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WATCH: Brazil onboards - the trickiest sector of the year?

16 Nov 2016

Fast, undulating and straightforward in the dry, the final sector at Interlagos became downright treacherous when the weather turned on Sunday and left it covered in water and shrouded in dense spray. We take a driver’s-eye view at some of the biggest incidents from the extremely tricky section…
Puddles spell trouble for Vettel

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Aquaplaning: it’s what every driver fears in wet conditions, and nowhere were they more susceptible to it in Sunday’s race than on the run up the hill from Juncao. After Romain Grsojean had lost his Haas there on the way to the grid and Sergio Perez had spun his Force India at virtually the same spot under safety car conditions, Sebastian Vettel was the first go for a spin there in racing conditions, with the rear of his Ferrari snapping away in an instant. Spat over the grass and back across the track, the German was lucky not to be collected by oncoming traffic, including Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India, which seemed to spend its afternoon dodging spinning cars (see below). Remarkably, having survived this moment, Vettel dived straight for the pits and switched to intermediates - an extremely bold choice in the circumstances.    

 

Close calls for Hulkenberg and Ocon

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Of all the places for Kimi Raikkonen to lose control of his Ferrari, the pit straight was surely the worst, for not only is it one of the quickest parts of the track, but conditions ensured visibility was virtually non-existent. That other cars weren’t caught up in the accident was largely down to the supreme skills and reactions of those behind - and to the high-tech safety systems introduced a few years ago. In the video above you can see the electronic FIA light panels at the side of the track are still flashing green as Nico Hulkenberg races past before spotting Raikkonen, jinking right and collecting debris from the Finn’s car.  But as Ocon comes by just seconds later, the Frenchman running close to the pit wall in a bid to avoid the worst of the spray, the panels change from green to flashing yellow. Warned of upcoming danger, Ocon was then able to swerve Raikkonen’s prone car and continue on his way - with huge sighs of relief all round.

 

Spray puts paid to Palmer chances 

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“What have you done, Jo? We didn’t see,” said Renault after Jolyon Palmer reported damage prior to the first red flag - but the truth is the Briton could barely see what he’d done himself. "When I crashed [into Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso], I couldn't see a thing," he admitted. "I was coming up behind Kvyat and decided to go to the inside. I sort of knew roughly where he was, but really only from the low speed. As soon as we picked up speed, the spray was too much. I just couldn't see." From Kvyat’s perspective, you can see that Palmer’s plight was not helped by the fact that the Russian was forced to get off the throttle quickly as the pack ahead of him slowed in response to Raikkonen’s crash. In short, an accident that only happens in conditions like the ones we saw on Sunday.

 

Verstappen serves up save of the season candidate

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Max Verstappen’s drive in Brazil has already been compared to some of the greatest wet weather performances in F1 history, but just as Ayrton Senna had a hairy moment midway through his sublime drive at Portugal in 1985, so Verstappen had a heart-in-mouth moment of his own.  Cresting the hill coming onto the pit straight, you can see how the rear of Verstappen’s car snaps away as he just touches the kerb at the edge of the track. That the teenage Dutchman managed to avoid the barriers was, depending on who you talk to, either an incredible bit of driving skill or an incredible bit of luck - though we reckon it was more likely a combination of the two.

 

Rosberg keeps it together

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Will this prove to be one of the defining moments of Nico Rosberg’s championship campaign? If he gets the job done in Abu Dhabi then quite possibly, because were he not able to hang onto his Silver Arrow - at the exact same point where Sebastian Vettel had earlier lost his Ferrari - then who knows if he would have gone on to score the 18-points he happily pocketed for finishing second to Lewis Hamilton. As with Verstappen, who Rosberg had been following when he had his big moment, the German did everything right from a driving perspective as his car snapped - releasing the throttle, steering into the spin and applying the brakes - and luckily for him it was enough to get it pointing in the right direction once more.  

 

Massa's hopes hit the skids

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The scenes that followed Felipe Massa’s retirement from his final Brazilian Grand Prix were arguably the most emotional Interlagos has witnessed since the Williams driver’s championship near miss in 2008. No one knows the twists and turns of the Sao Paulo circuit better than Massa, but local knowledge counted for little when he strayed marginally off-line through the final sweeps and aquaplaned in the barriers. A fairy-tale home race it was not - but what followed was simply magic.

 

Hulkenberg in the firing line once more

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There were five world champions on the grid in Sunday’s race - and three of them managed to spin directly in front of Nico Hulkenberg! The last of them to pirouette was Fernando Alonso, who dropped his McLaren on the same torrent of water that had caught out Vettel, Rosberg and several others before. Like Vettel, the Spaniard ended up sliding across the grass, simultaneously sending a shower of mud towards Hulkenberg, who must have been counting his lucky stars that he’d once again avoided trouble.