Title contenders won’t get an easy ride from rivals

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg can forget about their rivals making any kind of concessions towards the fact they’re fighting for the championship.

Max Verstappen made that clear when asked in the run-up to the race if he would leave an extra margin when battling with either of the Mercedes drivers.

“Imagine you tell your team like ‘now I’m going to stay out of the fight, I’m just going to cruise round behind them’,” said Verstappen. “They wouldn’t be happy as well.”

“You always treat it with respect, you never try to hit each other but that’s already the whole season when you try to pull a move on them or when you are in that position. There is the same approach.”

Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying in pictures
Verstappen has been the focus of stories alleging Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff contacted the young racer’s father, urging him to tell his son not to cause any problems for the title rivals. But Verstappen’s team mate also gave short shrift to the idea they might go easy on the Mercedes pair.

“Honestly no, because I think that every race is like it’s the start of the season,” said Daniel Ricciardo.

“In Melbourne you race hard and now it’s the end of the season so I think the championship will work out how it should work out. I don’t think we should, if you like, assist in the outcome if that makes sense.”

“Just because they are fighting doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still try and make an overtake if there’s a door open. I’ll always race, I think, with respect but sure I’ll race hard.”

But will the Red Bull drivers even be in a position to take on the Mercedes? The pair were beaten to third place by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who admitted he hadn’t been particularly happy with his qualifying lap.

“The feeling in the last lap was not so good,” said Raikkonen, “the front was sliding in the first two corners and I struggled a bit in the middle sector to put the lap together.”

“I knew that it was better than the previous one but I thought it wouldn’t be enough because it was not an ideal one.” It was enough, but on the super-tight Interlagos grid had he lost a tenth of a second he’d have started two places further back.

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Ferrari’s pace improved on Saturday because the track temperatures fell. The weather forecasters agree tomorrow will remain cool. But a major point of difference is whether we will see the rain Red Bull have been banking on, and which could enliven the championship fight.

Forecasters are at odds over the need for unbrellas
F1’s official weather forecaster UBIMET put out a revised forecast ahead of final practice stating that “race day will see overcast and wet conditions”. The race starts at 2pm local time, around when they expect the rain will be “more frequent and possibly moderate in intensity due to an approaching weather system”.

However other forecasters have revised their predictions for race day. They now predict a reduced chance of wet conditions and indicate any rain which does fall will be lower in intensity, perhaps more like the intermittent drizzle during today’s qualifying session.

In dry conditions we can expect another tooth-and-nail fight between the Mercedes drivers. Had Rosberg been able to replicate his final sector time from his first lap of Q3 on his final run, he would be starting from pole position.

Victory for Rosberg tomorrow would be enough to guarantee the championship for him. When contemplating the run to turn one tomorrow he may feel relieved that Verstappen lost his hold on third place with the final runs on qualifying.

But it was Vettel who sent Rosberg into a spin on the first lap in Malaysia. Does Toto have Norbert’s number too?

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’11.511 1’11.238 (-0.273) 1’10.736 (-0.502)
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’11.815 1’11.373 (-0.442) 1’10.838 (-0.535)
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’12.100 1’12.301 (+0.201) 1’11.404 (-0.897)
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’11.957 1’11.834 (-0.123) 1’11.485 (-0.349)
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’12.159 1’12.010 (-0.149) 1’11.495 (-0.515)
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’12.409 1’12.047 (-0.362) 1’11.540 (-0.507)
7 Romain Grosjean Haas 1’12.893 1’12.343 (-0.550) 1’11.937 (-0.406)
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’12.428 1’12.360 (-0.068) 1’12.104 (-0.256)
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1’12.684 1’12.331 (-0.353) 1’12.165 (-0.166)
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1’12.700 1’12.312 (-0.388) 1’12.266 (-0.046)
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’12.680 1’12.420 (-0.260)
12 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1’13.052 1’12.431 (-0.621)
13 Felipe Massa Williams 1’12.432 1’12.521 (+0.089)
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’13.071 1’12.726 (-0.345)
15 Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso 1’12.950 1’12.920 (-0.030)
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1’13.259 1’13.258 (-0.001)
17 Jenson Button McLaren 1’13.276
18 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1’13.410
19 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1’13.427
20 Esteban Ocon Manor 1’13.432
21 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’13.623
22 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1’13.681

