The Americas leg of the 2021 F1 Season came to an end at Interlagos, Sao Paulo, the home of the Brazilian Grand Prix. One of the shortest circuits on the calendar, the race had seen many pivotal battles through the years. With four races remaining on the calendar, it was time for the final charge for the teams and drivers.
Be it for the title battle or a higher position in the Constructors, no team or driver could afford a mediocre weekend. The 1.2 km long straight up until turn one meant that straight-line speed was paramount for a better race result. It was also the race where the FIA sampled the new race weekend format.
Mercedes and Hamilton were facing a formidable opponent in Red Bull and Verstappen in 2021. Mercedes opted to give Hamilton a new ICE, which resulted in a five-place grid penalty for the race. With the Mercedes engines suffering massive performance degradation, the team couldn't risk reliability issues with Hamilton.
How did the World Champion recover from this setback? Was he able to reduce the deficit to Verstappen? Verstappen had never scored at an F1 Sprint weekend. Did he break the rut?
Was Red Bull able to take the lead in the Constructor battle? Did Ferrari continue its resurgence, or did McLaren recover in the fight for P3? Which midfield team had the best weekend in Brazil?
Time for a recap of the Brazilian GP!
Friday Practice :
Hamilton also sported a new helmet design offering a tribute to his hero, the late Aryton Senna.
Friday Practice got underway, and the drivers had limited time to get their setups right before Qualifying later that day. Hamilton complained about the front suspension settings, while Ricciardo suffered from a massive lock-up at turn 10. Raikkonen took to the run-off at turn seven and then reported an issue with his rear-left wheel.
Hamilton topped the timesheets, four-tenths clear of Verstappen and Perez. His teammate Bottas was P4, followed by Gasly and the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc. The Alpines of Ocon and Alonso were P8 and P9, with Stroll completing the top 10.
Tsunoda was P11 in the other Alpha Tauri, from Vettel and the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. P15 was the best that Norris could manage, followed by Schumacher in the Haas. Latifi and Russell were P17 and P18 for Williams, with Ricciardo and Mazepin completing the classification.
The conditions were overcast, and the threat of rain loomed over the circuit.
Q1 got underway, and Gasly, along with the Ferrari duo, opted for used soft tyres. The others, however, chose a fresh set for their first runs.
Hamilton, Sainz, Verstappen, Gasly, Tsunoda and Bottas were the top 6 with Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Leclerc, Schumacher and Mazepin facing elimination with 7 minutes remaining in Q1.
Leclerc and Schumacher had their lap times deleted after they exceeded the track limits at turn 4. The lap times began to improve as more rubber got laid on the track.
The entire field opted for the soft tyres in the final minutes of Q1. Less than a second separated 17 drivers.
Hamilton, Bottas, Sainz, Leclerc, Perez and Verstappen were the top 6 at the end of Q1, while Stroll, Latifi, Russell, Schumacher and Mazepin got eliminated.
All drivers decided to stay put in the early minutes of Q2. While Perez and the Alfa Romeo duo chose a used set of soft tyres for their first runs, the rest of the field persisted with new. Hamilton exceeded the track limits at turn four and suffered from a lap time deletion.
At the end of the first runs, Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc and Sainz were the top 6, with Ocon, Tsunoda, Vettel, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in the drop zone.
Everyone opted for soft tyres for their final attempts, and at the end of Q2, the following drivers made it into Q3 - Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Gasly, Perez, Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo and Alonso.
Ocon, Vettel, Tsunoda, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi got eliminated from Q2.
The start of Q3 saw drivers staying put in the early minutes ( again ). Leclerc was on used softs with the rest on a fresh set for their first runs. Hamilton went the quickest from Verstappen, Bottas and Perez, with half a second separating the top 3 drivers from each other. Verstappen reported that his front tyres were overheating.
It was time for the final shootout, and Hamilton went purple in sectors 2 and 3. Meanwhile, Verstappen and Bottas made mistakes on their last attempts and couldn't beat Hamilton's lap time.
Hamilton bagged the Speed King / Fastest Qualifier award and would start the F1 Sprint from P1. Verstappen would start P2, followed by Bottas and Perez. Row 3 got occupied by Gasly and Sainz, while Leclerc and Norris were on four. Ricciardo and Alonso completed the top 10.
