Down to the wire: Lewis Hamilton beats rain and Rosberg to set up title climax in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix Picture: AP/Ricardo Mazalan.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix Picture: AP/Ricardo Mazalan.

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Lewis Hamilton delivered a wet-weather masterclass at a chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix to take the championship battle into the final race of the season.

Nico Rosberg, who crossed the line at a rain-soaked Interlagos in second place, would have been crowned champion had he won.

TOO CLOSE TO CALL: Lewis Hamilton leads followed by Mercedes' team-mate Nico Rosberg after the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix Picture: AP/Andre Penner.

TOO CLOSE TO CALL: Lewis Hamilton leads followed by Mercedes' team-mate Nico Rosberg after the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix Picture: AP/Andre Penner.

But Hamilton kept his cool in a marathon race which was suspended on two occasions and took more than three hours to complete as persistent rain wreaked havoc in Sao Paulo.

Rosberg however, now has to secure a top-three finish in Abu Dhabi in a fortnight’s time to clinch his maiden title.

Hamilton, who punched his fist in the air after winning in Brazil – the home of his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna – for a first time, said: “I was generally just chilling up front. When it rains that is usually a good day for me.

“There were no mistakes, no issues, no spins. It was interesting to hear how many people were spinning behind me. I didn’t have that problem.”

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Rosberg, who will head to Abu Dhabi 12 points clear, added: “It didn’t go my way with the win. Lewis did a great job and it was very difficult out there. I can live with second today.”

The penultimate round of the season was delayed by 10 minutes and then eventually started behind the safety car following continuous rain. When the safety car eventually peeled in after seven laps, Hamilton led from Rosberg, while Max Verstappen immediately passed Kimi Raikkonen for third place.

Finally, racing resumed, Verstappen soared around the outside of Rosberg at turn three.

It was a fantastic move from the fearless Dutchman which would have been greeted with delight in both the Red Bull and Hamilton camps.

The 19-year-old then began his pursuit of Hamilton, and got the gap down to one second, before he lost control of his Red Bull at close to 180mph as he entered the pit straight.

Incredibly, he managed to avoid any contact with the barrier, but then was pitted for a tyre change.

Another six laps followed behind the safety car before Hamilton crossed the line, 11 seconds clear of his main rival Rosberg.

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