SAO PAULO (AP) — Nico Rosberg fended off a strong charge by Lewis Hamilton to win the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, closing in on his Mercedes teammate in the Formula One title race.
The German cut his points-deficit to 17 but Hamilton will keep the upper hand going into the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, where the Briton can clinch his second title with another second-place finish.
Hamilton has 334 points to 317 for Rosberg. The championship could not be decided at Interlagos because the race in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 23 will be worth double points.
Felipe Massa of Williams finished third in front of his home crowd, ahead of Jenson Button of McLaren and Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
It was Rosberg’s fifth win of the season and his first since the German GP in July. Hamilton was trying to win his sixth race in a row.
“I’m very happy with the whole weekend,” Rosberg said. “The whole weekend I’ve been feeling comfortable in the car. I was able to attack and control the gap to Lewis, so that worked out great.”
It was the 11th 1-2 finish for Mercedes, one more than the previous record set by McLaren in 1988. The team’s 15th victory of the season also allowed it to match the record held by McLaren and Ferrari.
Rosberg had been faster throughout the weekend but had a slower pace in the race itself. Hamilton was quickly making up ground near the mid-point but his chances of getting close enough to attempt a pass were hurt when he went off the track and nearly spun at the end of the back straight — a mistake that put him more than seven seconds behind Rosberg.
“I was much quicker at the point,” Hamilton said. “I locked the rears and it just spun me around. No one’s fault but mine.”
Hamilton kept charging and moved to within a second in the final laps but was never able to try to pass Rosberg, who crossed the line 1.4 seconds in front.
“In the first stage I could see that I could control the gap and manage to just make sure that Lewis does not come into the region where he can launch an attack,” Rosberg said. “When I saw that, I was very confident that I could keep controlling the gap for the whole race.”
Massa, who started third and ran close to Mercedes all weekend long, almost threw away his chance to finish on the podium at home after a five-second stop-and-go penalty for speeding on the pit lane during his first pit stop. He also lost some time by entering the wrong pit stall in his final stop.
There were huge cheers from the crowd as Massa crossed the finish line in third place. The fans loudly chanted his name at the podium ceremony.
“It’s really exciting to be here after everything that happened to me in this race,” the Brazilian said. “This crowd really deserved it.”
There were only 18 cars on the grid for the second race in a row. Marussia was shut down on Friday, while Caterham has a crowdfunding project underway to try to return to the grid in Abu Dhabi.
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