Rosberg reignites title challenge with win in Brazil

As the title battle between Mercedes teammates Rosberg and Hamilton heated up in Brazil the newly laid tarmac went along with it, with at times over 50 degree track temperatures making it a race determined by tyre preservation.

Rosberg started on pole heeding the lessons he had learnt in Austin concerning being more aggressive with his tyres, taking advantage of the grip and clear air available to him. The high temperature tore away quickly at the softer compound of tyres requested of Pirelli by the drivers spearheaded by Felipe Massa, who had asserted that the medium and hard compound tyres were too conservative a choice for the newly laid tarmac.

By lap five drivers began to put on the harder medium compound and the front running Mercedes complained of blisters on the surface of the tyres as they fought for the lead.

At the start Rosberg got away cleanly from his teammate Hamilton with the Williams’ of home crowd favourite Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas running line astern behind.

Meanwhile both Red Bulls suffered a poor start with Vettel running wide into turn four allowing Kevin Magnussen and race start specialist Fernando Alonso to pass him, and by the end of the first lap Fernando Alonso headed Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo in seventh whilst Button and Magnussen ran fifth and sixth behind the Williams.

Felipe Massa was the first of the front runners to change to the medium tyres triggering the rest of the field to come steaming in. During the stop Massa was deemed to have been speeding in the pit lane and given a five second stop and go penalty, undoing all the advantage he had created by undercutting the field.

On lap seven Nico Rosberg was the first of the Mercedes to come in for a pit stop after complaining of blisters on his tyres. During this round of pit stops Hamilton was unable to make up enough time to pass his teammate; despite the gap being considerably reduced to only half a second as they both came across traffic.

By lap thirteen Alonso was still holding up the Red Bull duo in eleventh place.

Due to the difference in tyre strategy a number of overtakes were taking place throughout the field, first Fernando Alonso made a daring move on Adrian Sutil through the Senna Esses on lap seventeen followed by Felipe Massa passing Daniil Kyvat, who had yet to make a pit stop, for third and Kevin Magnussen passing Romain Grosjean down the pit straight four laps later for sixth position behind his teammate.

On lap twenty five the medium tyres appeared to be losing grip, the first indicator for Nico Rosberg was a lock up that showcased a large blister that brought him back into the pits. As Rosberg pitted Hamilton was given the call to push under the impression he would be pitting a lap later, he put in the fastest lap of the race but was unable to hold onto the pace for a second lap losing rear tyre grip and running off the track at turn one losing seven seconds in the process. It was evident that if Hamilton had not made that mistake he would have easily have passed his teammate after exiting the pit lane.

Amid a mass of drivers struggling with grip Kimi Raikkonen had stealthy made his way up to third place by making one less stop. However, this good work was unravelled during his pit stop on lap thirty six with a front jack failure causing him to lose a significant amount of time.

Trouble in the pits seemed to be becoming a theme of the day as Valtteri Bottas also suffered a slow pit stop during which his Williams mechanics unusually had to tighten his seatbelts, and a second penalty for speeding in the pit lane was handed to Sergio Perez’s Force India. Bottas’ issue dropped him behind the McLarens of Button and Magnussen.

Daniel Ricciardo’s day went from bad to worse on lap forty as he slowed down significantly citing a brake failure, the Red Bull team brought him in for a pit stop to inspect the car suspecting that it may have been suspension damage instead but were unable to fix the issue causing him to retire for the first time since Malaysia and ending his point scoring streak.

A number of battles were shaping up throughout the grid with Nico Hulkenberg putting a fantastically daring move on Valtteri Bottas for ninth place down the inside of turn one causing Bottas to run wide which also allowed an opportunistic Kimi Raikkonen to streak past.

On lap sixty one Jenson Button showcased why he should stay in Formula One next year with a fantastic move around the outside of Kimi Raikkonen into Descida do Lago and retaining the position as Raikkonen attempted to fight back. Vettel then followed Button through to take fifth in front of his expected Ferrari teammate next year.

Four laps later Raikkonen’s current teammate Fernando Alonso was close behind him as different strategies by the team had meant he had pitted once more and was clearly faster, however no order was made by the team to Raikkonen to let Alonso through. After the race Alonso stated that this was not an issue as he would have had to fuel save so would not have been able to challenge Vettel in front. Finally on lap sixty seven Alonso passed his teammate for sixth with a move around the outside on the pit straight.

The second retirement of the day came on lap sixty six with Romain Grosjean abandoning his heavily smoking Lotus at the side of the track, ending an otherwise promising weekend for the team.

Meanwhile up in front the battle for the lead was down to half a second with Hamilton faster in the first sector by 3 tenths, but he was unable to challenge for the lead allowing Rosberg to win for the first time in four months and reigniting the title battle going into the final race in Abu Dhabi and of course the double points it will award.

The result was an eleventh one-two for the Mercedes team this season and for Hamilton to win the title he will have to finish no lower than second in Abu Dhabi if his teammate wins the race due to the seventeen point lead Hamilton holds. If Rosberg is second he can afford to finish fifth, the same position as when he won his first title in 2008.

The home favourite Massa finished third adding to his stellar record at the Interlagos circuit with Jenson Button securing fourth amidst concern over his future at McLaren, Sebastian Vettel in fifth and Fernando Alonso once again finished in front of his teammate in sixth.

Classification

1 ROSBERG MERCEDES 1:30:02.555
2 HAMILTON MERCEDES +1.400
3 MASSA WILLIAMS +40.900
4 BUTTON MCLAREN +48.500
5 VETTEL RED BULL +51.200
6 ALONSO FERRARI +61.600
7 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +63.400
8 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +63.600
9 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +69.700
10 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +1 LAP
11 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +1 LAP
12 MALDONADO LOTUS +1 LAP
13 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +1 LAP
14 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +1 LAP
15 PEREZ FORCE INDIA +1 LAP
16 SUTIL SAUBER +1 LAP
RET GROSJEAN LOTUS
RET RICCIARDO RED BULL
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