Rosberg wins, Hamilton spins – but keeps points lead

2014 Brazilian Grand Prix review

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The drivers’ championship was never going to be decided in the Brazilian Grand Prix – but Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton fought as if it could.

When the chequered flag fell after 71 laps Hamilton had to follow his team mate home for the first time since July. But at one point in the race he seemed to have victory in his hands.

A spin on the race’s 28th lap blunted Hamilton’s charge at the very moment he was poised to jump ahead of his team mate.

Hamilton gives chase from the start

Friday practice had indicated drivers would have a hard time making their tyres last in hot conditions. But with rain forecast, it was expected not to be a problem.

It didn’t turn out that way. The rain stayed away, and as the race start time approached the temperature of the newly resurfaced track exceeded 55C. This was not what Pirelli, who had brought a softer range of compounds at the urging of drivers, had been hoping for.

The race began with most of the field on the soft tyres, expecting to be back in the pits very soon. The start was orderly: the leading Mercedes-powered quintet held their places, Rosberg ahead of Hamilton, the Williamses of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, and Jenson Button’s McLaren.

Behind them an over-cautious Sebastian Vettel, remembering his 2012 collision, ran wide at Subida do Lago, allowing Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso to take advantage.

Sure enough Pastor Maldonado appeared on the pit lane from 17th on lap four, and the next time by Massa kicked off the front-runners’ pit stops.

The two Mercedes had the luxury of being able to wait a few laps longer, but by the ninth tour Rosberg and Hamilton had pitted. That put Nico Hulkenberg, Daniil Kvyat and Romain Grosjean – all of which had started on mediums – into the lead of the race.

Rosberg spent half a lap behind Grosjean which allowed Hamilton to get within striking range. But the lead Mercedes made quicker progress paste Kvyat and Hulkenberg, opening up a two second advantage over his team mate as he did so.

Hamilton makes his move – and slips up

While the soft tyres had grained quickly, the degradation on the medium tyres was swift but more predictable. As they reached lap 20 Hamilton began edging towards his team mate, and when Rosberg pitted for the second time on lap 26 Hamilton made his bid for the lead.

The next time by Hamilton posted the fastest lap of the race so far – 1’14.030, seven-tenths faster than the previous best. But what was surprising was that he stayed out for another lap – something Hamilton himself wasn’t expecting.

“I thought I was going to pit at the end of that lap so I used everything of the tyres,” said Hamilton. “The next lap, I had nothing left.” And when he braked for Subida do Lago the car got away from him.

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“Either way, at the end of the day, I made a mistake,” he said. “I locked the rears into turn four and with the under-rotation, just spun me around.”

“Second time it’s happened this weekend,” he noted, thinking back to Saturday’s practice session. “So no one’s fault but mine.”

It was a serious blow. Rosberg’s out-lap had not been particularly fast – eight tenths of a second slower than Hamilton’s corresponding lap would be. “I think ultimately it cost me the win,” said Hamilton, and though Rosberg did not agree Hamilton’s subsequent pace showed he was capable of taking the win away.

Button misses out on podium

Behind them the Williams challenge came perilously close to falling apart. Massa broke the speed limit at his first pit stop, but despite having to serve a five-second penalty the second time he came in, he avoided losing a place to Button.

Bottas had dropped out of contention by this point due to a slow pit stop due to a problem with his seat belts. Button therefore took over his fourth place, but a chance to beat Massa to third passed him by when he failed to put on schedule on the 49th lap.

“It all went pretty smoothly until my final pit-stop,” he said. “There was a bit of miscommunication about stopping, which meant I ended up doing an extra lap. That could have cost us a chance of the podium.”

Gaining the undercut on Massa might have helped Button get ahead, but the Williams driver came in with him on the following lap and the opportunity was lost. It did inadvertently cause a further problem for Massa, whoever, who mistook Button’s crew for his own and briefly pulled up in the wrong box.

Alonso and Raikkonen do battle

Vettel’s second pit stop got him out from behind Alonso and on course for fifth place. Team mate Daniel Ricciardo had long since fallen by the wayside with a suspension failure, which he initially suspected was a brake problem.

The Ferrari drivers supplied some of the most entertaining action of the race as sixth placed Kimi Raikkonen sat it out with Alonso for lap after lap, the absence of any team orders from Ferrari becoming increasingly conspicuous.

Raikkonen was two-stopping, however, and Alonso’s 17-lap fresher tyres eventually made the difference despite the fact he was having to save fuel. A straightforward pass in the DRS zone on the start/finish straight ended their scrap.

