A topsy-turvy Brazilian Grand Prix that threatened to become a washout was ignited in the final third by a remarkable drive from Max Verstappen who rose from 14th place on lap 55 of 71 to claim a final podium spot behind winner Lewis Hamilton and runner-up Nico Rosberg. Daniel Ricciardo finished the marathon three-hour race in eighth place.
Race day saw heavy rain fall across Sao Paulo and there was drama even before the race start, when Haas’ Romain Grosjean lost control at the final corner during his lap to grid. The Frenchman aquaplaned off track and hit the wall backwards damaging the rear of his car and smashing the front left suspension.
It was clear signal that conditions during the race would be tough and with large amounts of standing water on the track surface the decision was taken to delay the start by 10 minutes and then to start under the safety car.
I think the word for today is ‘Exciting’.
The opening phase under the SC lasted some seven laps and when the course car eventually left the track it was Max who made the first move, a pattern that would be repeated across the next few hours.
The Dutchman, in fourth place, made a bold passing move on Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen into the first corner. The attempt caught the Finn napping and as the pair exited the Senna S, Max was into third.
Within a few laps a number of drivers were making the move to intermediate tyres. The move was a brave one in the conditions, as Sebastian Vettel and Marcus Ericsson found out. The Ferrari driver managed to catch a lurid spin that saw him facing the oncoming traffic but the Sauber crashed heavily at the final corner, with his car coming to rest at the pit entry.
It was just at that moment when Max had been called in to make the switch to intermediate tyres. The Red Bull man had to take evasive action to avoid the stricken Sauber but he made it into pit lane and smoothly executed the stop.
Behind him Daniel was also called to the pits but as the Australian made for the pit entry, the closed signal was given. Daniel missed out on beating the red light and after taking on inters he was later handed a five-second time penalty for entering the pit lane while it was closed.
The Safety Car was deployed for Ericsson’s crash and the field once again bunched up. However, when it was deemed safe to race again and the course car departed, there was more drama as Raikkonen spun on the pit straight. The Finn’s Ferrari came to rest beside the pit wall facing the wrong way. The SC was deployed immediately but with the car in a difficult position to recover the red flag was shown.
A stoppage of 35 minutes followed as Raikkonen’s car was removed and conditions worsened. The decision was taken to re-start the race at 15:21 local. The track time was brief, however. The conditions were worsening and within 15 minutes the red flags were out again.
It was a frustrating race, we never really felt like we got lucky with the strategy.
Initially, as the cars pulled into pit lane and the conditions looked to worsen, there was a suspicion that the race might be abandoned and half points awarded for the first time since the Malaysian Grand Prix of 2009 but Race Control eventually signalled that the race would start again at 16:02 local time, under the safety car and with everyone on full wets.
It proved to be the right decision as thereafter we were treated to one of the most thrilling Brazilian Grands Prix in recent memory, a race to rival Giancarlo Fisichella’s fiery win in 2003, Hamilton’s rain-hit title win in 2008 and Sebastian Vettel’s turn one spin followed by title triumph in 2012.
Our 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix stats:
- Team takes second place in the Constructors' Championship, we're now 71 points ahead of Ferrari.
- That’s Max’s seventh podium finish of the year.
- It’s the team’s eighth podium place in Brazil.
- We’ve now scored 199 points in total at the Brazilian GP.
When the safety car left the track at the end of lap 31, Max was again straight into action with a brilliant move on Rosberg. The Dutchman chose the hard way, round the outside at Turn 3 but he made the move stick and took P2. Daniel was also striding ahead, passing Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz for P6 through the Senna S.
Max’s race almost came undone on lap 39 when he spun in dramatic fashion on the pit straight. The Dutch teenager made a spectacular save to keep the car out of the wall, however, and he still had the pace to defend P2 from a hard-charging Rosberg as they went into Turn 1.
The team then decided to once again move both Max and Daniel to inters, in the latter case using the stop to serve the five-second penalty he had been given earlier. With Max now in P5 and Daniel in P10 the move looked good as the leaders stayed out on ageing full wet tyres.
But then on lap 47 Felipe Massa, making his last home grand appearance before retirement at the end of the season, crashed out. Once again it was at the pit entry and the Williams driver’s walk back to his garage provided the crowd the ideal opportunity to salute their hero, as did all pit crews in pit lane. It was a touching, and in Massa’s case tear-inducing, interlude in a furious race.
The SC was deployed once again and the field bunched once again. At this stage with conditions not improving, Max was asked if he wanted to stay on inters. The Dutchman responded that though he would drop right back he felt the pace was in the car to advance on the full wet. He wasn’t wrong.
An extraordinary motor racing day in testing conditions for the drivers.
Max pitted on lap 55 behind the SC and resumed in P14, behind Esteban Gutierrez. Daniel too pitted for wets during this time.
Max quickly began to dismiss the backmarkers and then passed Daniel for P10 on lap 58. Now came one of the most remarkable rises seen for many a year. In quick succession Max flew past Daniil Kvyat and Esteban Ocon on successive laps and then on lap 62 he brushed past Felipe Nasr to take seventh place. Next up was Nico Hulkenberg and the Force India was passed on lap 65.
That put Max behind Vettel. The Dutchman tried a move on the Ferrari driver on the run to Turn 4 on lap 56. Vettel defended superbly to hold out but the German could not resist when Max used his greater pace to pass at Turn 12. Max then made short work of Sainz, who had enjoyed an excellent race to this point, to take P4.
Verstappen’s final jaw-dropping move was to pass Sergio Perez around the outside at Turn 10 to reclaim a podium finish just two laps from home.
Ahead Hamilton held on to his lead until the flag, winning the Brazilian Grand Prix for the first time ahead of Rosberg. Max took an incredible third place ahead of Perez, Vettel, Sainz and Hulkenberg. Daniel was eighth ahead of Nasr, who scored two crucial points for Sauber, and Alonso took the final point.