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Lewis Hamilton clinches victory in rain-soaked Brazilian Grand Prix

SAO PAULO Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix next to his team-mate Nico Rosberg of Germany and Ferrari’s Finnish driver at the Circuit of Interlagos.—Reuters Hamilton wins in rain, forces title showdown with Rosberg
Elettra Stolfi | 21 Novembre, 2016, 10:32

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, steers his vehicle followed by teammate Nico Rosberg during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. A auto passes by a warning signal during heavy rainfall at the race during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

The second half was less eventful, but still was slowed by another crash and another spell under the safety auto. After just two laps, Hamilton was released, and behind him Verstappen soared around the outside of Rosberg at turn three.

Hamilton, who punched his fist in the air after winning in Brazil - the home of his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna - for a first time, has not given up hope of winning the title.

Drivers get 25 points for a victory, 18 for second, 15 for third, and 12 for fourth.

"I can live with second", the German acknowledged.

Hamilton said he was in "the zone" for the entire race, despite the stops and starts.

"That was one of the best drives I've seen in Formula 1", said Red Bull boss Christian Horner. "When it rains, it's usually a good day for me".

"I'm hunting", Hamilton added. "All I can do is what I am doing now. Abu Dhabi is usually a good track for me".

Hamilton's ninth victory of the year and 52nd of his career lifted him one clear of four-time world champion Alain Prost. Michael Schumacher leads with 91. The safety auto was called upon on five occasions, while Kimi Raikkonen was fortunate to escape unharmed from a high-speed crash which led to the first red flag.

It didn't take long for problems to arise as soon as the safety vehicle pulled off.

When he arrived back at the garages, with the pitlane closed while the field lapped behind the safety vehicle, mechanics from other teams came out to applaud in an emotional tribute before his wife and young son arrived.

Between lap 29, when the race resumed following Raikkonen's crash and lap 49, when Felipe Massa hit the wall to bring his final race in Brazil to a premature end, Hamilton had streaked 23 seconds clear of the sister Silver Arrows.

Another six laps followed behind the safety auto before Hamilton crossed the line finished 11 seconds clear of Rosberg, while Verstappen delivered an incredible performance to claw his way back from 16th on to the final spot on the podium.

Raikkonen was unhurt and walked back to the pits as the race was halted by a red flag.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, talking on his radio, said conditions were too risky. He suggested the crashes could have been worse under the treacherous conditions. "How many people do they want to crash, I almost crashed into Kimi in the middle of the straight, I couldn't see anything".

After clearing the wreckage from Raikkonen's harrowing crash, the race was up and running again, albeit behind the safety auto, following a 35-minute delay.

The safety vehicle was called for again after 49 laps when Felipe Massa, in his final home race, crashed after the final corner, his auto stopping at the pit lane entry. But Red Bull opted to pit Verstappen for the intermediate tyre on lap 43, and Rosberg, who survived a scary moment when he endured a half-spin one lap later, was promoted back up to second. But again it didn't last long.

The race was immediately stopped with Hamilton leading from Rosberg and Verstappen.

A laid-back Lewis Hamilton insisted he was "just chilling" as he delivered a wet-weather masterclass to triumph in a chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix and take the championship battle to the deciding race of the season.

Brazilian fans seemed to agree, with thousands in the stands giving the thumbs-down sign as the race was stopped again.

The race resumed after another 20-minute stoppage.

Compared to the first third, the second two-thirds was tense but smoother as the rain kept coming.

It was the wrong decision from Red Bull, with Verstappen ultimately having to pit for the extreme wet tyre when the safety auto emerged for a fifth and final time after Felipe Massa, during his final race in Brazil, stuck his Williams in the barrier.

"I'm leaving with my head up and my heart aching", Massa said afterward in the paddock, embraced by wife Anna Raffaela and son Felipinho.

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