Sebastian Vettel ensured that the title fight will go to Abu Dhabi by beating Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso to victory at Interlagos today.
The German took the lead at the start of the race and never allowed Red Bull teammate Webber a look in. Webber's second place clinched the constructors' title for Red Bull, but Fernando Alonso's third limited his loss in the points table.
Pole winner Nico Hulkenberg's time in the sun was short-lived, as he was outdragged to the first corner by Vettel and then demoted to third by Webber at Turn 4.
It took Alonso another six laps to get by the Williams, thanks mainly to some skilled and spirited defense by Hulkenberg once he settled into the race. By the time Alonso had clear air he was seven seconds behind Webber, and even then lapping half a second slower.
Hamilton was next in the queue to pass Hulkenberg and was stuck there for another eight laps, unable to make a move stick, until the Williams dived into the pits on lap 15. So Vettel and Webber were freed from the start right up until the safety car was called out when Vitantonio Liuzzi crashed at Turn 2 with 20 laps remaining. Vettel had a retained a lead of between two and four seconds over his teammate for the duration, including their event-less pit stops.
Vettel had the lapped Robert Kubica between himself and Webber at the restart and bolted, three seconds clear after one lap, four and a half after three. From there on he had no trouble managing the gap to his teammate.
Behind, Webber had to see off a threat from the closing Alonso in the final laps as the Spaniard shared fastest laps with the Red Bull drivers following the safety car. In the end, Alonso couldn't get close enough and settled for third and taking his championship lead to Abu Dhabi,
Hamilton was fourth and within range of Alonso at the finish, another to benefit from the late safety car. He was complaining of grip problems throughout the race and was delighted to take the opportunity of a free pitstop when the safety car came out. But he was toward the back of the queue and had traffic to deal with before he could attempt to close on Alonso. Once freed, he was able to set a fastest laps of his own but was already eight seconds down the road and had no chance of closing in. He's now 24 points behind Alonso with 25 available in Abu Dhabi.
Button gave Hamilton some company in the closing stages, thanks to his gamble early on. He made his first tyre stop just 12 laps in, which helped him to vault up the order, passing the two Mercedes, Hulkenberg and Kubica when they made their stops. He came back in to discard his heavily worn tires at the safety car, and, like Hamilton, retained his position thanks to the cars behind him that did not stop being a lap down and stuck behind the safety car.
Both Mercedes also stopped, Rosberg twice, and resumed their places inside the top seven, with Hulkenberg and Kubica heading the train of lapped cars in eighth and ninth.
Kamui Kobayashi claimed the final point after a fraught race-long scrap for the spot that involved Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil, Sebastien Buemi and Rubens Barrichello at various stages of the race.
Rubens Barrichello was 14th after picking up a puncture while battling with Alguersuari, ahead of countryman Massa, whose already poor race was ruined early on when he had to stop twice due to a problem with a wheel nut.
Heikki Kovalainen was first of the new cars home, leading teammate Trulli home well clear of Virgin's Timo Glock and HRT's Bruno Senna.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
The Brazilian Grand Prix
Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil;
71 laps; 305.909km;
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h33:11.803
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 4.243
3. Alonso Ferrari + 6.807
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 14.634
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 15.593
6. Rosberg Mercedes + 35.300
7. Schumacher Mercedes + 43.400
8. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
9. Kubica Renault + 1 lap
10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
12. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
13. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
14. Massa Ferrari + 1 lap
15. Petrov Renault + 1 lap
16. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
17. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
18. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps
19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps
20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. Senna HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
22. Klien HRT-Cosworth + 6 laps
Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1:13.851
Driver Team On lap
Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 63
Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 50
World Championship standings, round 18:
1. Alonso 246 1. Red Bull-Renault 469
2. Webber 238 2. McLaren-Mercedes 421
3. Vettel 231 3. Ferrari 389
4. Hamilton 222 4. Mercedes 202
5. Button 199 5. Renault 145
6. Massa 143 6. Williams-Cosworth 69
7. Rosberg 130 7. Force India-Mercedes 68
8. Kubica 126 8. Sauber-Ferrari 44
9. Schumacher 72 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 11
10. Barrichello 47
11. Sutil 47
12. Kobayashi 32
13. Hulkenberg 22
14. Liuzzi 21
15. Petrov 19
16. Buemi 8
17. De la Rosa 6
18. Heidfeld 6
19. Alguersuari 3
All timing unofficial