It couldn’t have ended a moment too soon for Ferrari, however, as Hulkenberg was flying after making his late switch to soft tyres. He shot past Magnussen and was taking two seconds per lap out of Raikkonen. The pair were separated by just two-tenths of a second at the flag.

Daniil Kvyat was in a similar situation to Hulkenberg, and he too was unable to deprive Bottas of the final points-paying place.

Double points increases Rosberg’s chance

Rosberg halted his team mate’s five-race winning streak, but Hamilton’s second place means he retains the advantage with a single race to run.

The controversial double points plan, which was cooked up in the hope it would ensure a final race showdown, has proved unnecessary – even under last year’s points system the title would still be open. However it puts Rosberg in a slightly stronger position. If he wins in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton must finish second again to claim the title.

Rosberg needed to turn the screw on Hamilton ahead of the showdown and he did just that. Afterwards it was clear he’d been affected by his defeat in America one week earlier, and was relieved to have put that behind him.

“Austin was a tough day for me on Sunday,” Rosberg said, “it was important for me to just improve, because just didn’t do a good enough job in the race in Austin.”

“Today I managed to do that, so that I’m happy about. I learned from Austin and did better so that’s a big step in the right direction. One race too late but there’s still all to play for.”

Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Williams/LAT

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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32 comments on “Rosberg wins, Hamilton spins – but keeps points lead”

  1. It’s pretty simple going into the last race. Hamilton will win the title, or his car will let him down. The Mercs are still so far ahead of the rest of the field, and Abu Dhabi will be a great track for them so if he finishes the race it will be in the top 2. Fortunately, this means double points is unlikely to have an affect.

    Back to today’s race… I don’t understand why Merc left Hamilton out for the extra lap considering he had the gap, and Rosberg was only going to gain in the next one. Perhaps another example of Mercs single strategy team working against the driver in second. You also have to question whether Hamilton could have made sure he was coming in that lap before taking all the life out of the tyres, or once he had, insisted on pitting that lap.

    1. Hamilton could let Hamilton down too with some silly driving, someone else could wipe him out, a safety car could be called at a bad time pit stop wise, etc etc don’t be so quick to ‘cut & shut’ the options available there buddy.

  2. From what I have calculated, under normal points Hamilton could finish 5th in Abu Dhabi and would still have won. As we know, with double points, this is reduced to needing 2nd.

    So, not too much of a difference……I still would have liked double points not to make any difference at all, but I’ll take this scenario.

    1. So P2 vs. P5 is “not too much of a difference” to you? Many championships have been won and lost by margins that were less than the point difference between P2 and P5.

      1. But honestly, @realstig, how many championships have been won or lost when one team is this dominant? That’s a legitimate question, because I haven’t been following F1 very long at all.

        I’m sure what Mach1 means (and I agree) is that the difference based on possible scenarios is relatively small. Everyone sees the championship as either a Hamilton finish, or a Hamilton DNF. And this yields the same result championship wise.

        1. I am suggesting that the point difference between P2 and P5 is significant. The effort involved in coming P2 vs. P5 should not be under estimated, even in a dominant car such the Merc. If for example Lewis’ brakes explode of his engine catches fire forcing him to start from the back, suddenly the difference between P5 and P2 becomes huge. I both these cases Lewis could only manage P3 despite taking huge risks and driving on the limit.

      2. @realstig
        Mercedes is so superior that if their drivers finish the race, it’s very likely they’re either P1 or P2. In fact, Rosberg and Hamilton have classified below P2 only three times this season. And there’s been only one race (Germany) in which one of them won the race and the another classified worse than P2. Thus Rosberg’s best chance is Hamilton’s retirement and it’s not very likely that the double points will affect the championship.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          11th November 2014, 1:13

          @Hotbottoms – the likelihood of P0 is the same as P2 for Lewis.

    2. Brazil 2008 comes to mind. If this is the case then, Massa would have been WDC and not HAM

      1. Also Brazil 2012, Alonso could have clinched the title not Vettel

        1. Well Seb would have had to have finished forth – Webber “probably” would have dropped back, maybe bringing Hulkenberg with him (who was less than four seconds up the road….). Don’t think we can say for sure Alonso would have taken it.

    3. jelle van der Meer
      10th November 2014, 8:48

      In fact Hamilton would have had enough with 6th if double points were not awarded. He leads by 17 points, Rosberg win would be 25 so Hamilton would need 8 points = 6th place.
      They would have equal points but Hamilton has far more wins.

      Than to remember that Hamilton almost lost the 2008 championship by running 6th till just before the last corner.

  3. I’m SO glad Nico won because as you say Keith, it means the championship would be open regardless of the double points.

