Front to back: the Brazilian Grand Prix

Reviewing every F1 team and driver after a chaotic rain-lashed race at Interlagos.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM.AU

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton:
qualified 1st, finished 1st
Nico Rosberg: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd
Perhaps it was the Ayrton Senna tribute helmet, perhaps it was needing to win to keep his title hopes alive; whatever the case, Hamilton finally broke through at what has typically been a bogey track despite winning his 2008 world title in Brazil, mastering the ever-changing conditions to take his third Grand Prix victory in succession, this time by the decisive margin of over 11 seconds. The only bad news for the Brit was that Rosberg – again – managed to finish second, keeping one hand on the title trophy despite yet another race weekend where he was no match for his teammate. To Rosberg’s credit, he banked 18 points in conditions that could have easily tripped up his championship quest, and survived a half-spin in the treacherous final sector that wrecked the races of so many of his rivals. The mathematical permutations of the season finale in Abu Dhabi in two weeks’ time are many, but the simple one is this – if Rosberg manages to finish on the podium, which he’s done for the past eight Grands Prix, the championship is his no matter what Hamilton does in the desert.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 5th, finished 5th
Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 3rd, did not finish
Starting and finishing fifth reads, on paper at least, as a routine afternoon for Vettel, but his race was anything but, the German sliding off and spinning as the field scrabbled for grip once the safety car came in on lap eight. Vettel fell to the tail of the pack, but muscled his way back through in the latter stages, and despite some disapproval with a robust passing move by Verstappen, had far less to say over the radio than he did in Mexico two weeks previously as he banked 10 points. Raikkonen outqualified Vettel on Saturday with a lap he described as “average”, and the Finn was incredibly fortunate not to be collected by the chasing pack as he aquaplaned and spun into the wall on the start-finish straight on lap 20, his crash prompting a safety car and then a red flag. It was just the second time in the past 14 races that Raikkonen, who secured his 2007 world title at Interlagos, failed to score points.

Williams
Felipe Massa:
qualified 13th, did not finish
Valtteri Bottas: qualified 11th, finished 11th
There may not have been a more emotional moment in Formula One this year than Massa’s return to the pits after his crash at the last corner on lap 47; in his second-last race and at the circuit where he so nearly won the world title in 2008, the proud Sao Paulo native couldn’t contain the tears as he walked down the pit lane to a guard of honour from mechanics of several teams, the Brazilian flag draped over his shoulders and with his wife and son in tow. “I will never forget this day,” he said. A classy tribute to a class act. Teammate Bottas finished the race but outside of the points in 11th after trying to make a gamble on intermediate tyres pay off, almost certainly consigning the team that has finished third in the constructors’ race for the past two seasons to fifth with only the Abu Dhabi GP to come. Off-track, Williams confirmed during the week that 18-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll will take the seat vacated by Massa for next season.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 6th, finished 8th
Max Verstappen: qualified 4th, finished 3rd
Verstappen signalled his intent as soon as the race got underway properly on lap eight, storming past Raikkonen into the first corner once the safety car left the field their own devices and giving pursuit to Rosberg. He brilliantly passed the championship leader around the outside at turn three soon after the re-start following Raikkonen’s monster shunt, but his podium chances looked done when he pitted for wet tyres after an earlier stop for inters proved to be the wrong call when the rain increased. No matter; Verstappen re-joined in 14th with 17 laps to go and made it all the way to third, a result he described as “almost as beautiful as my race in Barcelona”, referring to his Spanish GP win earlier this year. Teammate Ricciardo finally added another points finish to his CV at a track that, statistically at least, is his worst in F1; the Australian always seemed to be on the wrong tyres at the wrong time on Sunday, and while he was also able to make ground after a late stop for wets, a fogged-up visor played a part in him not advancing further. A combined 19 points for the Bulls saw the team wrap up second place in the constructors’ championship over Ferrari.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg:
qualified 8th, finished 7th
Sergio Perez: qualified 9th, finished 4th
Force India all but secured fourth place in the constructors’ title over Williams on Sunday in Sao Paulo, with a combined 18 points for Perez and Hulkenberg to zero for the Bottas/Massa pairing seeing it head to the season finale in Abu Dhabi with a 27-point advantage. Perez showed his typical prowess in tricky conditions and used his feel for being on the right tyres at the right time to put himself in podium contention, but was denied by the flying Verstappen on the third-last lap. Hulkenberg, at the site of his shock pole position for Williams back in 2010, was desperately unlucky when he had to pit for new tyres under safety car conditions when running fourth after picking up some debris, and while he ran out of laps to overhaul Sainz, he was able to keep Ricciardo behind to snare six valuable points.

