Two red flags and several safety cars disrupted the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix, but they didn’t prevent Lewis Hamilton taking his ninth win of the season. His first victory in Brazil couldn’t have come at a better time as he prevented Nico Rosberg from wrapping up the championship.
Treacherous conditions greeted teams and drivers on Sunday and the FIA took the decision to start the race behind the safety car. Romain Grosjean became the first driver to get caught out by aquaplaning as he spun on his reconnaissance lap on the way to the grid. The race start was also delayed by ten minutes.
The race eventually concluded three hours after it started with Hamilton crossing the line 11 seconds clear of Rosberg. Max Verstappen was driver of the day as he recovered from a late spin to climb back up the order to third. Sergio Perez was fourth ahead of another spinner Sebastian Vettel. Carlos Sainz was sixth with Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo seventh and eighth.
Local driver Felipe Nasr started last on the grid but finished in ninth place ahead of Fernando Alonso in tenth. Alonso was another driver who spun during the race but recovered to score a point.
Valtteri Bottas was 11th ahead of Esteban Ocon, Daniil Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen and Pascal Wehrlein. Jenson Button struggled throughout the race with the handling of his McLaren and was the last of 16th classified finishers.
Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, and Marcus Ericsson joined Grosjean on the sidelines after getting caught out by the conditions – their cars being sent into spins by aquaplaning and into the barrier. Jolyon Palmer cited poor visibility for his race ending accident when he made contact with Kvyat who continued. Esteban Gutierrez retired with car problems.
It was a disappointing end to his last Grand Prix for Massa who retired during the race. He was clearly emotional as he climbed out of his car after hitting the barrier, raising the Brazilian flag above his head. There were extraordinary scenes in the pit-lane as Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams congregated outside their garages to give him a guard of honour while the race was still happening. Massa was greeted by his family as he walked down the pit-lane. He later described the moment as overwhelming but said the reaction from the fans made him proud.
The championship will conclude in Abu Dhabi.
The 2016 Formula One grid features five world champions – Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, and Sebastian Vettel. All five have won one or more of their championships at Brazil and this weekend could see a new champion crowned in the form of Nico Rosberg.
Rosberg currently has a 19 point lead over team-mate and a victory in Sao Paulo will see him become World Champion, regardless of what Hamilton does. There are a number of other ways that Rosberg can become champion as well but he can’t win it if Hamilton wins the race.
Circuit: Autodromo José Carlos Pace
Number of Laps: 71
Circuit Length: 4.309km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:11.473 Juan Pablo Montoya 2004
Previous Brazil winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: McLaren (12 victories)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Hard, Medium and Soft
The Autodromo José Carlos Pace features a number of elevation changes and a number of bumps making it a unique challenge for teams and drivers alike. Throw in often mixed weather conditions and some areas with little run off area and it normally throws up an exciting race. The race no longer hosts the final race of the season – that will be held in Abu Dhabi – but this year’s championship can still be won there as it has so many times before.
It is quite a flowing track meaning that brake wear is low while there is a high demand on ERS deployment. Drivers will change gear approximately 42 times per lap and will sit at full throttle for 60%. It is quite a short circuit meaning drivers will circulate 71 times during the race. There is also a high possibility of safety cars.
In the run up to this year’s race a number of pieces of the 2017 jigsaw have fallen into place. Renault have confirmed that Jolyon Palmer will remain next season to partner Nico Hulkenberg. Kevin Magnussen is expected to sign for Haas – with Esteban Gutierrez recently confirming his departure from the team. Esteban Ocon will move from Manor to Force India to partner Sergio Perez. This leaves just Sauber and Manor to confirm their driver line-ups for next year.
In qualifying, a few teams still have finely poised head-to-head battles between their drivers. In the qualifying head-to-heads Hamilton, Vettel, and Hulkenberg all lead their mates 10-9 so with two races remaining can still be beaten.
This weekend will also be special for Felipe Massa as he prepares to retire from Formula One at the end of the year. He has won his home race once before – a bittersweet victory in 2008. He crossed the line in first and for a few seconds he had done enough to win the world championship, until Lewis Hamilton did enough to become champion by finishing fifth. It was a highly emotional podium for Massa in front of his home crowd which he handled with dignity. It would be a fitting end to his career to have one last podium at home.