Lewis Hamilton will go into the final race of the 2016 Formula 1 season with his hopes of a third successive world title still alive.
The Briton stayed in the hunt with a superb victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix, showing brilliant handling skills as he led from start to finish while all around him slithered and struggled on the rain-affected Interlagos circuit.
With the rain making the circuit slippery, the race began late under the escort of the safety car, which was to be deployed no less than five times during the race. This included after two red flags when severe crashes halted proceedings. First, Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari came to grief, and later the race was stopped again after Williams driver Felipe Massa crashed. Other incidents that brought out the safety car included the pit lane crash by Sauber's Marcus Ericsson.
However many times Hamilton's lead was curtailed by the safety car, it was never in doubt. Others spun and aquaplaned, but he never did.
Fans booking corporate hospitality for the British Grand Prix next July may yet see Hamilton appearing as defending champion, but he was only able to cut the lead down to 12 points as team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg held on for second place. He narrowly avoided a spin and managed to hold off a brilliant challenge by Max Verstappen, who made up ten places to overtake the German before his Red Bull pit crew gambled on a change to intermediate tyres.
With the final few laps taking place in drier conditions, Verstappen was unable to improve on his third place, but it was another sign that the youngster could be a future superstar.
For now, however, Rosberg remains 12 points ahead and will now need to finish third in the final race at Abu Dhabi to secure the title, assuming Hamilton wins that race.
Although the odds of remaining champion are against him, Hamilton was able to reflect on a long-awaited first Brazilian Grand Prix victory at the home track of his idol Ayrton Senna. It was also the 52nd grand prix win of his career to date, taking him one clear of Alain Prost's total, with just the 91 victories achieved by Michael Schumacher ahead of him. Interlagos is the 24th different circuit he has won at, more than any other driver.
Commenting afterwards, Hamilton said: "When it rains it's usually a good day for me. It was tricky for everyone. There were definitely opportunities for aquaplaning, which everyone did.
"No mistakes, no issues, no spins. It was kind of interesting to hear how many people were spinning, but I didn't have that problem.
"I have always wanted to win since I watched Ayrton [Senna] win here in 1991. It has taken me a long time to get here and it is a historic day for me. To stand on the podium in Brazil where Ayrton was so loved was really special."
While Rosberg needs only to finish third in Abu Dhabi to secure his first world title, fourth will be enough if Hamilton only comes second in the final race. On current form, however, the Stevenage-brown superstar is set to push Rosberg all the way.
By Alex Brundell