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton 17.752 (2) 36.360 (1) 16.573 (1)
Nico Rosberg 17.680 (1) 36.408 (2) 16.619 (2)
Kimi Raikkonen 17.770 (3) 36.973 (6) 16.636 (3)
Max Verstappen 17.824 (6) 36.637 (3) 16.800 (8)
Sebastian Vettel 17.819 (5) 36.919 (5) 16.740 (5)
Daniel Ricciardo 17.812 (4) 36.774 (4) 16.850 (11)
Romain Grosjean 17.949 (10) 37.257 (7) 16.709 (4)
Nico Hulkenberg 17.893 (7) 37.283 (9) 16.816 (9)
Sergio Perez 17.917 (8) 37.297 (10) 16.851 (12)
Fernando Alonso 17.997 (11) 37.278 (8) 16.881 (14)
Valtteri Bottas 17.928 (9) 37.570 (13) 16.778 (7)
Esteban Gutierrez 18.056 (13) 37.510 (12) 16.865 (13)
Felipe Massa 18.048 (12) 37.584 (15) 16.771 (6)
Daniil Kvyat 18.292 (20) 37.329 (11) 17.104 (20)
Carlos Sainz Jnr 18.160 (16) 37.579 (14) 17.134 (22)
Jolyon Palmer 18.140 (14) 38.015 (18) 16.948 (16)
Jenson Button 18.314 (22) 37.929 (17) 16.993 (17)
Kevin Magnussen 18.280 (19) 37.858 (16) 17.133 (21)
Pascal Wehrlein 18.150 (15) 38.292 (20) 16.840 (10)
Esteban Ocon 18.195 (17) 38.335 (22) 16.902 (15)
Marcus Ericsson 18.295 (21) 38.287 (19) 17.022 (18)
Felipe Nasr 18.263 (18) 38.292 (20) 17.097 (19)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Engine Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 338.1 (210.1)
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 337.8 (209.9) -0.3
3 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 336.4 (209.0) -1.7
4 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 336.3 (209.0) -1.8
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 335.1 (208.2) -3.0
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 334.3 (207.7) -3.8
7 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 333.7 (207.4) -4.4
8 Esteban Gutierrez Haas Ferrari 333.3 (207.1) -4.8
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 333.1 (207.0) -5.0
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 331.2 (205.8) -6.9
11 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer 330.0 (205.1) -8.1
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 329.8 (204.9) -8.3
13 Esteban Ocon Manor Mercedes 329.6 (204.8) -8.5
14 Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso Ferrari 327.1 (203.3) -11.0
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 326.7 (203.0) -11.4
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 326.6 (202.9) -11.5
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 326.4 (202.8) -11.7
18 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer 325.7 (202.4) -12.4
19 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 325.5 (202.3) -12.6
20 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari 322.8 (200.6) -15.3
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes 322.5 (200.4) -15.6
22 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault 318.2 (197.7) -19.9

Drivers’ remaining tyre sets

Driver Team Hard Medium Soft
New Used New Used New Used
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1 2 3
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1 2 3
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1 2 3
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1 2 3
Felipe Massa Williams 1 2 1 3
Valtteri Bottas Williams 1 2 1 3
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1 2 3
Max Verstappen Red Bull 1 2 3
Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1 2 3
Sergio Perez Force India 1 2 3
Kevin Magnussen Renault 1 2 2 2
Jolyon Palmer Renault 1 2 1 3
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1 2 1 3
Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso 1 2 1 3
Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1 2 2 2
Felipe Nasr Sauber 1 2 2 2
Fernando Alonso McLaren 1 1 4
Jenson Button McLaren 1 1 3 2
Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1 2 1 3
Esteban Ocon Manor 1 2 1 3
Romain Grosjean Haas 1 2 3
Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1 2 1 3

Over to you

Will Rosberg clinch the championship in Brazil? Is Hamilton going to score his first win at Interlagos on his tenth attempt?

Share your views on the Brazilian Grand Prix in the comments.

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix

Browse all 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix articles

Author information

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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48 comments on “Title contenders won’t get an easy ride from rivals”

  1. Did Toto Wolff actually call Max Verstappen’s father Jos, regarding asking Max to stay out of Nico Rosbergs way?

    If true, this would be Toto stooping to a new low in order to get his boy to win the championship.