Hamilton's straight-line speed was unmatchable and attracted the attention of Verstappen, who tried to inspect it on Parc-Ferme. Hamilton's car then got referred to the stewards for a DRS Technical infringement. The stewards decided to impound the part for further investigation.
Verstappen got summoned to the stewards for allegedly touching Hamilton's rear wing while inspecting it on Parc Ferme.
The Dutchman got a 50000 Euros fine for breaching Parc Ferme regulations. However, Hamilton's title aspirations suffered a big dent when the stewards surmised that Mercedes had committed a technical infringement with the DRS on the rear wing of Hamilton's car. The Briton got disqualified from Qualifying and started the Sprint from the back of the grid! Mercedes chose against appealing the decision.
Saturday Practice :
The drivers focused on preparing for the F1 Sprint later on Saturday afternoon, and there was a mix of tyre choices throughout the field.
Alonso surprised one and all by topping the timesheets in Saturday Practice, four-tenths clear of Verstappen. Bottas was P3, a second adrift. Alonso's teammate, Ocon, set the 4th quickest time, followed by Hamilton and Perez. The Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen got split by the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc in P8 and P9.
Stroll was P11 for Aston Martin, followed by the McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris. Russell split the Alpha Tauris of Gasly and Tsunoda in P15, with Vettel setting the 17th quickest time. Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin completed the rear of the field.
F1 Sprint :
The skies were clear as the teams and drivers prepared for the 3rd F1 Sprint of the season. Twenty four laps of flat-out racing awaited the fans on Saturday afternoon.
All eyes were on Hamilton, whose aim was to charge through the field from P20 and limit the effects of the five-place grid penalty on Sunday.
Tyre choice was a big concern, with some opting for the softs and some choosing the more durable mediums.
The following drivers chose new mediums - Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, Norris, Ricciardo, Alonso, Latifi, Russell and Hamilton. The Aston Martin duo opted for the used mediums.
While Bottas, Sainz and Gasly had used sets of soft tyres, Ocon, Tsunoda, the Alfa Romeos and the Haas drivers persisted with brand new ones.
The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for both Verstappen and Bottas. However, Bottas, due to his grippier soft tyres, made it sooner into turn one than Verstappen and took the lead of the Sprint. Perez also lost out to Sainz and got relegated to P4. Sainz then got into the slipstream of Verstappen, and in a wheel-to-wheel battle, the latter got pushed off-track, rejoining in P3.
Further down the field, Hamilton was already up to P16. Raikkonen and Giovinazzi overtook Alonso from either side on the pit straight. Raikkonen tried to commit to a tighter line and got tagged on the rear left by Giovinazzi. The Finn got spun around and fell back to P20. Meanwhile, Giovinazzi was up to P11, and Hamilton had recovered to P14 on lap 2.
Verstappen reported gear sync issues but addressed them with a setting change. The Dutchman then got past Sainz to reclaim P2 on lap 4. Meanwhile, Alonso got the better of Giovinazzi for P11, and Hamilton overtook Tsunoda for P13. Hamilton then relegated Giovinazzi to P13, while Raikkonen got past Mazepin at the back of the pack.
Hamilton was the fastest man on track as he began to hone in on Alonso, while Perez tried to pressure Sainz for P3, but the Spaniard didn't relent. Meanwhile, Raikkonen overtook Schumacher for P18. Hamilton closed up on Alonso and got past him for P11 on lap 8. The battle for P5 was hotting up as Norris began to pressure Leclerc. It was "job done" for Norris on lap 9.
Verstappen was the fastest man on the track as a DRS train began to form up behind Ocon. The Frenchman in P8 was holding off the trio of Vettel, Ricciardo and Hamilton. Hamilton broke into the top 10 with a move on Ricciardo on lap 13.
Bottas, Verstappen, Sainz, Perez, Norris, Leclerc, Gasly, Ocon, Vettel and Hamilton were the top 10 on lap 14.
Hamilton got the better of Vettel for P9 on lap 15. At the front, Verstappen got within the DRS range of Bottas, but the latter held on to the lead. Hamilton continued his charge through the field with overtakes on Ocon and Gasly to move up to P7.
Sainz reported that his tyres had lost grip, and the Spaniard was becoming increasingly vulnerable to an overtake by Perez. Hamilton relegated Leclerc to P7 on lap 20 and began to reduce the deficit to Norris in P5. The Briton was lapping quicker than those ahead and eventually bagged P5 on the final lap. Meanwhile, Stroll got past Tsunoda for P14.
