The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX : Brazil : Verstappen Thrills but Hamilton Wins

21-11-2016

Story by Jack Target

 

Well, that was interesting wasn’t it?

Just when it looked like all sense of interest was fading away, we were hit with an excellent race full of talking points, emotion and title hunt intrigue. To use Brazil’s favourite sport, football, as an analogy, this race was akin to scoring a last minute equaliser.

The championship goes down to the last race, Felipe Massa bows out, the rain (oh the rain), booing fans, drivers being unhappy that they had to keep racing in the wet, drivers being unhappy because they couldn’t drive in the wet, Ferrari’s woes, Red Bull’s tyre strategy, Slash from Guns N’ Roses…oh and a 19 year old replicating what most 19 year olds would do on their games console by jumping up from 16th to 3rd in a matter of laps to snatch a podium place. Except this was in real life.

Yes, young Max Verstappen managed to grab the headlines with his stunning drive this weekend. Just when he was being questioned by many people for his possible naivety and composure in a Formula 1 car, he pulled out one of the best performances anyone will see. In some way Red Bull must have been happy that their decision to go on to an intermediate tyre backfired, just so they could scare every other team in the paddock by showing off how good Max really is. If they can improve again over the winter, they could once again dominate for years with two excellent young drivers.

Which is another reason why this was a more crucial race than Rosberg was letting off. A lot of the media have been very focused on these last few races and seeing if Nico can match his father and become a world champion. What seems to be lost is how this really could be his only chance to do it.

Hamilton was once again superb in qualifying and took to the conditions on Sunday like one of those birds with the yellow beaks does to something wet, as the phrase goes. The fact that the title will go to the final race is testament to how good a driver he really is. After all the car problems he had early on this season, he should have no right to keep it going as long as he has. If it were not for those reliability issues Lewis could have wrapped this title up a long time ago. Sometimes it can be so boring to watch him lead the whole race, especially compared to Verstappen’s Super Mario Kart style of driving, that we forget how good he is. This win at Interlagos, his first in Brazil, put him above Alain Prost into second in all-time F1 wins. Whether he wins his fourth World Championship in Abu Dhabi or not, Lewis is one of the best we have ever had the pleasure of watching.

For the man who has won four titles it seemed like another race to forget. Sebastian Vettel has seemed to have gone off the radar in the story of this season. It is clear he needs the time off over the winter to re-evaluate his role in this team and how to make himself relevant again. Many were surprised when Ferrari confirmed that they were keeping Kimi Raikkonen on for another year but he has repaid that faith with some good performances and has out-qualified Sebby in the last four races. The whole season has been a mess for Ferrari who were supposed to be chasing Mercedes. To again refer to football, they’ve essentially done an Arsenal and finished 4th when they were meant to be title challengers.

Another issue that must be discussed is the rain. Now come on us Brits love talking about the weather.

The rain delays were frustrating and Charlie Whiting has be given some credit for trying to let the race go ahead. I know some of the pundits, drivers and fans were unhappy with the constant stop-start but you can’t be messing about in fast cars in that sort of weather. It was all ok in the end, but too many drivers retired from the race than there should have been and you only need to look at Kimi’s crash just 18 seconds after the safety car went in to the pits to see how dangerous it was. It isn’t even worth contemplating what would have happened if there would have been a collision with the stagnant Ferrari. A lot has to be said about how incredibly skilled the drivers were for avoiding Kimi after the incident. We are often quick to praise them when it comes to overtaking, but equal praise should be showered on them when they avoid a near miss like that.

Another casualty of the rain (no I will not do a Martin Brundle and make yet another November Rain joke because Slash was there) was Massa. On lap 48 the Brazilian spun and his final race at his home track ended in heartbreak. Although the perfect ending would have been a race win or maybe even a place on the podium, I would argue that what followed on Sunday was much more fitting. With the race back under the safety car all the attention was on Felipe. He got out of his car and waved to the crowd who give him a great ovation. He made the short walk back to the paddock where his team and fellow competitors were there ready to hug him and give him a deserving reception. It was the perfect moment to reflect on the career of one of F1’s nice guys. If you are reading this you may also have fond memories of his time at Ferrari and, like many neutral fans, would have loved to have seen him win one championship. The closest he came was in 2008 and boy was he close. I remember being quite in the minority that weekend as everybody in the land were jubilant that we had a British World Champion again, as I held my head in my hands along with Massa’s family as his dream was dashed away from him. He may have had his problems at Ferrari in the final years but he will always be loved by the Prancing Horse faithful and everyone in Formula 1.

It all now leads to the final race in Abu Dhabi. Going in to this weekend Nico Rosberg knew that victory would give him the crown he has been longing for. He has had some great battles over the years with team mate Lewis Hamilton and has always ended up being the bridesmaid. Sunday felt like damage limitation from the German and, despite what he says in interviews, he would have wanted the season to have ended this weekend. Anything can happen in the desert in two weeks time –  a bad qualifying,  car problems, a poor start. All of that work would have been for nothing. This was the weekend to finish the job.

It does feel like everybody is looking forward to the next race, except the man at the top hoping he will still be there when the checkered flag comes down on another intriguing season of Formula 1.