    1. @stubbornswiss Like i wrote in another topic but some people obvious did not believed it. This is for me the reason Mercedes want to make sure Rosberg wins the WDC, hence Hamilton got all the reliability problems..

      1. Really? Still? Don’t you think if Merc wanted to ensure Rosberg had won the title, they would have done so by now, not leave Hamilton with a quite fair chance with 2 races to go?

        1. ssshh. Logic doesn’t work on them.

        2. Tristan Does Hamilton really still have ‘a quite fair chance’? Maybe if Rosberg has a DNF or 2!

          You are right. Mercedes took care of it already. Right from the begining of the season. Right from the first race actually, when they admitted that Hamilton had a clutch problem. But I guess that was so long ago that some have forgotten. And of course some just don’t want to remember.

          It is what it is. Some will agree and some will shout ‘conspiracy’. And life goes on.

          1. “Does Hamilton really still have ‘a quite fair chance’?”

            A hell of a lot more than Webber had in some of the years gone by. “Mark, we’re noticing some issues with your DRS.”

          2. @stubbornswiss sssshhhh you will awaken and anger the F1 proteges in these forums… these guys legendary experts in F1, so they laugh their ass off to any thoughts from other people… pfftt… #whatdayaknow…

    2. He asked him to stay out of the fight between the Mercedes drivers

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        13th November 2016, 13:18

        Well, Mercedes hasn’t been used to fighting with other teams for the past few years.

      2. Michael Brown (@)
        13th November 2016, 13:18

        Well, Mercedes hasn’t been used to fighting with other teams for the past few years.

    3. @stubbornswiss, @revelations Toto was simply kind enough to provide naive people with enough to talk about regarding the conspiracies that he wants Rosberg as champion.

    4. You are 100% incorrect.
      Toto said not to interfere with HAM and ROS.
      Where did you get your info?
      Pure BS!!!!!!!!!!!

    5. It is a little strange, as some have pointed out, Rosberg at this stage can only lose this world championship through some kind of mishap. Likewise Hamilton can only win the championship if Rosberg has some kind of mishap. Most importantly only a Mercedes driver can win the WDC so why would Wolff be so concerned about a collision, unless he is worried about one of them coming to harm.
      But imagine if you had done everything in your powers to discretely give someone a helping hand only for them to lose out due to someone else being wreckless. Also is there any chance that what Wolff has done could be interpreted as against sporting regulations?

      1. “someone else being wreckless” if that one being your team mate like in spain pushing you off the track when he let you pass by fair n square? or like in aus push you of the track and wont let you get back in track… or like in spa trying to teach you a lesson, destroys your race? hmm karma has some say on it hopefully this weekend! as much as I hate Verstappen, I hope he does mess with or involve in an accident/collision with Ros…

      2. Yeah I don’t get this either. If Hamilton is behind Rosberg, it doesn’t matter anymore if Verstappen or Ricciardo takes him out. Hamilton would have lost the WDC already anyway.

        The only driver he could be trying to help is Rosberg. I guess it made sense in a way too because Verstappen came close to taking out Rosberg on two occasions in the last race. Still that would be rather more an equalizing event for all technical issues that Hamilton’s car had rather than that the other drivers need to stay out of the fight.

        1. @patrickl, if he is still in the race and has a car that is working normally up until the end of the race, Hamilton still has the possibility of being able to try and get past Rosberg to win or being able to capitalise on a potential DNF for Rosberg if mechanical issues or a collision were to occur. Were Verstappen or Ricciardo to take him out during the race, Hamilton would effectively lose all potential options for taking the title this year – so I’d argue that he would still benefit from the call either way.

          Equally, in reality these sorts of discussions are quite likely to have been held on a fairly regular basis, just with more discretion than Wolff managed. Mansell, for example, mentioned in his memoirs that he was explicitly told not to get involved in the title fight between Hill and Schumacher in the 1994 Australian GP:
          “I was told all sorts of things by the powers-that-be. ‘You will not be part of this race, don’t get a good start, watch the race, do not interfere…’ So I deliberately didn’t get a very good start and I just sat there and watched.”

    6. No. But Toto did told Kimi’ mechanics so his car would slide couple times and take 3rd place to protect his drivers from Max and Vettel.

