Lewis Hamilton overcame waterlogged conditions to win the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday and give himself one last chance to steal away this year’s Formula 1 drivers’ title.
Needing a victory to keep alive his slim hopes of securing a third successive crown and fourth in his career, Hamilton scrapped to a hard-earned victory in Interlagos ahead of Mercedes teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg.
The Briton needed over three hours of racing to do so, as the Grand Prix was delayed several times due lengthy stints under the yellow flag and a pair of red-flag stoppages.
When full-on racing finally got underway, Hamilton did well to maintain his lead and did so all the way to the chequered flag. He registered a winning time of three hours one minute 01.335 seconds.
Rosberg finished 11.455 seconds behind him as the runner-up, while Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing made a late surge for third before completing the race’s 71 laps 21.481s behind the winner.
With the result, Hamilton made it three wins in a row including his first in Brazil, as he makes a final push for the drivers’ title. It was also his ninth win of 2016 and 52nd of his career, as he closed the gap from Rosberg to just 12 points with one race to go.
Segio Perez of Force India was fourth and Sebastien Vettel of Ferrari fifth, while Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso finished sixth.
Rounding out the points finishers were Nico Hulkenberg of Force India, Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, Felipe Nasr of Sauber and Fernando Alonso of McLaren.
Up to six drivers had to retire from the race for different reasons, but mostly after crashing out due to the slippery conditions.
One of them was hometown hero Felipe Massa, who was making a final appearance in front of his countrymen as a Formula 1 driver. Massa was visibly distraught as he made an emotional walk from his damaged car off the track and all the way to the Williams garage in the pit lane, while acknowledging the appreciative crowd and waving the Brazilian above his head.
It was a dramatic and heartbreaking scene for the 11-time Grand Prix winner who has announce his retirement at the end of the season, but in a way it was bittersweet as he received the ovation he deserves.
After the race, Hamilton commented:
I’ve just won my first Brazilian Grand Prix! I remember watching Ayrton win back in 1991 and thinking "one day, that’s what I want to do". I shared his emotion that day and now I can finally understand how he felt. It’s the 44th Grand Prix here as well, so it’s a really special one for me. To win on Senna’s turn in front of that crowd... it’s a moment I’ll never forget and I genuinely can’t believe it’s finally come.
“It’s crazy - all these years it’s been so hard to win this race and then today was one of the easiest wins I’ve had. Of course, in those conditions I could easily have made a mistake at any point. But I was generally very relaxed out there today and felt completely in control.
“I love driving in the rain. It must come from years of racing around the UK as a kid! It’s all in the mind - keeping your cool, not making mistakes, having great reactions and knowing where to put the car. It was one of those races where I was able to focus purely on driving.”
The 2016 F1 season now heads to Abu Dhabi for the final Grand Prix on November 27.