Rosberg didn't just take the flag on Sunday, he dominated most of the weekend, leaving Interlagos trailing Hamilton by seventeen points.
Ahead in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton will have to either claim victory or stay close to Rosberg if he is to clinch his second championship.
Daniel Ricciardo's race ended in suspension failure after a quiet weekend for the Red Bull team, while Jenson Button improved his chances of retaining his seat with a hard-won fourth place.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
Nico Rosberg's performance over the three practice and subsequent three qualifying sessions was flawless - he ensured he was faster than Hamilton at every turn.
The times were scintillating, with Rubens Barrichello's lap record from 2004 finally falling, partly due to a new surface on the notoriously bumpy track.
Jenson Button claimed McLaren was "nowhere" on Friday but on Saturday the team improved to find themselves in the top ten, as did Williams.
Red Bull struggled all weekend, with Ricciardo (P9) and Vettel (P6) both hustling to make it to Q3.
The Ferraris threatened, with Raikkonen having a rare, consistent weekend until it all went wrong in Q3, while Alonso had a frustrated exchange with his pit wall during qualifying.
Massa enjoyed a second row start in front of his home crowd, with Bottas close behind.
Kvyat and Perez ended up on the back row owing to penalties.
Race day brought a partly overcast afternoon, with the track hotter than at any time during the weekend. Adrian Sutil chose to start from pitlane, leaving a gap on the grid.
Rosberg got a terrific start, chopping across Hamilton and firing into the Senna S. Neither of the Red Bulls got away well. Ricciardo held ninth but Vettel dropped two places to Magnussen and Alonso.
Raikkonen also went backwards to eleventh while the McLarens held fifth and sixth.
All eyes were on the tyres as the new surface played havoc with the rubber. The soft tyres were expected to blister quickly and force the teams into a three stop strategy.
Maldonado pitted on lap five and discarded soft tyres for mediums, Massa pitting a lap later from third. Three laps later he got news of a five second stop-go for speeding in pitlane.
Bottas, Button and Vettel came in on lap seven, Button almost pinching a place in the pits. Rosberg came in on lap eight with Alonso and Magnussen behind him.
Hamilton pitted after a huge push on his in-lap but was unable to jump his teammate. The two Mercedes then set about breezing past those yet to stop, namely Kvyat and then Hulkenberg, who briefly held the lead.
Hamilton had a little more trouble clearing the backmarkers while the Red Bulls were completely unable to get by Alonso.
Unperturbed by his penalty, Massa dived down the inside of Kvyat, eliciting a huge roar from the crowd. Alonso too used turn one's big braking zone to rocket by the Sauber of Sutil who was running high after starting from the pitlane on medium tyres.
Rosberg began to struggle before one third distance, with the car swapping between understeer and oversteer, caused by blistering on the right front. Hamilton rubbed it in with a fastest lap.
On lap twenty-three, poor Romain Grosjean's Lotus ran out of grip, but if he had wanted to get into the pits, he couldn't sweep left without wiping out Kevin Magnussen. Both cars had shot tyres, but Grosjean's had almost twenty more laps of wear.
Grosjean bravely tried to defend Alonso, but the Ferrari's superior grip meant a better exit for the Spaniard and an easy pass, slipstreamed by Vettel to push the Lotus back towards Ricciardo.
He pitted on lap twenty-five at the same time as Vettel, who was hoping to jump Alonso. The Frenchman's efforts were for nought, however, as his car ground to a halt with power unit failure a few laps from home.
Massa pitted on lap twenty-six and took the five second penalty in the box. Bottas pitted a lap later but his stop was awful - a mechanic had to tighten his belts, leaving him with around fifteen seconds stationary.
Hamilton pushed hard to leapfrog Rosberg but he pushed a little too hard - on his way into the Descida do Lago, he locked his rears, caught it, then spun gracefully into the run-off area. He confessed to the mistake over the radio, the team encouraging him to keep pushing.