    7. How dare Toto be of the opinion that he wants his drivers to fight it out?
      Or how dare Toto try to create a distraction so as not to bring attention to what his prefered scenario would be?
      But mommy look at these bad bad people holding different opinions than I do.

  2. I highly disagree that Ros could have taken pole position because Lewis also didn’t improve his final sector time. Lewis had him covered throughout qualifying particularly through the final 2 sectors. You need to put all sectors together… If Nico selected a lower downforce setup than Lewis then that probably just backfired especially if somehow there will be rain in the race. If it’s dry then he could probably try drafting Lewis through the 1st and 3rd sectors. However, if it will be wet, then he should have got pole…

    1. It’s interesting that Nico’s combined sector times are faster than Lewis’s, while he was slower in every run. Perhaps he changed his setup in Q3?

      1. I didn’t think they could change the setup after fp3? Dot they go into parc ferme as soon as quali starts?

      2. @f1infigures
        Setup change during qualifying is impossible, as Bob said, due to parc fermé regulations.

        However, it is possible to play a little bit with the tyre pressures, and I distinctly remember such a radio message between Nico and his engineer being broadcast after the first Q3 run, albeit with a sceptical response by Rosberg, who felt that he already lacked traction (implying that they considered increasing his rear tyre pressures).

        Now, we know that Rosberg lost a bit over a tenth in the final sector on his last run – is it conceivable that this was due to increased rear tyre pressures, leading to a loss of traction?
        Well, maybe. But seeing as the final sector consists of nothing but the Mergulho corner and the long flat-out run to the finish line, a tenth sounds a bit too much. I think it’s more plausible to assume that he made a little mistake in Mergulho (which is a tricky little corner after all, particularly the exit), which can easily account for a tenth of a second before it even becomes visible to the naked eye. To lose a tenth on a 12-second flat-out run, the loss of traction would’ve needed to be drastic, i.e. that’d imply a considerable amount of wheelspin, which I don’t remember seeing or being reported.

        1. @f1infigures
          I found an article that quotes Toto Wolff saying that Rosberg did indeed lose the all-deciding tenth in the final corner (Mergulho). According to him, Rosberg carried a little bit too much speed into the corner, so that he had to wait before he could get onto the throttle again.

          The article is written in German (sorry about that), and the relevant statement is in the third last paragraph:

          1. Argh, damn it. I need to recalibrate my mental map of Interlagos.
            Mergulho is the sweeping left-hander that is easily flat-out in the dry. The tricky last corner I was referring to is called Junção.
            Sorry for mixing that up.

  3. Did anyone ever think otherwise? That drivers would back off and take it easy for Nico & Lewis? Not in all my years following F1 have I ever heard something so absurd.

    1. Well it’s not so absurd when the likes of Mansell is confirming it happens. Anyway, as Toto and Niki said after Mexico, race us of course, but could you just not hit us off the track please? I don’t see what’s unreasonable about a request we all would like to see heeded…unless we want the WDC decided by someone hitting one of the Mercs out of contention for the title?

      1. @robbie Sure, driver to driver, should they decide at the moment of it happening. For it to be preordained by team bosses is an insult to everyone. Very disappointed in them to be quite honest and if I were a driver ‘in the mix’ it would make me less accommodating, out of principle.

        1. @psynrg I would like to think it is never the plan to physically whack someone off the track. It is hardly preordaining anything to ask drivers to not whack the two only contenders for the WDC. The only two drivers ‘in the mix’ are the two title contenders. If someone else can get ahead of one or two Mercs at any point during the race for a race win, fair game… just don’t decide the WDC winner for the season and for the world, by taking one of them out on your way past. Everyone go for the win as always, by all means…except physically taking one of the two title contenders out. That’s more common sense than anything, and methinks has only had to be brought up because Max nearly decided it for the world in Mexico. If you are suggesting that Toto making a request we would all like to see through, namely it be between the two contenders and not outside forces, means drivers should be ‘less accommodating’ out of principle that is a real shame. You are saying out of spite someone should take out one of the Mercs and that is a terrible attitude and would be a complete anti-climax to the season.

          1. @robbie Taking someone out is not what I’m implying, that’s your conceit.

