Lewis Hamilton keeps hat-trick bid alive with masterclass in wet at Brazilian Grand Prix
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.
Hamilton will head to Abu Dhabi in a fortnight's time 12 points behind Nico Rosberg after he blew away his Mercedes team-mate and title rival for a third consecutive grand prix.
Rosberg would have been crowned champion had he won at a rain-soaked Interlagos yesterday - but Hamilton, who is aiming for three titles in a row and a fourth overall, 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.
As chaos erupted behind him - including one of the sport's finest performances in recent memory as Max Verstappen roared from 16th to third in the closing stages - Hamilton, who started from pole position, never looked under threat as he ensured a second title shootout in three years later this month.
"I was generally just chilling out front," Hamilton said. "When it rains, it 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, but I didn't have that problem.
"Today was one of the most difficult, in terms of it being wet, but it was probably the most smooth-sailing race I have ever had in 10 years."
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. For Rosberg, a top-three finish in Abu Dhabi, however, will be enough.
"I am hunting," Hamilton added. "All I can do is what I am doing now. The team have given me a great car and finally the reliability has been really good so the results have shown that.
"I am going to give it everything I have got in Abu Dhabi, but right now I am going to live in the moment."
The penultimate round of the season was delayed by 10 minutes before starting behind the safety car following continuous rain. The safety car 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.
The 37-year-old Finn slammed into the nearside barrier before his car slid across the track and collided with the opposing wall. He sat helplessly in his Ferrari as a few drivers came within feet of hitting him.
The race was then red-flagged for a second time with the conditions deemed too dangerous. The controversial decision attracted boos from the fans.
But after another 27-minute delay the race was under way once more, and Verstappen soared around Rosberg at turn three to take second place.
It was a fantastic move from the fearless Dutchman. Red Bull, however, opted to pit Verstappen for the intermediates, and Rosberg, who survived a scary moment when he endured a half-spin on lap 44, was promoted back to second.
It was the wrong decision from Red Bull, with Verstappen then back in the pits for the extreme wet tyre. But the teenager overtook 13 cars - including team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel - to claw his way on to the podium.
British rookie Jolyon Palmer failed to finish while Jenson Button was last to cross the line.
Felipe Massa, who is retiring at the end of the season, was unable to finish his last home race.