What. A. Race. The 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix could only be described as mental after five safety car periods and two red flags broke up a dominant performance from Lewis Hamilton. The Brit may have kept his world title hopes alive but it wasn’t enough for him to grab our TOP DOG award, instead that honour goes to…
The young Dutchman turned in the kind of performance we’ll still be talking about with awe in thirty years time. After once again outqualifying Daniel Ricciardo, you could forgive Verstappen if he had been apprehensive about the rainfall coming down prior to the race on Sunday.
However instead he took to the conditions with the same enthusiastic aplomb he used to in his F3 days. As the race finally got underway it was clear Verstappen was blindingly quick. He first scythed his way past the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen before making Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes look like it was standing still.
He even challenged Lewis Hamilton briefly before a red flag brought the race to a temporary stop. It all went downhill for a while as Red Bull tinkered with their tyre strategy, going onto intermediate rubber proved costly for both drivers.
A final stop to head back over to his used wets left Verstappen in fourteenth place on lap fifty-five. What followed with head into F1 folklore as one of the all time great wet-weather performances, up there with Ayrton Senna in the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix and Michael Schumacher in the 1997 Belgian Grand Prix.
Verstappen cut all over the track taking wide and unusual lines in order to find the most grip. The way he simply drove around cars was Schumacheresque.
By lap sixty-nine, just fourteen laps after he pitted for those used wets, he was up to a staggering third place. The finest of his eleven overtakes being the one he pulled on Sebastian Vettel, it felt like a changing of the guard for Vettel was in Verstappen’s shoes just under a decade ago in the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix.
So well done Max Verstappen, you may infuriate us at times but when you drive the way you did in São Paulo, it’s impossible to deny that the kid is special indeed.
A Very Special Mention…
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when it became apparent that Felipe Massa had crashed out of his final ever Brazilian Grand Prix. He stepped out of his wreaked Williams to cheers from his adoring home crowd and it didn’t take long for his own tears to fall.
As he trudged back down the pitlane, something wonderful happened. The Mercedes and Ferrari mechanics momentarily forget they were still in a motor race to cheer in the heartbroken home hero outside their garages. It was a rare moment of humanity in a sport where machines rule the roost.
It was a fine send off for a man who once deserved to be Formula One champion. Obrigado Felipe!