            I’m saying they should just race without consideration of a championship battle. As Markp says below, to extrapolate what you suggest, once it became clear early in the season the Merc’s were far superior to everyone else, should everyone just get out of their way from the start of the season. At what point does everyone have to defer to the championship battle?

            My opinion is never. Everyone should race every race and try and win, of course within the rules, but that should be the only limitation. There is no rule that says you must not race the championship leaders.

    2. Remember how easily Schumacher let Vettel by in Brazil 2012. A few others let Vettel through easily that day. The championship is where it is because drivers fought hard all year so it should continue not turn the last 2 races into a Maerc private race. It was almost certain after a few races Merc would win so should drivers have just stayed out the way then?

  4. Anyone wearing tinfoil on their head and still insisting the M-B team want Nico Rosberg to win the championship ahead of Lewis Hamilton need only to review the broad smiles on the faces of both Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda after Lewis secured pole.

    They are racers and love to see a genuine fight, especially when it’s that close between their two drivers, and way ahead of the others.

    1. Then why the call? They have nothing to loose, one if their drivers will be world champion.

      1. Yes they have something to lose. Their drivers’ good faith.

        They are doing everything they can to ensure that when Hamilton or Rosberg lose, because one of them is going to lose the title in the eleventh hour, he has the clear conscience that his team did everything necessary for him to win.

        Simple as that.

      2. @omit Then why the call? A call to say please don’t hit one of our drivers? Let them decide the Championship between themselves. Isn’t that what we all want? TW and NL, I’m sure, would not have asked anyone to sandbag…just how about not taking one of the contenders out and deciding the season that way. Like nearly happened in Mexico.

        1. The drivers are still employees, it feels good to know your boss is looking after you.

    2. Or were they were smiling that Rosberg managed to qualify ahead of the Red Bulls?

    3. @frasier With all respect, the fact that you can be taken in by a ‘broad smile’ speaks volumes about your objectivity in commenting.

  5. Unless rain acts as equalizer, most likely both Mercs will get away from the pack. That’s supposing both do start decently, which is obviously not always the case. The usual divebomb on T1 by Max is not likely to hit them this time thanks to Kimi being in P3.

    Then if Lewis is ahead and Nico is content with an assured P2 we are in for a pretty boring race, as far as the win as the WDC fight are concerned.

    But if Nico somehow gets ahead or if Lewis decides to back him up into the competition instead of going away, then get ready for a tangle. This might not be a wise decision for Lewis, as he has much more to lose from a double DNF

  6. There are only 4 unconfirmed seats left in Formula-1 and a couple of these drivers are racing for their jobs next season.

  7. Don’t be reckless, be “wreckless” – seems to be the prevailing theme.

  8. I fear reckless Vettel met hot headed Max might ruin Kimi change once again.

    1. @ruliemaulana Oh, don’t worry. Ferrari will give Kimi the second-best strategy if what you said doesn’t happen. :p

  9. It’s raining in Rio tonight and it shouldn’t be dry at all according to the weather radar. Sleep well my young Nico, sleep well. The rain drops should be soothing to your mind. LOL.

    1. Good job the race is in Sao Paolo not Rio.

  10. My mind harks back to last year when Red Bull was looking for another engine supplier and Mercedes gave them no love.
    I am sure that this wouldn’t come into Red Bull’s thinking but i also can’t see them wanting to do Mercedes or an other team for that matter any favours.

  11. On another topic if it is raining Nico may get a safety car start which will be a god send to him I’m sure. With rainy standing starts there’s almost always accidents somewhere in the field. If it isn’t raining too hard I hope Charlie won’t be a bonehead and will give us a good show.

  12. Great, it shouldn’t be easy. I’m cheering for Rosberg to win, but even if that doesn’t happen, the title goes to the last race and I’ll be cool with that too. Excitement is most important imo.

    Hope to see a fantastic race with a lot of action. I think it might get crazy between Raikkonen, Verstappen and Vettel.

    But I do predict Rosberg to win. Lets see how it goes.

  13. But it was Vettel who sent Rosberg into a spin on the first lap in Malaysia. Does Toto have Norbert’s number too?

    Exactly what I’ve been thinking. Regardless of all those complaints against Verstappen (99% by Ferrari drivers), the closest thing we have to a first lap nut case is Vettel.

Comments are closed.