SAO PAULO: Nico Rosberg put his success into perspective on Sunday (Monday in Manila) after he sealed his place as runner-up in this year’s world championship by winning the Brazilian Grand Prix.
He won the race, which was preceded by a ceremonial act of respect in memory of the victims of Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, ahead of his Mercedes team-mate newly-crowned three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
But he tempered his celebrations in the land of the samba and his first thoughts, when summarizing his feelings on the winners’ podium, were of events in the French capital which left 132 dead.
“It was a great weekend for me here, of course, but everything is relative because of what happened in Paris,” said Rosberg, after his fifth win of 2015 and the 13th of his career.
It was also the 30-year-old German’s second consecutive Latin American triumph after winning in Mexico last time which in turn followed his unforced error at the United States Grand Prix that gifted Hamilton victory and his third title in Texas.
Starting from his fifth consecutive pole position, Rosberg made a flawless start and controlled the race from the front, relinquishing the lead only when he pitted three times, while Hamilton chased and challenged in vain.
“It was a good challenge from Lewis, but I was able to control the pace,” said Rosberg.
“We saw Lewis dropping off a lot with degradation and that confirmed it was important to take care of the tyres.
“I am pushing now and I was pushing earlier in the season. I don’t have an explanation for why now, but just want to keep on going.”
The 30-year-old Englishman, who arrived in Brazil 24 hours later than scheduled after what he described as “a difficult week” of illness and a road accident, finished second ahead of third-placed four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.
“I had the pace, but you just can’t overtake here,” said Hamilton, who has failed to win in Brazil, the homeland of his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna, in nine attempts.
“I killed my tyres and it is a shame because it is such a great track, but you can’t get close enough to put on a great race so it was a bit boring.”
Hamilton praised Rosberg, who has beaten him twice in succession since the title race was settled.
“Nico has been driving fantastically well — in Mexico and here, and he did not make a mistake,” he said.
“For myself, I am here to race, but when you both have to do the same — well, I would have liked to try some other strategies and take a risk, but I couldn’t get close enough.”
Rosberg repeated his Brazilian win of 2014 with a near-textbook drive that gave Hamilton little chance to make his superior race speed count before he settled for second and came home 7.7 seconds behind his team-mate.
Kimi Raikkonen came home fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of Valtteri Bottas of Williams, Nico Hulkenberg of Force India, Danil Kvyat of Red Bull and local hero Felipe Massa in the second Williams.
Romain Grosjean finished ninth for Lotus ahead of Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who maintained his stunning maiden season form by finishing 10th for Toro Rosso and pulling off a series of superb passes – moves that Hamilton may wish to study when he reviews the race.
Rosberg’s win suggested he could have given Hamilton a much tougher title battle if he had found such speed and consistency earlier in the season.
“Thanks, but I could have worked that out for myself,” said Rosberg, when it was suggested.
Vettel conceded that Ferrari did not have the speed to match Mercedes on the day.
“It was a good race for us,” said Vettel. “I was hoping at the start we could do something but it was not possible. Overall we have to just admit that they were just that bit quicker. Hopefully, we can again be a bit closer in the next race.”