Race Report: Hamilton wins 1st Brazil GP, Max has arrived

As I look back across my Formula 1 career as a fan, I can recall—perhaps not with finite accuracy—those seminal moments in time when I was galvanized by the arrival of a legend of the sport. Schumacher’s charge in 1993 that announced the arrival of a truly gifted driver. Fernando Alonso in 2004 when he brought Renault forward and announced he would be winning titles and in 2005 when came from 16th in Brazil to score a podium finish and the title. Lewis Hamilton’s performance in 2007 when he nearly won the title in his debut season. Sebastian Vettel in 2008 when he won the Italian Grand Prix in a Toro Rosso no less.

So it was today. My mind has filed Max Verstappen’s race as one for the record books and a performance that equals those greats that already live in my “soon-to-be champion” file. He may not have won the race or spoiled Nico Rosberg’s title run but he won the hearts of many fans who feel Formula 1 can be processional. It was a drive of such sublime talent and execution that it reminds me of Schumacher in the rain.

No mystery that I am a very big fan of Schumacher but his status as rain meister has been flopped around to many other drivers who deserve it such as Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and even Jenson Button. Truly, Verstappen is worthy of carrying that mantra as well given his performance at today’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton did everything he needed to do—just as he has in Mexico and Austin—to keep his title hopes alive and like Lewis, Nico Rosberg did all he could do to keep his title hopes alive as well by finishing second sending the title decider to the very last race of the season.

In a race that was marred by rain-prompted safety cars, red flags, delays and attrition, Lewis managed to put in his own sublime drive to the flag in a race that seriously was under contention for being canceled or called short at one point. But it was Max Verstappen’s run through the field on fresher full-wet tires that gave the fans something to be amazed by. The performance garnered him “Driver of the day” at F1.com.

WinWin

A big win for Lewis who needed the result to keep his title chances afloat and he did so with much aplomb. Also a win for his teammate who was, at one point, in danger of finishing third as Max Verstappen had passed him early in the race. Nico’s result secured his title hopes until Abu Dhabi.

A win for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who put on a master class of wet weather driving and came from as far back as 15th to secure a podium passing some equally talented drivers such as Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and even his own teammate, Daniel Ricciardo. These are the cream of the crop in F1, not simple backmarkers in Manor’s or Renaults. Passing six cars at the end to claim the podium was a champion’s drive.

A win for Force India’s Sergio Perez who nearly claimed 3rd had it not been for that Plucky Teen Max Verstappen. Still, 4th goes a long way to securing the team’s 4th place in the Constructor’s Championship. A win also for his teammate, Nico Hulkenberg who suffered an early puncture that left him adrift of the leaders but he fought back to 7th with a very comprehensive wet-weather drive of his own.

A win for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who came from the back to secure 5th and give the team some points, its only points given Kimi Raikkonen’s crash, for the day in Brazil.

Carlos Sainz gets a win in an un-developed car finishing 6th and claiming very important points for the team while his teammate, Daniil Kvyat, suffered a mugging by Jolyon Palmer’s Renault and that sent him backward.

A huge win for Sauber’s Felipe Nasr who turned his home race into the only points-scoring result of the season for a seriously ill-performing team. The result moves Sauber ahead of Manor in the championship tables in 10th and that’s huge money for the team.

A win for such an emotional support for Felipe Massa as he walked back to the pits leaving his crashed car on the track and a big win for Ferrari who all came out in the pit lane to give him some love and support.

FailFail

A fail for Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean who crashed on the installation lap and never turned a wheel in the race as well as his teammate, Esteban Gutierrez, who retired on lap 62.

A fail for McLaren’s Jenson Button who said the car, performing well on Friday, took a nose dive on Saturday and got even worse on Sunday finishing in last place of the classified cars in 16th.

It’s really a win for Manor’s Esteban Ocon who nearly scored points but ultimately a fail as he fell victim to a train of faster cars that reduced him to 12th and with the attrition on the day, the team needed to score points like Sauber did. They lost 10th place to Sauber.

A fail for Felipe Mass who crashed out of his final home race in Brazil. While that wasn’t good, the tearful walk back to the garage and emotional coverage of the moment by the world feed was terrific to see.

A fail for Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who crashed out on full wets on the main straight but to be fair, Verstappen nearly did the same thing as did Nico Rosberg. Equally a fail for Marcus Ericsson, Jolyon Palmer—who clouted Daniil Kvyat—and Felipe Massa who all crashed in the rain.

WTHWTH

A WTH moment for Esteban Gutierrez who is out of a job at Haas F1 but chose to berate the team over the radio in a manner that made the audio clip incapable of being broadcast and then throwing a tantrum in the garage that demanded the team boss, Guenther Steiner, to get physical with the Mexican and try to calm him down. Chances are, throwing a tantrum when things don’t go your way is part of the reason things don’t go your way, no? That may have been the nail in Esteban’s F1 career right there.

A WTH for the mobocracy who were all complaining about the delays of the race, then shaming the FIA over safety, then cheering the race. Certain folks went from posting scathing remarks to throwing Bianchi in the FIA’s face only to praise the result of the race. Pick a lane people. F1 is dangerous, it runs in the rain and bad things can happen. The speculation by broadcasters as to the restart and what would have happened if Max Has crashed in the opposite wall as Kimi and what if a giant meteor had landed on Lewis or Nico and what if a burrowing owl would have flown into Sergio’s face due to the downpour of rain. What if!

Finally, what’s up with the full-wet tire and the team’s lack of desire to use it even choosing the intermediate when conditions aren’t safe enough for it? They need to get a high-performing extreme wet tire that teams will gladly use.

RESULTS – Brazilian Grand Prix:

POS DRIVER CAR GAP
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 3h01m01.335s
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 11.455s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 21.481s
4 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 25.346s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 26.334s
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 29.160s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault
9 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes
12 Esteban Ocon Manor/Mercedes
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari
14 Kevin Magnussen Renault
15 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes
16 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda
Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari
Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes
Jolyon Palmer Renault
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari
Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari

Drivers’ Championship Points:

POS DRIVER POINTS
1 Nico Rosberg 367
2 Lewis Hamilton 355
3 Daniel Ricciardo 246
4 Sebastian Vettel 197
5 Max Verstappen 192
6 Kimi Raikkonen 178
7 Sergio Perez 97
8 Valtteri Bottas 85
9 Nico Hulkenberg 66
10 Fernando Alonso 53
11 Felipe Massa 51
12 Carlos Sainz 46
13 Romain Grosjean 29
14 Daniil Kvyat 25
15 Jenson Button 21
16 Kevin Magnussen 7
17 Felipe Nasr 2
18 Jolyon Palmer 1
19 Pascal Wehrlein 1
20 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
21 Esteban Gutierrez 0
22 Marcus Ericsson 0
23 Esteban Ocon 0
24 Rio Haryanto 0

Constructors’ Championship Points:

POS CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Mercedes 722
2 Red Bull/Renault 446
3 Ferrari 375
4 Force India/Mercedes 163
5 Williams/Mercedes 136
6 McLaren/Honda 75
7 Toro Rosso/Ferrari 63
8 Haas/Ferrari 29
9 Renault 8
10 Sauber/Ferrari 2
11 Manor/Mercedes 1