but having no chance of actually assuming the lead.
Hamilton reported that it was “impossible to follow” Rosberg, gaining dramatically as Rosberg seemed to struggle with a brake issue.
Verstappen finally took 9th from Perez on lap 32, Grosjean forcing his way past also as Perez tried to recover. Vettel pitted at the end of lap 32, taking soft tyres. Rosberg bailed a lap later, sticking with the mediums as he temporarily handed Hamilton the lead. The champion pitted on lap 34 for his mediums, leaving Rosberg in the lead once more. Raikkonen was closer this time, sandwiched between the Mercedes pair.
Maldonado made a banzai move on Ericsson, taking the inside line when contact was made with the Sauber, spinning Marcus around. He dropped to 17th as Maldonado sat on Nasr’s tail, the incident under investigation. The second Sauber was an easy move for Maldonado, taking 9th in the second Lotus. He was then given a 5-second time penalty. In the sister car, Grosjean managed to force Verstappen out of position.
Vettel claimed 3rd back from Raikkonen, possibly under orders.
Kvyat took 7th from Maldonado, the Lotus offering little defence.
Maldonado pitted and served his penalty, falling to 16th behind Nasr. Crucially, perhaps, he was still ahead of Ericsson.
Vettel pitted again on lap 47, taking the medium tyres as he stayed 3rd. Rosberg was in a lap later, holding 2nd from Vettel while Hamilton borrowed the lead for a lap. The Brit slotted back in behind his teammate, almost 10 seconds ahead of the lead Ferrari.
Maldonado managed a couple of laps of amazing driving, fighting his way past Nasr in the end. At the front, Rosberg demanded radio silence while he focused on Hamilton.
Grosjean cleared Nasr for 10th a lap after his teammate had done so. Verstappen tried to make the move a couple of corners later but a Manor got in the way. The move was as a carbon copy of the Dutchman’s earlier move on Perez. Ahead, Grosjean took 9th from Maldonado.
Another lap, another overtake: Perez cleared Nasr into turn 1. A lap and 3 corners later, Ricciardo followed suit. Sauber’s brief 9th place now felt a long time ago, although it had only been 4 short laps.
Verstappen was reeling in Maldonado in the fight for 10th, while Ricciardo stole 12th from Perez behind them. Interestingly, Verstappen was fighting mostly through the infield section, notorious for having no overtaking zones. Nasr nearly wiping out the Toro Rosso’s front wing had done nothing to temper the teenager who made the move into the first corner.
Rosberg took what turned into a surprisingly easy win from Hamilton and Vettel. Raikkonen and Bottas led the rest of the points positions, ahead of Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Massa, Grosjean and Verstappen. Maldonado, Ricciardo, Perez, Nasr, Button, Alonso, Ericsson, Stevens and Rossi failed to score. Sainz, of course, retired.
Williams confirmed 3rd in the constructors championship from Red Bull, Force India doing the same for 5th ahead of Lotus. Toro Rosso were just 8 points behind the Enstone team in 7th, Sauber and McLaren the same number of points apart in the first for 8th. Manor, the only team without points going into Abu Dhabi, had confirmed the loss of Lowden et al from the team after the 2015 season.