A lap too far for Lewis


Hamil­ton’s tyres couldn’t keep up with his per­for­mance and a spin handed the win to Ros­berg

One lap. One er­ror. One chance of vic­tory gone. With the world cham­pi­onship go­ing down to the wire, the Brazil­ian Grand Prix showed that it would be de­cided by the tini­est of mar­gins. As the in­ten­sity built to­wards the show­down, ev­ery turn on ev­ery lap came down to the self-belief of both ti­tle pro­tag­o­nists and their abil­ity to pre­vent mis­takes creep­ing into their game.

After Sochi (rst cor­ner lock-up) and Austin (de­fen­sive er­ror), Nico Ros­berg was de­ter­mined in Brazil to con­vert his qual­i­fy­ing pace into vic­tory to re­verse the mo­men­tum that saw his ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions drift away over the course of the year. He did – and this time it was Lewis Hamil­ton who made the mis­take.

Ros­berg’s fth win of 2014 came in the sul­try heat and hu­mid­ity of Brazil, more than three months after his last win at the Ger­man GP. It was im­por­tant for Nico to re-as­sert his au­thor­ity over his all-con­quer­ing team-mate be­fore we headed back across the globe for the show­down in the dusky desert of Abu Dhabi.

The sun-kissed In­ter­la­gos cir­cuit is still a won­der­ful throw­back to a for­mer era of F1. The tight, nar­row connes of the track sur­rounded by the con­crete jun­gle in the heart of São Paulo com­mand an in­ten­sity un­like any other venue.

From the un­du­lat­ing start/nish line to the steep, grand­stand-lined sweep up through the nal cor­ner Junção, the Au­to­drómo José Car­los Pace is a mag­i­cal place – and fast, too.

For the past ten years, the pole-po­si­tion record has re­mained the pre­serve of Rubens Bar­richello, who set a 1min 10.646sec lap in his 2004 Fer­rari. This was in the era of three-litre V10 en­gines and dur­ing a tyre war. In qual­i­fy­ing in Brazil this year, Ros­berg set a new pole record of 1min 10.023secs in his Merc, 0.623sec­onds quicker than the old record. Where the 800-me­tre al­ti­tude of São Paulo used to re­duce the power out­put of the nor­mally as­pi­rated units by eight per cent, that’s not the case with to­day’s tur­bocharg­ers. And the power and top speed of the new efcient en­gines was im­pres­sive. Wil­liams’ Felipe Massa rock­eted through the speed trap at 213.1mph be­fore brak­ing hard into the Senna Esses.

Pirelli boss Paul Hem­bery was no­tice­ably ex­as­per­ated in the pad­dock on the Fri­day evening after prac­tice. Pirelli had been plan­ning to bring the medium and hard com­pound tyres to Brazil, but un­der pres­sure from the driv­ers – in par­tic­u­lar an out­spo­ken Felipe Massa – they switched to a softer com­pound.

But the track had only re­cently been re­laid and with un­usu­ally high tem­per­a­tures, added to the forces of an F1 car run­ning over its sur­face, the as­phalt started to seep oils. Ac­cord­ing to Hem­bery, it was half as abra­sive as in 2013 and those fac­tors com­bined to cause signicant

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