Race Recap: 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix showcases Silver Arrows and German steel
That's how the German lined up on pole, three-hundredths ahead of the Brit. Two-tenths behind them came the Williams duo, Felipe Massa ahead at his home race, teammate Valtteri Bottas following. Jenson Button made a surprising leap up the grid to put his McLaren fifth, after being "nowhere" during the Free Practice sessions. Sebastian Vettel drove the first Infiniti Red Bull Racing to sixth, ahead of the second McLaren of Kevin Magnussen, and Daniel Ricciardo in the second Infiniti Red Bull Racing in ninth split the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso in eighth and Kimi Räikkönen in tenth.
When the pedal got put to the carbon fiber on Sunday, Rosberg did his best to make Hamilton earn his position.
And by "his position" we actually mean second place. So far this year, Rosberg has only converted four of his 13 pole positions into wins, the last race in Austin being another of the ones that got away. Not so in Brazil. Making this race the anti-USGP, Rosberg pulled away at the start and didn't let Hamilton get closer than half of a second away for all 71 laps. The best chance Hamilton had to take the lead was during the second round of pit stops, going for the undercut. After the German pitted, the Brit put in the fastest lap of the race up to that point, then stayed out for another. On that second lap, his tires went off and he locked up and spun into the run-off area at Descida do Sol, costing himself seven seconds. If he had kept the same pace and kept it pointed in the right direction, it's likely he would have come out in front of Rosberg. But it was Nico's day, thanks to a mistake-free outing and being fastest in the middle sector to overcome Hamilton's advantage in the first and third sectors. His teammate crossed the line right behind him.
Massa crossed the line in third, a welcome podium placing in front of his biggest fans. It looked like his race was ruined by a five second stop-go penalty for speeding in the pit lane during his first stop, and he lost more time on his third stop when he drove through the McLaren pit box. Yet the pace of the Martini Williams saw him catching up to and passing drivers who still hadn't pitted yet. Eventually, he returned to the front of the train behind the Mercedes factory cars, albeit 41 seconds behind.
Button said he didn't know where the extra pace came from in qualifying and race compared to the practices, but the Brit rode it to fourth position at the flag. He kept himself in contention at the front during a quiet race, passed Räikkönen on track toward the end of the race and kept Vettel behind him. The German thought Red Bull might have the pace to challenge McLaren, climbing back up the order after getting swamped by Magnussen and Alonso at the start, but it wasn't to be, and he ended affairs in fifth.
Alonso took sixth, the Spaniard in a late-race battle with teammate Räikkönen that began around Lap 65. Räikkönen stopped twice in the race, the last time on Lap 34, Alonso pitted three times, the final time on Lap 52. Fresher tires helped the Spaniard chase down the Finn, but Räikkönen kept the obviously faster Alonso behind him for four laps. When Ferrari didn't ask the slipping, sliding Räikkönen on old tires to move over for the faster sister car, making Alonso get the pass done on track, commentators said that was all the proof they needed that Alonso is leaving the Scuderia. Räikkönen, expected to be with the team next year, finished three seconds behind Alonso, in seventh.
Nico Hülkenberg in the Sahara Force India came home eighth after a race in which he passed a few cars, including one adventurous shot down the inside of Bottas into turn one, but really managed to keep his pace up high enough to maintain position. He was followed home by Kevin Magnussen who had a thoroughly anonymous race to ninth.
The second Williams of Bottas suffered plenty of troubles, from a loose seat belt keeping him from driving properly and blowing one pit stop out to almost ten seconds, to bad tire graining, to debris in his front wing, to getting passed by two cars after Hülkenberg's pass, to suffering the seat belt problem again. Considering all of that, it is again a credit to the Williams' pace that he finished in tenth.
Rosberg, who has never finished on the podium at Interlagos, rode his victory to get to 17 points behind Hamilton. Rosberg showed the kind of steel that he's been accused of missing all year, but it might be too late: all Hamilton has to do is finish second in Abu Dhabi, and he takes the Driver's Championship. Barring a reliability or a kamikaze incident, after Mercedes' 11th one-two of the year, he should pull that off.
But that's why they race, isn't it? So we can find out. We'll do that in two weeks' time, and we'll see you then.
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