Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) won the Brazilian Grand Prix two weeks ago. He started on pole and led the entire race; the same for teammate Lewis Hamilton in second, and more or less the entire top part of the grid. Interlagos might be a fun circuit to drive, and a beautiful one to watch cars turn laps on, but riveting competition is not its forte. I love this form of this sport, but Brazil scored one for the haters.
Rosberg and Hamilton topped qualifying again at Yas Marina. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) started third and Sergio Perez (Force India) fourth. This order remained in place for the early running, Rosberg and Raikkonen both pitting during Lap 11 (of 55). Hamilton came in one lap later. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), who started P16 on the primary soft tires was running P3, but had yet to pit.
Vettel passed Hamilton for P2. Hamilton took the spot back in Lap 15. Raikkonen took P3 from Vettel one lap later. Rosberg led Hamilton by 6.7 sec. Hamilton cut the lead below 5 sec by the end of Lap 22, laying down the fastest lap of the race. Vettel pitted during Lap 24, taking a second set of primes and returning to the fray in P6.
Rosberg’s lead was down to 2.2 sec in Lap 28, with Vettel setting fastest lap and moving into P4. Lap 30 saw Hamilton just 1.3 sec behind the leader. Rosberg pitted during Lap 32 and took soft primes. Raikkonen came in one lap later, a slow right front tire change costing him at least 3 sec. He returned to competition in P4 behind Vettel, but passed him on track.
Rosberg ran 15.2 sec behind Hamilton during Lap 37, having reentered the track after his stop 18.8 sec back. Vettel came in for his super softs during Lap 40 from P4. Hamilton pitted the next lap but remained on softs. He came out 12.5 sec behind Rosberg. Hamilton set fastest lap and ran 11.8 sec back in Lap 44.
By Lap 47 Hamilton had cut the lead to 8.5 sec, taking 1.7 sec on the prior lap alone. The gap was 7.7 during Lap 49. Rosberg reported big vibrations from the rear during the final lap, but held an 8.2 sec lead. He won, followed by Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, and Perez. Raikkonen’s finish moved him into fourth in the driver championship. Nico Hulkenberg’s (Force India) P7 finish moved him into the Top 10 of the final driver standings. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) finished sixth.
Driver standings (Top 10)
Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain), Mercedes – 381
Nico Rosberg (Germany), Mercedes – 322
Sebastian Vettel (Germany), Ferrari – 278
Kimi Raikkonen (Finland), Ferrari – 150
Valtteri Bottas (Finland), Williams-Mercedes – 136
Felipe Massa (Brazil), Williams-Mercedes – 121
Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull-Renault – 95
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull-Renault – 92
Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India-Mercdes - 78
Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India-Mercedes – 52
Mercedes (Rosberg, Hamilton) – 703
Ferrari (Vettel, Raikkonen) – 428
Williams-Mercedes (Massa, Bottas) – 257
Red Bull Racing-Renault (Ricciardo, Kvyat) – 187
Force India-Mercedes (Hulkenberg, Perez) – 136
Lotus-Mercedes (Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado) - 78
Toro Rosso-Renault (Carlos Sainz Jr., Max Verstappen) – 67
Sauber-Ferrari (Felipe Nasr, Marcus Ericsson) – 36
McLaren-Honda (Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso) - 27
Next event: Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne) – Mar. 18-20, 2016