Renault
Jolyon Palmer:
qualified 16th, did not finish
Kevin Magnussen: qualified 18th, finished 14th
How bad were the conditions at Interlagos on Sunday? Here’s Palmer’s take, after the Briton had to retire just before the first red-flag period of the race on lap 28 after clattering into Kvyat. “I couldn’t see past my own steering wheel,” he admitted after becoming a spectator for his first non-finish in six races. Magnussen had nothing to lose starting so far back, and rolled the dice with intermediate tyres before most of his rivals in what amounted to a futile attempt to sneak into the points. Both drivers had their 2017 futures confirmed during the week, Palmer staying at Renault next year to partner Hulkenberg (and to keep a seat warm for Bottas in 2018 if informed paddock speculation is on target), while Magnussen, unhappy with the lack of a long-term offer from the French manufacturer (perhaps for that very reason), is off to Haas next year.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat:
qualified 14th, finished 13th
Carlos Sainz: qualified 15th, finished 6th
Sainz joked that he was contemplating a rain dance on Saturday night to get his Toro Rosso up the order from a lowly 15th-place return in qualifying, and it must have worked, the Spaniard equalling a career-best result by finishing in the same position he crossed the line in at the Spanish and United States races earlier this season. He was unlucky it wasn’t even better, as he managed his tyres superbly in the crazy conditions and ran as high as fourth before being demoted by the charging Verstappen and Vettel in superior machinery late in the race. Kvyat’s soggy Sunday afternoon was less straightforward, the Russian having to make two pit stops within the first 17 laps because of a slow puncture, and then making do with an ill-handling car after his big contact with Palmer.

Sauber
Felipe Nasr:
qualified 22nd, finished 9th
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 21st, did not finish
Sauber were arguably the biggest winners of all in Brazil – the Swiss team has never finished last in the constructors’ championship, and two points for Nasr at his home race spared their blushes after things looked dire on Saturday, when Sauber qualified on the back row of the grid, Nasr slowest of all. Nasr kept his head when plenty of more experienced drivers were losing theirs, and while he fell back through the field late as faster cars simply overwhelmed the Sauber, he kept it on the island to snare two precious points and spark jubilant scenes in the Sauber garage. Ericsson caused a safety car intervention on lap 12 when he crashed heavily at the final corner; the Swede was unhurt, but the same couldn’t be said for his chassis, which came to a smoky halt in the middle of the pit lane entry road.

McLaren
Jenson Button:
qualified 17th, finished 16th
Fernando Alonso: qualified 10th, finished 10th
Alonso salvaged a point for McLaren at a circuit that brought up an unwelcome reminder of its days as an F1 powerhouse – it was at Interlagos in 2012 where teammate Button won his and McLaren’s most recent race. The Spaniard was mighty to drag his car into Q3 on Saturday, and dropped to the back of the field with 15 laps to go after a spin on Sunday before storming past seven cars before the end to snatch the final point on offer. Button spent much of Saturday moaning about understeer, oversteer and everything else in between, and didn’t do a lot different on Sunday as he finished plumb last in his penultimate GP.

Manor
Pascal Wehrlein:
qualified 19th, finished 15th
Esteban Ocon: qualified 20th, finished 12th
Manor had doggedly hung on to 10th place in the constructors’ championship since Wehrlein scored a point in round nine in Austria, but Nasr’s ninth place for Sauber combined with Ocon falling out of the points late saw the sport’s minnows sink to the tail of the teams’ race once more. Both drivers kept their heads in the chaotic early stages and moved up inside the top 10 when others pitted, and Ocon did remarkably well to avoid Raikkonen’s stranded Ferrari as the field piled through the mist on the lap 20 re-start. Off-track, the young Frenchman – not his slightly older German teammate – was preferred as Force India’s second driver for 2017 with Hulkenberg’s departure to Renault, Ocon set to re-join the team he worked for as a test driver last season.

Haas
Romain Grosjean:
qualified 7th, did not start
Esteban Gutierrez: qualified 12th, did not finish
There were apologies and anger on the two sides of the Haas garage, as Grosjean didn’t even manage to start the race after crashing on his reconnaissance lap to the grid in the treacherously wet final sector. “I feel so bad for the team,” he said. “I was just doing laps to the grid, not even flat out. I picked up wheelspin like an on-off switch, not pushing at all. Very strange.” Gutierrez, told earlier in the week that he’d be getting the boot for Magnussen next year, retired nine laps from home with electronics issues, and made his displeasure very clear in an animated discussion with team principal Gunther Steiner. With just one points finish in 58 career races, the Mexican didn’t exactly make a compelling case to be retained.

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