The Associated Press
Paulo Whitaker / REUTERS
SAO PAULO – Three-time series champion Lewis Hamilton won Sunday’s rain-delayed Brazilian Grand Prix, forcing a showdown for the season title with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in Abu Dhabi in the finale in two weeks.
The race was stopped by two crashes in driving rain during the first 28 of 71 laps. All but a half-dozen of the early laps were run behind a safety car with drivers struggling to see through the tire spray.
The second half was less eventful, but still was slowed by another crash and another spell under the safety car.
Rosberg could have claimed his first F1 title by winning in Brazil on Sunday, but came up short. The German finished second but still leads the season overall standings with 367 points to 355 for Hamilton.
”I was chilling up front,” Hamilton said. ”When it rains, it’s usually a good day for me.”
”I’m hunting,” Hamilton added. ”All I can do is what I’m doing now. Abu Dhabi is usually a good track for me.”
Hamilton led from start to finish through all the starts and stops. The victory was his first in Brazil, but the 52nd of his career to push him one ahead of Alain Prost as the No. 2 racer in victories. Michael Schumacher leads with 91.
Rosberg is still in command at 12 points ahead. That means even if Hamilton wins the last race, Rosberg can claim his first season title by just finishing second or third.
”I can live with second today,” Rosberg said.
The race was run behind a safety car for the first seven laps with raining pounding down and drivers trying to navigate through spray and puddles.
It didn’t take long for problems to arise as soon as the safety car pulled off.
On the 13th lap Marcus Ericsson of Sauber went into a spin and crashed, forcing the safety car to come out again.
The safety car stayed on until the 20th lap. But just seconds after it pulled off and racing resumed, Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari lost control in a spin. This time the race was stopped under a red flag.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, talking on his radio, said conditions were too dangerous. He suggested the crashes could have been worse under the treacherous conditions.
”We need to stop the race,” he said. ”It doesn’t work. How many people do you want to crash?”
Hamilton led through the first 20 laps, followed by Rosberg, Max Verstappen of Red Bull, which was the final finish.
The race resumed after a 30-minute delay. But again it didn’t last long. After eight laps, officials stopped the race under a red flag, seeming to anger Hamilton.
”It’s not even that wet now,” he said on the radio, adding these were ”normal” wet condition.
Brazilian fans seemed to agree, with thousands in the stands giving the thumbs-down sign as the race was stopped again.
The race resumed after another 20-minute stoppage.
Compared to the first third, the second two-thirds was tense but smoother as the rain kept coming.
The safety car appeared for the final time on the 48th lap in a crash by hometown hero Felipe Massa.
Massa, who is leaving F1 at the end of the season, walked off the track with a Brazilian flag wrapped around his shoulders in his final race at home.
”I’m leaving with my head up and my heart aching,” Massa said afterward in the paddock, embraced by wife Anna Raffaela and son Felipinho.