As one race screams to the finish, another relentlessly charges on. The stage is now set for the showdown at sundown. But first to Interlagos; where the Silver Arrows delivered a truly remarkable Brazilian Grand Prix podium lockout; the team’s seventh of the year.
At the final flag, it was Lewis Hamilton who emerged victorious after a chaotic three hours of track action; punctuated by two red flags, multiple safety car periods and thousands of liters of storm rain. Fulfilling a life-long ambition on the home turf of his sporting hero - Ayrton Senna – the reigning world champion nailed a 52nd career victory in effortless style.
It was a truly emotional result for the 31-year-old racer, who, despite winning on 23 other circuits on the intense F1 calendar, had never taken the top step of the podium at Interlagos. Reflecting on the race, keeping his title hopes alive, and a decade of attempts to win in Brazil, Lewis told us: “I've just won my first Brazilian Grand Prix! I remember watching Ayrton win back in 1991 and thinking "one day, that's what I want to do". I shared his emotion that day and now I can finally understand how he felt. It's the 44th Grand Prix here as well, so it's a really special one for me. To win on Senna's turn in front of that crowd... it's a moment I'll never forget and I genuinely can't believe it's finally come. It's crazy - all these years it's been so hard to win this race and then today was one of the easiest wins I've had.
“Of course, in those conditions I could easily have made a mistake at any point. But I was generally very relaxed out there today and felt completely in control. I love driving in the rain. It must come from years of racing around the UK as a kid! It's all in the mind - keeping your cool, not making mistakes, having great reactions and knowing where to put the car. It was one of those races where I was able to focus purely on driving. That one set of tyres just kept going and going, I didn't have any problems at all and the car was really fantastic. I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone back at both factories who have worked so hard to give us such an incredible car. This result is all down to them.
“Every week we're making another piece of history and we've out-and-out proven that we're the best team by far, in every area. Our hospitality is the best, our food is the best, our guys in the garage are the best, the guys back in the factory are the best, our cars are the best... it's so rare to see every area so spot on and I'm proud to be a part of that. I'm glad that it's come down to the last race. All I can do is focus on being as strong as I have been in these past few races. If I can do that, I'll know in my heart what I've achieved this year.”
Despite Lewis doing all he could, with a third consecutive victory in as many Grand Prix, teammate Nico Rosberg still retains the all important championship lead, as well as arguably being the pundits favorite to take the end of season championship spoils.
Rosberg completed the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team lockout in textbook fashion, chasing Lewis all the way to the flag, and battling wheel-to-wheel with F1 rookie Max Verstappen.
Confidently finishing in second place – just 11.455 seconds behind his team mate – ensures an all important 12 point separation between the Silver Arrows duo in the drivers standings, heading into the last race of the year.
“The conditions were really tricky out there today. Up the hill there was heavy aquaplaning and a lot of drivers went off the track,” said Nico. “I had a bit of a moment when I spun at one point but luckily this wasn't at high speed, so I was able to catch the car again. Lewis did a better job today and deserved the win, so I must be happy with P2. Max also did a good job.
“We knew that the RedBull’s would be very strong in the wet and he [Max] drove a great race. Thank you very much to my team for choosing the right strategy and letting me stay out on the full wet tyres. Now I look forward to Abu Dhabi, where I have good memories from last year. I will be going all out for the win there.”
While the hardcore fans hanging off the catch fencing at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace were desperate to celebrate a championship result in Brazil, the cans will have to stay on ice for just a few more weeks.
All eyes now turn east – to Abu Dhabi – where after 20 historic Grand Prix, the 2016 Formula One Drivers’ Championship title will go down to the wire. One thing is for sure, on the 27th November, it will be a Silver Arrows driver lifting the silverware. The bottom line is that for Nico to take the title he needs a top-three finish, while if Lewis is to take the drivers’ championship he needs to win the race, with Nico finishing fourth or lower.
Whatever you do, make sure you don’t miss it.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 3h01m01.335s
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 11.455s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 21.481s
4 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 25.346s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 26.334s
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 29.160s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes -
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault -
9 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari -
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda -
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes -
12 Esteban Ocon Manor/Mercedes -
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari -
14 Kevin Magnussen Renault -
15 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes -
16 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda -
- Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari -
- Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes -
- Jolyon Palmer Renault -
- Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari -
- Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari -
- Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari -
Drivers Championship points:
1 Nico Rosberg 367
2 Lewis Hamilton 355
3 Daniel Ricciardo 246
4 Sebastian Vettel 197
5 Max Verstappen 192
6 Kimi Raikkonen 178
7 Sergio Perez 97
8 Valtteri Bottas 85
9 Nico Hulkenberg 66
10 Fernando Alonso 53
11 Felipe Massa 51
12 Carlos Sainz 46
13 Romain Grosjean 29
14 Daniil Kvyat 25
15 Jenson Button 21
16 Kevin Magnussen 7
17 Felipe Nasr 2
18 Jolyon Palmer 1
19 Pascal Wehrlein 1
20 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
21 Esteban Gutierrez 0
22 Marcus Ericsson 0
23 Esteban Ocon 0
24 Rio Haryanto 0