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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Hulk back to his old tricks - Max makes the moves but Hulkenberg was best of the rest


Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg went to war in Brazil, both on track and off it, kicking off the age old debate of whether or not to reduce the aero on F1 cars, removing it as the pinnacle of technology to improve the spectacle. Rosberg once again had the Brit’s number with another win from pole, though it's fair to say that Hamilton hardly had the best week of preparation. As the Mercedes pair squabbled with Sebastian Vettel just beyond striking distance, the best battles were once again for lower end points.

Championship leap from Nico Hülkenberg

Nico Hülkenberg, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 5th, Finished 6th

As ever, Nico Hülkenberg was a star in Brazil. He's been on pole in the wet in his rookie year in São Paulo, and was a genuine contender for the win in 2012 before spinning in the wet into Hamilton, ending his McLaren career.

This year, Nico was the faster Force India all weekend. The German beat Pérez throughout practice, setting top ten pace or better in each of the sessions, well within a second of the second fastest team, Ferrari. Something about the Autódromo José Carlos Pace track just sits well with Hülkenberg, much like Circuit de la Sarthe.

Managing the gap despite very worn tyres
Credit: Sahara Force India

Hülkenberg coasted through Q1 by eight tenths of a second before showing the level of improvement of the B-spec Force India by easily making Q2 by half a second. He dominated teammate Pérez who was only 13th as the Mexican couldn’t improve from his Q1 pace. Once in Q3 and up against the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and Williams, Hülkenberg was a stud, beating both Red Bulls, splitting the Williams and young star Max Verstappen, posting a time just a tenth slower than potential Ferrari predecessor Kimi Räikkönen to qualify sixth.

Nico's race didn’t get off to the best start, losing out to Daniil Kvyat and Valtteri Bottas off the line, as the Finn made a brave move around the outside going in to turn one. As Lewis Hamilton would later find out, overtaking was always going to be a tough around the narrow São Paulo track so Force India got bold. Stuck in seventh place behind Kvyat with a faster car and a straight line speed advantage, the Silverstone team pitted Hülkenberg early at the first round of stops. Stopping on lap nine to fit the medium tyres triggered the midfield to have to avoid the undercut and forced several drivers on to a three stop strategy.

Hülkenberg now had a real challenge on his hands to hold off Kvyat

The strategy worked, vaulting the Le Mans winner up ahead of Kvyat and nearly ahead of Bottas too, up to sixth. The trouble was that the payback of the strategy was still to come having pitted earlier leaving Hülkenberg needing to do a longer stint elsewhere. The Hulk was able to manage a close gap to Kvyat behind before Force India decided to prevent the undercut once again. They pitted on lap 35 to fit the medium tyres, and were left with the choice to convert to a three stop or run a very long final stint. Having regained sixth from Kvyat and Massa as the stops cycled through, Hülkenberg now had a real challenge on his hands to hold off Kvyat with five lap fresher tyres and just a three second lead to protect.

Despite battling a better chassis, Hülkenberg was able to control the Russian behind, managing the gap around two seconds despite very worn tyres. The eight points for sixth were enough to close the gap to Pérez, and jump past Romain Grosjean and Max Verstappen into the top ten in one of the drivers’ championship’s tightest battles.

Verstappen has the moves

Max Verstappen, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 9th, Finished 9th

Verstappen had to make some overtakes if he wanted points
Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty

On a track where Toro Rosso were never likely to shine, Max Verstappen was once again on his ‘A’ game. It has been interesting to compare the pace of the Toro Rosso boys this season, just to see how strong they are in a straight fight. Unfortunately, for various reasons that has seldom happened with Sainz suffering seven retirements and Verstappen four, not to mention grid penalties for engine reliability forcing Toro Rosso to run completely different strategies. Regardless of Sainz not making the Brazil grid and then only completing four corners, Verstappen’s form was clear for all to see.

The Toro Rossos would have shared row five on the grid had Sainz not had the issue, but when it came down to it Verstappen had an extra three tenths that was ultimately the difference between making Q3 and qualifying 12th, having maintained his pace advantage throughout the weekend.

Verstappen lost a place at the start to Pérez and then a strategy error by Toro Rosso dropped the Dutchman down the field and out of the points.

Verstappen lined up a bold move around the outside of turn one with a gap just wider than his car to aim at

On a three stop strategy, Verstappen had to make some overtaking moves if he wanted points. As everyone’s tyres were wearing ahead of the second stop, Verstappen knew he had a quicker car than Pérez ahead and lined up a bold move around the outside of turn one with a gap just wider than his car to aim at, holding on with unbelievable bravery to beat the Force India to the apex of turn two and jump up to ninth. It was an incredible move but just to prove the pedigree of this young gun, he did it again on Felipe Nasr with 13 laps to go, as he passed the Brazilian and then Pastor Maldonado to finish 10th on the road, jumping to ninth when Felipe Massa was disqualified.

Grosjean gives France something to shout about

Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team: Started 14th, Finished 8th

Grosjean put in a great drive which should help consolidate sixth for Lotus
Credit: Lotus F1 Team

Lotus didn’t have a great day on Saturday, faster only than McLaren and Manor, with Grosjean beating Maldonado into Q2, only to end up 15th himself.

With penalties and Carlos Sainz’s gremlins, Grosjean was able to jump Felipe Nasr at the start of the race as they swapped places throughout the first stint. Grosjean was roped into the early stop along with the rest of the midfield, coming out in 12th, 11th after Maldonado pitted.

The Frenchman had a long second stint which allowed him to jump up to 10th past Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez. The tough part was done, with a short third stint on the mediums again before a final sprint on the soft tyres, getting back past Maldonado and the fading Nasr, to finish eighth behind Massa.

On what must have been an unbearably tough weekend for Grosjean and, with a lot of ties back to Renault, the team, Grosjean put in a great drive which should help consolidate sixth for Lotus in the championship ahead of Toro Rosso.