Redemption for Verstappen
Quite frankly, Max Verstappen was robbed of victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix last year following that infamous clash with Esteban Ocon. This year he was a man on a mission and got the win on this occasion.
It all started in qualifying as he stopped each segment of qualifying to take a dominant pole position – even if the gap was just over a tenth of a second to Sebastian Vettel.
The race wasn’t easy as Hamilton pushed him hard throughout the race. He briefly lost the net lead as Mercedes executed the undercut at the first round of stops but Verstappen passed Hamilton the lap after he pitted to retake the lead of the race.
Red Bull strategist Hannah Schmitz made the call to pit Verstappen under the first Safety Car of the race and it turned out to be the decisive move. The Dutchman passed Hamilton at the restart and controlled the race from there to take a great victory as the carnage unfolded behind him.
When Verstappen is on form and making no mistakes, he’s incredibly difficult to beat. Redemption at Interlagos is complete.
A rare bad day for Mercedes
The team who has dominated the V6 era by a distance don’t have many off-days, but it did occur at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Valtteri Bottas retired from the race on lap 52 with smoke coming out from his engine. At the time, Hamilton was 2nd behind Verstappen and stayed out behind the Safety Car as the Dutchman pitted.
Verstappen got him as the race resumed before another Safety Car for the collision between the Ferraris. Mercedes decided to pit Hamilton and that gave him just two laps to try and win from P4.
Whilst he cleared Gasly initially, contact with Albon sent the Thai spinning and robbed him of a maiden podium. Despite crossing the line in P3, a 5-second penalty left him down in 7th in the final classification.
It goes to show even the greatest teams and athletes in any sport have days to forget as well.
The tension between Leclerc and Vettel boils over
A clash that has seemed inevitable between the two Ferrari finally came to pass during the race yesterday. It was coming after all the controversies about team orders and tactics throughout 2019.
Sebastian Vettel looked set for a comfortable P3 until the Safety Car appeared and it allowed Albon and Leclerc (the Monegasque on much fresher tyres) to close right up. Albon made a superb move on the restart which meant it was gloves off between the Ferraris for P4 and P5.
Leclerc made a great pass on Vettel into turn 1 at the beginning of lap 66, but with Vettel having the DRS in the second zone, it allowed the German to come back at him.
Vettel looked set to reclaim the place heading towards turn 4 but the slightest of touches between the cars ended up seeing both drivers retiring from the race.
Mattia Binotto has got a big job on his hands to keep these two incredibly competitive drivers under control.
A wonderful Sunday for Gasly and Sainz
The madness that descended on yesterday’s race in the closing stages saw a couple of shock maiden podium finishes for Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz (eventually...).
Pierre Gasly’s race was quiet for the most part as he led the midfield quite comfortably throughout the race.
After starting 6th, he ran in a very solid P7 before it all kicked off in the closing stages. He benefitted from Bottas’ DNF, the Ferraris colliding and the clash between Hamilton and Albon. The last lap vs Hamilton was thrilling as he held the Brit off in a drag race up to the line. It was a special way for him to claim his first podium in Formula 1.
The Frenchman’s return to Toro Rosso after the summer break has seen him deliver some quality performances at a team where he seems to be more appreciated. He’s scored 32 points to Kvyat’s 8. That’s an impressive showing from the French driver and has proved that he’s still a quick driver.
Carlos Sainz had a rollercoaster of a weekend.
A loss of power in Q1 meant he couldn’t even complete a lap and was forced to start from the back of the grid. From 20th, he worked his way up to P13 by the end of lap 8.
McLaren decided to try a 1-stop with the Spaniard vs a two-stop strategy for the rest of the midfield. It worked a treat.
He found himself in P8 and ahead of everyone in the midfield before the drama at the front unfolded. Just like Gasly, he took full advantage of the mess ahead and held Raikkonen off on older and harder tyres and to finish P4 on the road. Hamilton’s post-race penalty moved him up to P3.
The only disappointment is that he didn’t get to celebrate on the rostrum with Verstappen and Gasly. Nonetheless, the Spaniard fully deserves his first podium after a stellar year.
The Brazilian Grand Prix must stay at Interlagos
Interlagos provided us with another thrilling racing yesterday. The track layout leads to close racing which has given us lots of drama and entertainment over the years. Below are a few examples.
- 2003 – Fisichella takes a shock victory in a truly crazy wet race
- 2006 – Schumacher's stunning drive through the field in his final race for Ferrari
- 2008 – Hamilton steals the title on the last lap from Massa in the most dramatic title way possible
- 2009 – Button storms through the field to clinch his only title.
- 2012 – Vettel pips Alonso to the championship following a classic race
- 2016 – Verstappen and Hamilton produce stunning wet weather drives
- 2018 – Verstappen passes the Ferraris and Mercedes’ before that collision with Ocon
- 2019 – A wild ending sees Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz score their first F1 podiums
It would be terrible for the sport to lose it from the calendar. Let’s hope it remains on the F1 circus for the foreseeable future.