It is difficult to believe that this was the second last GP weekend of the season already. Round 20 brought the F1 circus to Sao Paolo, Brazil. This was the weekend when the battle for the championship really intensified. Hamilton was desperate to win - that was the only way the Briton could keep his title hopes alive. Rosberg doesn’t need to win either one of the remaining races; however, technical issues might turn the situation upside down. Ignoring the battle for championship, Brazil GP was an emotional race for home hero Massa, who will retire from Formula 1 after this season.
In qualifying, Mercedes, once again, was in a class of their own. As the championship contenders fought it out over the front-row grid slots, Ferrari’s Räikkönen was victorious in the battle for third from Red Bull’s Verstappen, with Vettel fifth in the Scuderia’s second SF16-H. Kimi was six tenths down on pole-setter Hamilton, but the Iceman’s final run was still fantastic. It was extremely tight between Ferrari and Red Bull, with only a hundredth of a second separating Verstappen and Sebastian! Ricciardo was sixth for Red Bull, playing it "too safe" on his final run. Grosjean was an impressive seventh for Haas. The Force India duo of Hulkenberg and Perez were 8th and 9th respectively; Alonso in his McLaren rounded out the top ten. As the day came to an end, it turned out to be free of rain de spite of the 70 per cent chance of a proper downpour!
What a crazy race Brazil GP turned out to be! At the time of the start it was raining rather heavily at Interlagos, causing the start to be delayed by 10 minutes. Due to the extreme conditions, the start took place behind a safety car. Everyone was on the blue-marked full-wet Pirellis. There was a lot of standing water on the track, especially in the last sector. The spray caused by the cars made the visibility very poor. Safety car came in on lap 7, and the race was finally on. Unfortunately, Ferrari seemed to struggle with their pace in the wet conditions. Red Bull’s Verstappen attacked the Finnish Ferrari ace immediately, and Kimi had no chance to defend his 3rd place against the Dutchman.
Sebastian had a true moment of scare going uphill into the last corners on lap 11. He suddenly lost control of his SF16-H and spun in high speed! With huge talent and little luck, he managed to stay away from the walls; all he lost was some extra seconds. After this incident Sebastian soon pitted for a fresh set of intermediate tyres. Everything didn’t go according to plan during the pit stop; the team had difficulties with attaching the German’s rear-left tyre. This, too, cost the German lots of valuable time, and he re-joined the track in disappointing P19.
Lap 14 was another turning point in the race, as Sauber’s Ericsson lost control of his car in high speed and crashed into the wall. The Swede’s Sauber stopped at the pit entry. Safety car was deployed again. Some five laps later a safety car came in and the race was back on, but only for a short moment. Coming to the start-finish straight, Kimi aquaplaned and crashed into the outside wall in high speed. The impact threw the Iceman spinning across the straight into the inside wall. It was a terribly scary moment, as there were other cars driving at 300 km/h behind Kimi! My heart jumped into my mouth and the crash really got under my skin. Kimi’s crash could have ended in a catastrophic way! Without a lightning quick evading move from Manor’s Ocon, the Frenchman would have crashed into Kimi. I can’t help but admire the reflexes of the Formula 1 drivers – they’re absolutely amazing. I was so relieved to see Kimi walk away from his Ferrari unharmed!
Rhe race was red-flagged due to Kimi’s crash, and everyone drove into the pits. The race was suspended for half an hour until a restart took place behind safety car. It was still raining lightly, and the track conditions hadn’t improved; after a few laps behind safety car the race was red-flagged again! Another half-an-hour suspension passed before the race was restarted behind safety car once again. Hamilton was leading the race (most of which had been driven behind safety car) with teammate Rosberg second. Red Bull’s Verstappen was third. Interesting was the fact that Force India’s Perez was fourth, Toro Rosso’s Sainz fifth, Sauber’s Nasr sixth, Red Bull’s Ricciardo seventh, Manor duo of Ocon and Wehrlein eighth and ninth and McLaren’s Alonso tenth.
Unbelievable but true, safety car was again deployed on lap 48 as the home hero Massa lost control of his FW38 on the start-finish straight and crashed into the wall! Definitely not the kind of last home race Massa had been hoping for. Red Bull’s tyre strategy proved wrong; both Ricciardo and Verstappen had opted for intermediate tyres before the safety car, but the conditions turned out too extreme for intermediate tyres. Both Red Bull drivers had to pit again for a fresh set of full-wets. For Verstappen it meant dropping down to P16 after re-joining the track. But what a wild overtaking show the Dutchman offered us after that! Max kept choosing different driving lines compared to his rivals, aggressively moving through the field, position by position.
Soon Verstappen was right at Sebastian’s tail. They had a wheel-banging battle for P5, but, unfortunately, there was absolutely no way Sebastian could have defended his position against the flying Red Bull driver. Verstappen had chased down Force India’s Perez in P3 on the closing laps and made a stunning overtaking move on the Mexican. With this Hamilton won Brazil GP for the very first time, teammate Rosberg was the runner-up, and stunning Verstappen completed the podium. Perez had to settle for P4, which was an excellent result for Force India. Sebastian drove a strong race for the red team and finished 5th. Unfortunately, Ferrari was lacking performance in the challenging conditions. But what an eventful race with five safety cars and two red flags!
The championship battle will be down-to-the-wire in Abu Dhabi. Rosberg still has a 12-point lead on Hamilton in the standings. However, my thoughts are with the red team. There’s one more chance to make a red-coloured podium come true!
With passion for racing red,