Nico Rosberg capitalised on a dodgy week for Lewis Hamilton to deny the triple world champion that elusive win at Interlagos. His British rival had suffered from a virus and had a minor car accident in Monaco, then contriving to turn the events into a minor media circus.
The weekend was, of course, overshadowed by the attacks in Paris and a debate broke out between the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone as to how to honour the victims, eventually settling on black armbands and a French flag on the truck carrying the drivers on the parade lap.
Daniel Ricciardo had a quiet race, eventually finishing eleventh and out of the points, the promise of a Renault engine upgrade evaporating quickly after it transpired it made the Australian's car even slower in a straight line.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
Friday's practice sessions were the usual battle between the Mercedes drivers, with Rosberg in the ascendancy. The rest of the field struggled with the lack of grip and the new, higher kerbs.
Valtteri Bottas scored himself a three-place grid penalty for overtaking under red flag (it was inadvertent, hence the relatively lenient penalty) and Fernando Alonso's McLaren broke, meaning his twelfth engine of the year was to be fitted for Saturday.
Hamilton hit back on Saturday in FP3, the Ferraris taking the next two slots and then Bottas in the Williams. Massa was curiously bereft of pace all weekend, the failing to lift for his hometown crowd.
Alonso didn't even set a flying lap in Q1, the team telling him to pull over, the Spaniard spending the rest of the session in a comfy chair at the closest marshal post, playing up to the cameras by sunning himself. Felipe Massa's final flyer was ruined by Nasr on the climb to the finish line.
Rosberg took pole to extend his run in the top slot, Hamilton just 0.078 seconds behind. Vettel and Raikkonen went third and fourth while Nico Hulkenberg beat Kvyat. Ricciardo would start at the back of the grid as the team had to fit yet another internal combustion engine.
The race started under cloudy skies and Carlos Sainz found himself starting from pitlane after the team ran into trouble while the car was on the grid. He wouldn't make it past the first lap.
Rosberg fired off the line and didn't put up with any nonsense into turn one, holding his line and romping off into the distance. Alonso went wide to avoid knocking Button from the race and Valtteri Bottas jumped to fifth to all but wipe out his grid penalty, passing Kvyat and Hulkenberg with a mighty start.
Sainz's car was cleared under double yellows, avoiding the need for a Safety Car, virtual or otherwise.
Ricciardo pitted at the beginning of lap four to turf the unfancied soft tyre and get himself out of sync with the rear of the field where had been forced to start. The thinking was to go long on the medium tyres and then the softs at the end.
Romain Grosjean made some good progress, passing Felipe Nasr for eleventh and chasing down Max Verstappen in the remaining Toro Rosso.
Nico Hulkenberg pitted on lap ten, signalling a three-stop strategy and bringing in Massa, Kvyat, Perez and Maldonado. Bottas and Verstappen came in the following lap. The loser here was Kvyat as Hulkenberg popped out in front of the Red Bull driver and stayed there until the flag.
Raikkonen came in on lap 13 to cover off Bottas.
Rosberg was the first of the trio of frontrunners to pit on lap 14, Vettel choosing the same strategy, perhaps relying on Mercedes to make a mistake in order to get past Hamilton. The 44 car came in the following lap but Rosberg stayed ahead of Hamilton, a slow-ish stop cruelling his chances.
Hamilton got within DRS range after a quick lap but it was not to be for the Briton, who followed Rosberg home on a near-identical strategy. He had debated with his team to be allowed to change strategy but he was refused.
Denied a change in strategy, Hamilton piled on the pressure, drawing close to Rosberg over a series of five quick laps, setting himself for a dive-bomb at turn one, where he was gaining most of his time. Rosberg responded and started to pull away.
Pastor Maldonado pitted for the first time on lap 26, his two stop strategy not working at all well for him, with drama to come. Marcus Ericsson's race was ruined by the Venezuelan after a botched pass at the Senna S threw the young Swede's car into a spin, dropping several places. Maldonado got a five-second penalty for his trouble.
Sergio Perez lost two places on lap 33 after Max Verstappen pulled off a huge pass at turn one, with Grosjean slipping by a no doubt surprised Force India driver. Sebastian Vettel pitted for another set of soft tyres. Rosberg followed the Ferrari in on the next lap and Hamilton came in a further lap later.
Vettel passed Raikkonen on lap 40, but it did seem as though Raikkonen politely hopped out of the way to allow the German's strategy to play out. Raikkonen pitted for the second time on lap 47, with Vettel in a lap later for yet more softs tyres.
Ricciardo, had shadowed Perez for some laps, nabbed eleventh on lap 49, with a brave move into turn one. He stopped again and then made a number of good clean passes on his way to the finish, where he would be placed twelfth and then eleventh after Massa's exclusion.
"In the first few laps we made up some positions and did what we could and then we went for an aggressive first stop. When we put the primes on, we didn't really have the tyre life we thought we would so we still had to do a three stop race, running at a pretty similar pace to the cars around us. " Ricciardo said
"Parts of the race were a little bit boring, although I had a nice battle with Sergio for a few laps, which was encouraging. I had to get around him twice and that kept me excited for a while. Clearly my grid penalty didn't help today, but Abu Dhabi's next and that has always been a good circuit for us. I enjoy it a lot so for the last race of the season we'll hopefully finish strong and in the points."
Ricciardo's teammate, Daniil Kvyat, made almost no impression, finishing a quiet eighth.
Rosberg and Hamilton followed the Ferraris into the pits, but as ever, there was no change to the positions.
The skies turned darker towards the end of the race, but the rain held off, allowing Max Verstappen to make few more of his brave passes, Felipe Nasr and Maldonado among his victims.
Rosberg crossed the line to secure not only his fifth win of the season but also second place in the championship. Williams wrapped up third in the Constructor's championship for Williams, but not before a scare involving Massa's pre-race tyre temperatures and pressures saw the team called in to see the stewards, with Massa disqualified from eighth place. The team will appeal.
Formula 1 returns in two weeks for the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
5. Valtteri Bottas (Williams)
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India)
7. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull)
8. Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
9. Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso)
10. Pastor Maldonado (Lotus)
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