    Sure it makes life easier (or let’s say, less hard) for Nico now, but it’d have left a very bad taste if the championship was still open with a 31 points gap behind the championship leader.

  4. So, a very entertaining race today (good work Nico), and we are left with yet another exciting battle for the WDC to be decided at the final race of the season. Bernie must be wringing his hands with glee, while us fans (and at least one driver) are left to contemplate the awful possibility (and endless debate) of the ill-conceived double points being the deciding factor in the end.

    1. Those are the rules this year and everyone has known about them since the start of the year, so why is it even a point of discussion they all sighed up to compete in tht Formula KNOWING the rules they signed up for. Seems a bit rich to complain based on if it suits you or not as a driver at this point in the season. They all knew from day 1 what the deal was, and how it could work out and they all put their names down to compete. Harden up princesses I say :-)

      1. So what though?

        No drivers on the grid are aggressively complaining at all in the closing stages of the championship. They’ll let their feelings out once the season is over.

        You’re missing the point of schooner’s comment. Literally noone on this planet save Bernie, select track organisers and non-purists want double points to exist. I am very happy that the chances of the championship being decided on double-points are now slim.

      2. paul sainsbury
        10th November 2014, 9:11

        It is the most stupid rule I have seen in any sport, ever. It is a total insult and defending it is an outrage.

        1. i think you need to get some perspective. Its not a great rule but as LH would only need to finish 8th or something if there was no double points then the title would effectively be over. Do I like it? no. is it “the most stupid rule ever, a total insult” not really no.

          1. @antonyob

            Well, maybe some morning grumpiness on my behalf there! I really do hate the rule though, and it reflects very badly on the sport.

      3. Seems a bit rich to complain based on if it suits you or not as a driver at this point in the season.

        Most drivers, up and down the field, as well as pundits and team members have said they don’t like it throughout the season. None have made too strong an argument, as the rule was already in place and wasn’t going to change.

      4. @Aus_Fan The double points may give an unfair advantage to a driver where the last track suits his style or the car (n/a in this case since they are both driving the same car). Second it will also penalize unreliability in 1 race which in this case would be a matter of sheer luck since they are driving a Mercedes car.

        It’s akin to offering a counter match point in tennis in the 5th set at 0-15 for no reason whatsoever when the other player is a game up and he/she suddenly loses the match while being a break ahead.

        The bad part is that it applies to the entire season so you can’t undo it in the next grand slam or masters. Here it might screw drivers out of championships and literally gift them to the runner up and that is what makes it TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.

        The only way double points would count is if 2 drivers are closely matched but that’s already exciting and if one has already won in the penultimate race, why should he have to lose in the last race? How is it exciting to lose when you’ve already technically won? You have to win twice then which if you play any sport winning twice is not the same as winning once…

      5. So what are the drivers and teams supposed to do about it? An en masse boycott? Not very realistic. It would be good if some effective opposition to the arrangement could be forthcoming from the teams though, to match the big talk in the media

  5. The image of Lewis Hamilton that the media (not me!) consistently feels compelled to regurgitate is looking increasingly irrelevant. The overtly emotive “natural” talent that arrives late for FP1 at Monaco because he “slept in”, and spends his time off track trying to second guess Nicole’s emotional rollercoaster and finding yet more blingery to drape himself in is not the Lewis I see at the moment.

    He is fast on his way to becoming the complete racing driver, and even during a weekend where he made to two key errors, the spin and the T10 lockup in Q3, both of which probably cost him the win, he has been utterly convincing and utterly astounding throughout, leaving no ambiguity at all as to who was the best come raceday. In qualifying he redefines the extremities of commitment, in the race his ability to instantly react to new balances and sensations from the car in a dynamic race has left Nico completely unable to answer and off-track, whilst his character profile denies it, he is fast on his way to Alonso levels of commitment, often being one of the last drivers to leave the paddock in the evening. Whilst I don’t put much stock in any psychological implications of on-track performances the sublime on-track passes at Suzuka and Austin have been getting into Nico’s head, and the utterly one-sided nature of the popularity contest has left Nico friendless at the darkest days of the season. The success of his charm offensives in previous seasons versus the failure to penetrate the post-Spa apathy is a profound episode of the 2014 world championship.

    In essence, Lewis has just been better at using the tools his disposal to take the title. His greater versatility, his superiority in combat, his preservation of the tyres, his efficiency on the fuel, his popularity and his use of the media also (he is becoming Alonso-esque in the way he uses the media – quick to point out that he was faster today and quick to demonise Nico post-Spa) have seen Lewis transform in three short years from having all the potential but none of the commitment, focus or consistency in 2011 to essentially being the consummate racing driver and championship competitor in 2014. A much deserved second world title hopefully awaits.

