Lewis Hamilton inherited the Brazilian Grand Prix lead when Max Verstappen was tipped into a spin. And it has emerged that lady luck came to Hamilton's side once more, with Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff revealing that the team were told that the engine was on the point of failing, only for technicians to find a solution remotely…
Hamilton looked in control in the opening laps at Interlagos, having eased into the lead from pole position. But an early stop for fresh boots on lap 19 – a move he conceded after the race may have been 'premature' – meant he had to do a long final stint on the mediums. In contrast, Verstappen was able to stretch his opening stint to lap 35, meaning he could take the faster softs when he eventually stopped.
That allowed the Red Bull driver to hunt Hamilton down, with Verstappen passing him with ease on the start-finish straight. At that point, the win looked to be his – until, that is, Esteban Ocon tipped the Dutchman into a spin when trying to unlap himself.
Hamilton snatched the lead and then absorbed the pressure to clinch his 10th victory of the season and ensure Mercedes won their fifth successive constructors’ championship. Throughout, though, that was tension on the pitwall.
“We had such a horrible race today,” said Wolff. “We have the engine guys here in the back and then we have them back at base, and what I could hear – because I have about 10 channels open! – on one of the 10 channels, the meeting channel, was ‘Lewis Hamilton power unit failure imminent, it’s going to fail within the next lap’.
“I put the volume up and I was like ‘Excuse me, what?’ And they said ‘Yeah, we’ve got a massive problem on the power unit, it’s going to fail next lap’. It didn’t fail next lap and I said, ‘When you guys have a minute, tell me what’s happening'. So I let them work.
“And they said, ‘Well our exhaust is just about to fail and we’re overshooting all the temperature limits’. So I said ‘What’s the fix?’ And they started to fix it by turning the whole thing down. The temperatures went down to below 1,000C, to 980C, but it’s still too high, and then he recovered another lap and that was truly horrible.”