The message went to Rosberg that Hamilton had spun and that he no longer had to push. Roughly tranlsated, that meant he had the race in the bag. He didn't, because Hamilton had no intention of giving up.
Another penalty went to Perez - perhaps making a late-season charge for most penalties - again for speeding in the pitlane.
Raikkonen pitted on lap thirty-six but, as has been the story of his year, the front jack failed and dropped the car before the front right was on. He lost three seconds as the pitcrew tried to get the car back in the air and re-fit the tyre.
Despite Williams' pit dramas and the driver's mistake with the pitlane limiter, Massa found himself third on lap thirty-seven as Hulkenberg pitted. The Brazilian later admitted he thought he would miss the podium, but he eventually finished there, receiving the adulation of his countrymen.
On lap forty, Ricciardo braked for turn one and his front left suspension failed, bringing to an end an unbroken run of points scoring that stretched back fifteen races. His last retirement was Malaysia.
"When I went into Turn One, the car went to the right and I knew there was a problem. I came into the pits and the team told me it was suspension failure and we retired," Ricciardo said.
"It had been a bit of a boring race, we were close to everyone but not close enough to have many fights. It's a shame, but I had a pretty good run until now, so I can't be too greedy."
Meanwhile, Hamilton was eating into Rosberg's lead, seemingly unmoved by what this might do to his tyres, perhaps hoping to pressure Rosberg into a mistake like his own.
Alonso battled hard with Magnussen who perhaps thought his possible future teammate could do with some resistance.
By lap forty-eight, Rosberg's lead was down to two seconds as Hamilton rampaged. Rosberg had to respond and did, his engineer reminding him to maintain and manage the gap.
Valtteri Bottas' race had deteriorated since his woeful first stop, his rear tyres wearing badly. The Finn eventually finished tenth.
Massa's other mistake was stopping at the wrong pit bay for his third stop on lap fifty-one. He paid McLaren a visit before rolling into his own, adding a few seconds to his time.
Hamilton stopped on lap fifty-two after Rosberg's earlier stop, but still Hamilton could not get past, despite getting to well under a second from Rosberg's rear wing. Unlike Austin, Rosberg withstood the constant pressure for another twelve laps.
Raikkonen's fourth place came undone with a dogged move by Jenson Button followed-up by an equally opportunistic dive from Vettel.
Alonso found Raikkonen on lap sixty-five. The Finn was on a different pit strategy but enjoyed a multi-lap battle with Alonso, finally passing at turn one on lap sixty-nine.
Alonso later denied he was frustrated by Raikkonen's defence, claiming he didn't have the fuel to attack Vettel.
Mercedes took their eleventh one-two of the season and Felipe Massa took the final step of the podium despite his best efforts to avoid it. Button came home fourth and Vettel a hard-grafted fifth.
Formula 1 returns in two weeks for the double points finale in Abu Dhabi.
- Nico Rosberg - Mercedes - 1h30m02.555s
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes +1.457s
- Felipe Massa - Williams/Mercedes +41.031s
- Jenson Button - McLaren/Mercedes +48.658s
- Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull/Renault +51.420s
- Fernando Alonso - Ferrari +1m01.906s
- Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari +1m03.730s
- Nico Hulkenberg - Force India/Mercedes +1m03.934s
- Kevin Magnussen - McLaren/Mercedes +1m10.085s
- Valtteri Bottas - Williams/Mercedes +1 Lap
- Daniil Kvyat - Toro Rosso/Renault +1 Lap
- Pastor Maldonado - Lotus/Renault +1 Lap
- Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso/Renault +1 Lap
- Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber/Ferrari +1 Lap
- Sergio Perez - Force India/Mercedes +1 Lap
- Adrian Sutil - Sauber/Ferrari +1 Lap
Romain Grosjean - Lotus/Renault - Power Unit
Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull/Renault - Suspension