By Alan Baldwin
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton chilled while others thrilled as the triple Formula One world champion finally ended his long wait for a Brazilian Grand Prix victory in a rain-hit race on Sunday.
The Briton's third victory in a row, and ninth of a season dominated by his Mercedes team, also set a record as the 24th different track that Hamilton has won at during a decade in the sport.
If there was no big breakthrough in the title battle, with team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg finishing second to take a 12-point lead into the finale in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton still had plenty to celebrate.
"I was generally just chilling up front," said Hamilton, who led from pole to flag. "When it rains, it's usually a good day for me.
"It was a very easy race generally. Usually in the rain here it's the hardest but honestly I didn't have any spins, I didn't really have any moments and it was pretty straightforward. Silverstone 2008 was way harder than this."
The home track of boyhood idol Ayrton Senna, the late triple champion, was also where Hamilton won his first title with McLaren in 2008 and had become something of a bogey circuit -- but not any more.
"This has been my dream since the first time I watched Ayrton race, when I was five or six years old," said Hamilton, whose title hopes are out of his hands with Rosberg needing only a third place at Yas Marina to be champion.
"It's a hard grand prix to win, and today was one of the most difficult in terms of being wet and aquaplaning and everything. (But it was) probably the most smooth-sailing race I've had here in 10 years."
Sunday saw five safety car periods, with the race stopped and re-started twice due to crashes and conditions, but Hamilton had it easy apart from water leaking in through his helmet visor.
The helmet, a special one paying tribute to Senna, was replaced at the first opportunity.
"I came here with a helmet which was a mix of mine and Ayrton's as everywhere I go around the world and bump into Brazilian people they think about Ayrton and it's just incredible how much he meant to the people here," said Hamilton.
"I feel incredibly proud to have now won in the place that he has done."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)