As the F1 2015 season nears its climax, the passionate venue of Brazil played host to a pretty commanding and confident performance from Mercedes – and Nico Rosberg in particular.
In practice Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton traded places, with Hamilton actually faster in two of the three sessions, but in qualifying, Rosberg brought his A game, snatching pole by .0078 of a second.
At the start of the race Rosberg covered off Hamilton and led into the first couple of corners, stretching out a gap of just over a second to avoid DRS range, and both Mercedes cars eased away from the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen. It appeared as though Hamilton couldn’t find a means to get close to Rosberg – following in his teammate’s dirty air made getting within DRS range challenging.
It was a problem that existed throughout the field. Max Verstappen would trail Sergio Perez for several laps, with Romain Grosjean in turn following – but being unable to get close enough to pass at a circuit featuring several winding corners. The cars would run on the soft tyres until around lap 10 (with the exceptions of Daniel Ricciardo, who pitted on lap 4 in his Red Bull, and Pastor Maldonaldo of Lotus, who started on the medium tyre), when the stops started.
At the switch from the soft to medium tyres, Hamilton would start to exert pressure on Rosberg, closing the gap and getting within DRS range for several laps, but couldn’t quite get into a position to get by. At one stage he asked to try a different tyre strategy (as he had in Mexico), but the team once again vetoed his suggestion, insisting on keeping both cars on the same strategy.
Further back, Verstappen would once again demonstrate the skills that have him earmarked as a future world champion. A stunning move began on the outside of turn 1 ended at turn 2 with Verstappen somehow managing to avoid hitting Perez and avoid running wide, getting up into 9th. He repeated a similar move on lap 59, slipping by the Sauber of Felipe Nasr, having narrowly avoided a coming together on the previous lap.
Verstappen would also have a good but brief duel with Maldonado (who had tried to make a two-stop strategy work when everyone else had gone for a three-stop), eventually easing by him on lap 68)
It was a quiet race for the Williams team. Felipe Massa would end up disqualified from 8th place, due to having had a technical issue concerning tyre temperatures before the race, whilst Bottas was also in something of a void, taking 5th. Ferrari would lock out 3rd and 4th quite comfortably, with Vettel taking a strong podium and Raikkonen some way behind him.
At the front, Hamilton just could not get close enough to Rosberg, despite on a couple of occasions bringing the gap down as the pair of them hit traffic. For Rosberg, it would be his second consecutive victory, his second successive win in Brazil, and the 13th win of his career. It was in the end quite a comfortable, confident win – Rosberg is showing a different side to himself all of a sudden – where was this when it mattered?
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