    1. 36704 Emerald Cove

  6. BUT with that nearly non stop pray of gibberish, the fact is that Nico was better all weekend, in every aspect possible. GO Nico, GO.

    1. Except that for an uneccessary extra lap on worn tyres Lewis would have won the race

      1. @tonybananas I really doubt this. The Skypad analysis by Bruno Senna suggested this, but they assumed that Lewis would have had the same speed in his second fast lap than his first. And still, he would have only been 0.3 s ahead of Rosberg. I highly doubt that sector 2 would have been as fast as the lap before if going at a speed where you don’t spin.

        1. Well we can’t know for sure but Lewis was able to reduce Nico’s lead with little apparent difficulty as was the case at Austin and Suzuka.

  7. LH’s admission in 2011 that off-track distractions were costing him on the track, which I thought must have been terrible for the team and it’s sponsors to hear, perhaps precipitated his demise at McLaren, and likely was the reason the media has chosen to portray him as one prone to distractions. I thought LH needed to leave Mac when he did and that it would be a fresh start for him, and it has been. If he is now a more complete driver because of it, well, that wouldn’t surprise me. He’s in a dominant car, and is now more experienced, but has strong competition from NR, and made two costly mistakes this weekend. So whereas he has lost WDC’s before that were his to lose, and the one he won was just by a squeak, it’s going to be fascinating to see how he does in the last race this year, given his two errors. My gut tells me he’ll be fine, but the past, right up to Brazil 2014, has shown that that is no guarantee.

    This is the first time NR has had the equipment to fight for a WDC and he has not squandered the opportunity against someone with so much more experience being in this position. NR didn’t fold with MS as a teammate, even when Brawn predicted MS as WDC in his first season back in F1 with Merc. NR hasn’t folded with LH as a teammate either. Yes it hasn’t always been pretty for NR, but then it hasn’t always been pretty in the past for LH either. I think this win in Brazil was huge for him, for his season, but particularly for his career, and for his mind-set going into the off-season ahead of next year. If NR can learn from one race…Austin…then he can learn from this season, and I’m sure has taken a leap in experience going forward, toward also becoming a more complete driver.

    I think LH is the more deserving of the WDC this year, but am thrilled for NR for his qualifying trophy, for his win in Brazil particularly, and for his future.

  8. Having had nearly a full day to think, the decision to keep Lewis out for 2 laps (which he has questioned in the best manner possible) could have been a disastrous decision. Well before the spin, David Hobbs had mentioned that the drivers considered the tyres single-lap tyres so to ask Lewis to push on worn tyres for 2 laps was almost a decision to end Lewis’s championship. If all the drivers considered the tyres single-lap tyres, didn’t his team know that? Second, didn’t Lewis’s tyres have 0 tread left in the rear when he changed the soft tyres?

    The actual outcome P2 was in fact the luckiest/best outcome Lewis could have expected especially when you combine it with the 3.7 second pitstop – an acceptable time except yesterday when it might have been a championship defining slow pitstop.

    It’s been a very tough championship for Lewis and a lot easier for Nico the way it has played out. Even yesterday, Lewis had no margin for error having lost 50+ points from other bad luck. Now he has even fewer points but he’s still in the game.

    1. I have to agree with this and was thinking the same thing when they didn’t bring Lewis in the next lap after Nico. I was screaming at the TV: “He has the time in hand to take the lead…what are you doing????”
      F1 teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year and pay people to do nothing but sit on the wall and do strategy…yet we CONSTANTLY watch bone-headed decisions like this across so many teams and Merc seems to be pretty bad at those compared to others. I can find no excuse when half the fans and most of the announcers can tell you what SHOULD be going on, real time, and yet the teams keep making these mistakes. Incredible.

  9. It makes you wonder if we aren’t missing half of our sport. I really think it would make sense to have a better understanding/reporting of why the strategy unfolded as it did. Obviously, there are some critical advantages that teams would be worried about giving away. But, all the teams are full of very smart people, who seem to be doing quite dumb things – I’d really like to know why.
    On the issues of doing dumb things – I always like the fact that certain teams – like RedBull – would have their engineers stand strategically around the new front wing – just moments before the entire car was beamed in HDTV around the planet. I know that at this level we are always talking about fine margins – but come on – the place to hide new designs is not on a global TV event.
    I think that really understanding how, for example, the telemetry data led to key pit-stop descissions would be fascinating.

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