Defending champion Lewis Hamilton has vowed to continue hunting after taking the world championship fight to the wire following his maiden grand prix victory on Brazilian soil at Interlagos.
Hamilton kept his cool on a rain-soaked circuit, which resulted in the race being suspended on two occasions, to trim title rival and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg’s championship lead to 12 points.
Germany’s Rosberg will be crowned world champion for the first time in his career should he finish in the top three in Abu Dhabi on 27 November, irrespective of whether Hamilton wins or not.
“I’m hunting,” said Hamilton. “All I can do is do what I am doing. The team have given me a great car and finally the reliability has been good. I didn’t have any spins, any moments. It was pretty straightforward.
“Right now, I’m just living in the moment. This is the race I have been dreaming of winning since I was very, very young. These experiences feel surreal and it won’t kick in until later.
“It’s a hard, hard grand prix to win and today was one of the most difficult in terms of raining and aquaplaning.”
Rosberg could have wrapped up the title and avoided a potential nerve-shredding conclusion to the season had he prevailed from the chaos of Brazil with his 10th grand prix success of 2016, although he appeared unperturbed by his podium position.
“It didn’t go my way with the win,” said the 31-year-old. “Lewis did a great job and it was very difficult out there. I can live with second. It worked out fine.”
Hamilton made light work of the treacherous conditions in a race which was perforated by multi-deployments of the safety car – following crashes by Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari – and weather delays.
The Stevenage-born racer’s triumph was the 52nd of his career, which saw him overtake Alain Prost’s tally of 51 to make him the second most successful race winner of all time. Michael Schumacher retains a healthy lead on 91.
Dutch driver Max Verstappen was Hamilton’s closest rival for much of the encounter, although a Red Bull gamble to switch to the intermediate tyre backfired as the 19-year-old had to pit for the extreme wet tyre almost immediately.
Verstappen had to be content with a third-placed finish, while Force India’s Sergio Perez came fourth and Sebastian Vettel of Germany fifth.