The Brazilian Grand Prix was one of my favourite races of this year. Much like the race we had in 2012, it was packed with storylines from what has been an extraordinary season in parts.
Lewis Hamilton drove a faultless weekend. After two red flags, four safety car periods and multiple crashes on the start/finish straight, his only issue came in the first part of the race when he was complaining of too much water coming into his ‘Senna tribute’ helmet he wore especially for this weekend.
I say it was a tribute helmet, it was a return to the colours those who watched Lewis in the early stages of his career will remember fondly. For some reason, seeing him with a day-glow yellow helmet all weekend made everything look all the more appropriate.
With the amount of stoppages and crashes, Hamilton kept his cool while Rosberg went into full title-conservation mode and called for the race to be stopped once full points were on offer. Rosberg just didn’t look comfortable in these conditions, he was one of the ones who managed to drift his way through the final corner – which included Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel – and he had to contend with the antics of a certain Duchman who was showing us all just how much he can truly do in a race car.
Max Verstappen’s drive to third was one of the most impressive I’ve seen since Jenson Button’s victory in Canada four years ago in what were very similar circumstances. You could tell the dutchman hadn’t long come from go-karting, experimenting with wider lines which eventually led to his near-miss on the exit of Juncao.
Coming into the weekend we learned that Toto Wolff called up Joss Verstappen to gently remind his son not to intervene with the championship contenders on track. Of course he wasn’t paying any attention of that when he pulled off a gusty overtake around the outside of Turn 3 on Rosberg after the first restart.
Max has this no-fear factor about him that makes him spectacular whenever he steps into a race car. This year he has redefined rules and broke records. Although all the drivers did well to handle the conditions, his efforts on Sunday get extra points for just being bold and flamboyant all at the same time.
Amidst the chaos Sauber managed to grab their first points of the season. You can’t fault Xevi Pujolar and the newly appointed Ruth Buscombe in the strategy department, but having spent 20 races behind Manor in the standings (even qualifying behind them on Saturday) I do think the men and women at Banbury deserved a better defence from their car.
This does mean Manor are set to be short-changed by $30m in prize money, which could be a considerable factor when it builds parts for next years car and factors in their driver lineup.
The pieces for the jigsaw in the 2016 F1 driver market are all more or less put in place after this weekend. Esteban Ocon is Force India bound, Kevin Magnussen will be replacing Esteban Gutierrez at Haas whose Brazilian GP ended on rather bad terms if the garage shots of him and Gunther Steiner are to be read into.
Gutierrez was spotted loitering around the Sauber hospitality, which some believe could be confirmation that he is in talks to replace Felipe Nasr at the end of the season.
But after his drive to points on Sunday after his team mate seemingly crashed out, it’s tough to not give Nasr a second chance since he hasn’t been best pleased with the teams efforts this year. Likewise Jolyon Palmer, who is staying on at Renault in a multi-year deal alongside Nico Hulkenberg.
Lance Stroll was also confirmed as Felipe Massa’s replacement in the weeks leading up to the weekend, which has to go down as F1’s worst kept secret of 2016.
It was emotional scenes as Massa retired from what was his final race around Interlagos in a Formula 1 car. It was great to see all the mechanics from Mercedes and Ferrari along with Williams pay their respects, as Massa embraced his family and soaked up the atmosphere. I’ve never seen that in an active pit lane before, and I think it showed just how well respected he is in the paddock.
Finally I want to finish by commending the stewards for making the right decisions and getting the full race distance in. Some were quick to blame the tyres for not being able to handle the conditions, but I would wager that it’s just a case of these cars being tougher to drive with their torquey engines. They were right to stop it for a second time after Raikkonen’s crash through fear of there being another silly accident and impending showers. Once they established that the rain would continue how it was, in the grand scheme we spent less than a quarter of the race behind the Safety Car – which is pretty good going considering the conditions.
The drivers also have to be commended after that performance. There were some near-misses out there, most notably Esteban Ocon nearly crashing into Kimi Raikkonen in that scary crash across the start/finish straight. Although there were some standout performances, every driver proved their worth contending in those conditions on Sunday.
With one race left to go Formula 1 2016 is about to come to a close. Abu Dhabi hasn’t delivered the most exciting races in recent times, but as ever the sport will somehow throw something into the mix which adds to the adventure everyone sets out on when the season begins in Australia.
Photo Credit: XPB Images