Nico Rosberg ended Formula One title rival Lewis Hamilton’s streak of five consecutive wins by beating his Mercedes team-mate at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The German converted his 10th pole position of 2014 to victory following a race long battle and has cut Hamilton’s points lead down to 17, with 50 available at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Local hero Felipe Massa completed the top three to the delight of the home crowd, notching his second podium of the year for Williams.
Hamilton’s chances of challenging Rosberg for the win were dented by a spin on lap 28, before he fought back to close a seven second margin.
The Brit ran wide at Turn 4, the Descida do Lago after correcting a snap of oversteer whilst braking for the corner, signifying a pivotal moment in the race.
As Rosberg made his second pit stop on lap 26, Hamilton stayed out, less than two seconds behind. He set the fastest lap of the race next time round with three purple sectors and looked in good shape to take the lead.
Mercedes calculated that Hamilton’s first lap had not been enough to jump Rosberg in the pits and decided to keep him out for one more lap to build the advantage he needed, when the half-spin occurred.
The 29-year-old recovered superbly to reduce the gap, before Rosberg came in for his final stop on lap 50, one lap before Hamilton. Their battle resumed with the duo separated by just half a second with 19 laps remaining.
As the Mercedes team-mates exchanged fastest laps, Hamilton stayed within a second of Rosberg for the remainder of the race but was never close enough to make a passing attempt.
He ultimately had to settle for second behind Rosberg, who had been largely superior around the Interlagos track all weekend, having led every session before taking the chequered flag to lead Mercedes’ 11th one-two of the season – marking another moment of history for the Silver Arrows in surpassing McLaren’s long standing record of 10.
Following his first victory since the German Grand Prix in July and his fifth of 2014, Rosberg said: “I’m very happy with the whole weekend. I’ve been feeling comfortable in the car and controlled the gap to Lewis in the race.”
The German also admitted that Hamilton’s spin was “good to see” and gives him hope for the title decider.
“I hope that it’s slightly dented his confidence. I need to win in Abu Dhabi and he needs to help me out so we will see what happens. He also showed that there can be mistakes going into the last race.”
Hamilton, who admitted post-race that it was “no-one’s mistake but mine” will guarantee winning the championship crown if he finishes in the top two at the Yas Marina Circuit on November 23rd, regardless of where Rosberg comes.
Behind the duelling Mercedes, Massa overcame the odds to secure the final podium position. Despite a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane and pulling into the McLaren pits by mistake at his final stop, the Brazilian took a comfortable third ahead of Jenson Button.
With his F1 future up in the air, the 2009 world champion produced a stellar performance including a brave pass on Kimi Raikkonen with just 10 laps remaining to claim fourth and perhaps give the Woking outfit pause for thought in deciding who will partner Fernando Alonso, who looks set to join the team in 2015.
Button was initially fighting over fourth place with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn suffered two slow pit stops that took him out of contention. He ended up finishing 10th after delays with a loose seatbelt and front wing adjustments curtailed his race.
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel took fifth and might have finished higher but for ground lost whilst squabbling with Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren on the opening lap.
Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo retired for only the second time this season, his first since the Malaysian Grand Prix – after suffering with a left front suspension problem shortly before half-distance.
Alonso took sixth ahead of Ferrari team-mate Raikkonen, who provided an entertaining fight in the latter stages of the race.
Raikkonen switched to a two stop strategy and was the only driver to successfully make it work, despite suffering from what appeared to be a front jack failure at his second stop.
The thrilling battle commenced between the world champions when Raikkonen rejoined as he defended desperately, but failed to prevent Alonso from passing him with only a handful of laps to go.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was eighth, with Magnussen coming home in a disappointing ninth ahead of Bottas who held off Daniil Kvyat for the final point. Romain Grosjean was the only other non-finisher, as his Lotus stopped out on track with a power unit failure.
With the championship delicately poised heading into the final race of the season, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg go head-to-head at the Abu Dhabi double point’s showdown in order to determine who will be the 2014 world champion.