In a flurry of déjà vu from 2014, Nico Rosberg soaked up race-long pressure from Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to win the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos on Sunday.
Rosberg retained his lead at the start and manage to keep Hamilton at an arm’s length for the majority of the race, easing home to record his fifth victory of the season and secure himself second place in the drivers’ championship ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel rounded out the podium in a relatively routine grand prix that saw Ferrari finish as the best of the rest without ever posing a genuine threat to Mercedes at the front of the field.
In fact, lapped cars proved to be the biggest bug-bear for both Rosberg and Hamilton throughout the race, but the latter was unable to emulate hero Ayrton Senna and pick up his first win at Interlagos, continuing his drought at the circuit.
Off the line, Rosberg made a clean start to retain his advantage on the short run down to the first corner. Hamilton considered a move around the outside, going wheel-to-wheel with his teammate momentarily before opting to play safe and settle down into second position.
Rosberg managed to drop Hamilton out of DRS range in the early stages of the race, pulling out a 1.5 second advantage over the Briton before making his first pit stop on lap 13. A slow stop from the Mercedes crew gave Hamilton the chance to cut the gap when he stopped one lap later, but he was unable to jump Rosberg, leaving him to re-emerge out on track in second place.
Hamilton managed to cut the gap back down again in the opening stages of his second stint, moving to within just three-tenths of a second after Rosberg made a small mistake. However, whenever Hamilton closed, he began to lose time running in his teammate’s dirty air, causing him to drop back again.
Keen to find a way past Rosberg, Hamilton asked Mercedes if an alternative pit strategy would give him the chance to take the lead. The pit wall informed him that switching to ‘plan B’ would put him at risk of losing second to Ferrari, meaning his only chance to win was by passing Rosberg on-track.
Mercedes brought Rosberg in for an early second pit stop on lap 33, following Ferrari’s lead. Hamilton was told to push, giving him the opportunity to cut the gap, but traffic meant he had to pit just one lap later, leaving him in second place yet again and now 3.3 seconds down on his teammate.
Rosberg was quickly informed that both Mercedes cars were switching to ‘plan B’ due to higher than expected tire wear, suggesting that a third stop would take place later on. The German continued to manage the gap at the front, while Sebastian Vettel lurked behind for Ferrari on the soft tire as he too considered an alternative strategy.
Vettel made his third and final pit stop on lap 47, and was followed in one lap later by Rosberg. Mercedes once again fitted the medium compound tire to the German’s car before doing the same to Hamilton’s one lap later.
For the third time in the race, Hamilton snaked out of the pit lane with Rosberg just a couple of seconds ahead. However, he soon began to close up thanks to traffic, moving to within just 1.1 seconds of the lead.
Yet again though, Rosberg was able to manage the gap and respond accordingly. He soon eked out the advantage once again, ending Hamilton’s hopes of a maiden victory in Brazil.
After 71 laps, Rosberg crossed the line to record his fifth win of the season and go back-to-back at Interlagos following on from his 2014 victory. Hamilton’s tires faded late on, leaving him to trail his teammate by 7.7 seconds at the end of the race in second place, while Vettel completed the podium for Ferrari.
Kimi Raikkonen was one of the few drivers to stop twice, but was unable to make it work effectively, leaving him to finish fourth ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg.
Daniil Kvyat led Red Bull’s charge in seventh ahead of home favorite Felipe Massa, while Romain Grosjean won a spirited battle for ninth place that saw him edge out Lotus teammate Pastor Maldonado late on.
Maldonado was unable to hang on to the final points-paying position as Max Verstappen passed late on to finish 10th, ending a day filled with fine overtakes with something to show for his efforts.
Daniel Ricciardo spent his entire race running outside of the points, but rose to 12th towards the end, finishing behind Maldonado. Sergio Perez ended the day 13th ahead of home favorite Felipe Nasr and the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.
Marcus Ericsson finished 17th for Sauber ahead of Manor’s Will Stevens, while American driver Alexander Rossi’s final F1 race of the year saw him prop up the order in P19.
Carlos Sainz Jr. was the only retirement after his race lasted just a few corners. An issue with his rear axle forced him to park up at the side of the track at turn five, having already been forced to start from the pit lane due to a prior problem on his installation lap in the latest lot of bad luck that has mired his rookie F1 season.