Nico Rosberg was at his very best at the Brazilian Grand Prix, defeating newly crowned champion Lewis Hamilton for a second straight win.
While the order at the front remained virtually the same, there was plenty of action in the midfield. Valtteri Bottas, for instance, made a stonking start from seventh on the grid, with Romain Grosjean also gaining multiple positions on lap 1. Nico Hulkenberg’s fine form at this venue continued as he finished sixth, while Max Verstappen made some feisty moves en route to ninth.
Honorary mention goes to Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari for closing the gap to Mercedes and trying a different strategy in the middle part of the race.
Nico Rosberg has found another gear since the advent of the Mexican Grand Prix weekend. Whatever the reason might be for the upturn in his performance, it’s enough to have a measure of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
After lapping slower than Hamilton during Q1 and Q2, Rosberg posted the fastest lap when it mattered, putting his car on pole position. And in a repeat of Mexico, the German held position at the start of the race, and built a cushion for himself in the first stint.
After the first round of pitstops, the 30 year old managed his tyres well, while maintaining just enough gap over his British teammate to prevent a passing manoeuvre. If Mercedes had sticked to a two-stop strategy, Rosberg would have had enough life in his tyres to go till the end of the race with three sets of rubber.
All in all, it was another fine weekend for the #6 driver who, after his fifth win of the season, secured runner up position in the drivers’ standings.
Valtteri Bottas made up for his three-place grid penalty with a speedy getaway at the beginning of the 71 lap race. Bottas cleverly exploited the tarmac run-off area on the right hand of the side of the track to gain two places straight away.
From there on, it was a straightforward race for the Finnish driver, with Williams not a match to Ferrari at the Interlagos Circuit. Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen were on the same soft/medium/medium strategy but finished 20 seconds adrift at the chequered flag. With no safety car intervention, the deficit gives a true indication of the relative pace of the two teams.
He might have finished ahead of Sergio Perez at latter’s home turf, but Nico Hulkenberg desperately needed a strong weekend, considering how the second half of the season has panned out for him. No, the German doesn’t need to prove anyone. But it was important to return to a points scoring streak - after all, consistency is his strongest point.
And the Brazilian Grand Prix provided that very break. While Perez was eliminated in Q2, Hulkenberg made it to the final leg of qualifying, eventually setting a time that was good enough for fifth on the grid, after Valtteri Bottas’ penalty.
He got bogged down by Bottas and Daniil Kvyat at the start, but remained within touching distance of the latter in the first stint. Unable to find a way past, he pitted on lap 9, triggering the first round of pitstops.
The undercut allowed him to gain track position over Kvyat, and he remained ahead throughout the race, despite coming under pressure at the death end.
After showing impressive pace in the two free practice sessions he participated in, Romain Grosjean spun in Q2, ending a lowly 14th on the grid.
However, Sunday was a completely different story for a somewhat emotional Frenchman. A good start propelled him to 11th position at the end of lap 1. When Max Verstappen passed Sergio Perez with a brave move, Grosjean sensed an opportunity and was quick to pounce, moving himself into 10th place.
Later, he overtook Verstappen himself and crossed the chequered flag 20 seconds ahead of the Dutchman. With Felipe Massa disqualified from the race, Grosjean was classified in eighth place - an impressive result in a car that has been developed little since the beginning of the year.
He may not have the best chassis or power unit underneath him, but Max Verstappen nevers fails to impress everyone in the thick of the midfield.
When the top guns were complaining of lack of overtaking opportunity around Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Verstappen made some fine moves to keep the crowd entertained. The one on Sergio Perez was, evidently, the most impressive.
After Perez covered the inside line, Verstappen went around the outside at turn 1, using kerbs to his maximum, to gain the inside line for the next corner. Eventually the Mexican had to concede his position and Verstappen was up into ninth place.
The 18 year old, however, did lose a position to Verstappen but was classified ninth after Massa’s disqualification.
by Rachit Thukral