Bottas took the Chequered Flag and Pole Position for the Grand Prix on Sunday. Verstappen would start P2, on the front row alongside Bottas. Sainz took P3, followed by Perez in P4.
Hamilton finished in P5 but would eventually start in P10 after serving his penalty. Row 3 got occupied by Norris and Leclerc. Gasly and Ocon were on row 4, with Vettel and Hamilton completing the top 10.
Ricciardo led the latter half of the field from Alonso and Giovinazzi. Stroll was P14, followed by Tsunoda in the other Alpha Tauri. The Williams of Russell and Latifi would start the GP in P16 and P17, respectively, followed by Raikkonen, Schumacher and Mazepin at the back of the field.
Bottas' pole position fetched Mercedes an invaluable 3 points in the Constructors' Championship. It extended their buffer to Red Bull to 2 points. An inspired drive by Hamilton from the back to the grid to P5 earned the respect of one and all. He was a serious contender for a podium finish on Sunday.
It wasn't an ideal Saturday for Red Bull, with Verstappen losing out to Bottas for pole position and Perez getting outperformed by Sainz. Nevertheless, they lost only one point to Mercedes and could turn it around on Sunday. More importantly, Verstappen now led Hamilton by 21 points and had the chance of extending his lead even further on Sunday. Perez needed to step up his performance on Sunday and play a better support role to Verstappen.
Ferrari had the better of McLaren on Saturday and hoped to repeat the feat on Sunday. The Italian outfit had its drivers in the top 6 and looked set for another big points haul. As for McLaren, Norris would start P5, but Ricciardo could only manage P11. The possibility of outscoring Ferrari seemed highly unlikely unless weather or circumstances played a part.
Gasly would start P7 and again was the only Alpha Tauri driver in the top 10. As for his teammate Tsunoda, P15 was far from ideal, and the rookie faced a long Sunday afternoon. With Alpha Tauri level on points with Alpine, outscoring the latter was paramount.
P8 and P12 were decent starting positions for the Alpine drivers. Alpine was locked in an intense battle with Alpha Tauri, having lost a considerable lead to the latter. They couldn't afford a mediocre showing on Sunday.
Vettel qualified P9, while Stroll bagged P14. Aston Martin, running out of time to catch up to Alpha Tauri and Alpine in the battle for P5, needed points from both its drivers to stay in contention. The team had made pivotal strategic calls in the past, and they needed a similar Sunday.
It was a bittersweet day for Alfa Romeo. While Giovinazzi qualified P13, an error by Raikkonen bumped him down to P18. The Finn miscalculated an overtake on Giovinazzi, the resulting contact sending him into a spin. With free tyre choices for the race start, both drivers had the opportunity of breaking into the top 10 with an optimal strategy.
Williams and Haas F1 were having a tough weekend and looked destined to be at the back of the pack. Interestingly, Latifi out-qualified his better-performing teammate in Russell. Whether the pecking order would remain the same or not on Sunday was a different matter altogether.
C2, C3 and C4 were the tyres compounds available for the weekend. Tsunoda was the only driver to choose the softs for the race start. While the Aston Martin duo had used mediums, the rest of the field opted for fresh sets.
The race got underway, and it was a clean getaway for Bottas and Verstappen. Bottas cut across to block Verstappen, but the latter managed to get side-by-side and pushed him wide at turn one to take the lead of the race! Bottas lost momentum out of turn one and had to defend from Perez, who had jumped Sainz at the start. The Finn missed his braking at turn 3, running wide, allowing Perez to take P2, making it a Red Bull 1-2!
Further down, Norris tried to pass Sainz at the race start, but the duo made contact, and Norris suffered instant delamination on his rear left tyre. The Briton had to limp back to the pits with the puncture. Norris switched to the hards and rejoined in P20.
Ricciardo got past Ocon for P9, while Mazepin overtook Schumacher for P14. Vettel was up to P6, while Hamilton had gained three positions on the opening lap and was P7. Tsunoda got the better of Schumacher for P14, while Ocon retook P9 from Ricciardo.
Hamilton overtook Vettel for P6 and then got past Sainz for P5, a lap later. Verstappen was the fastest man on track and tried to build a gap at the front. Meanwhile, Tsunoda got past Giovinazzi for P13, and Latifi overtook Russell for P17.
Tsunoda now had Stroll in his sights and tried to attack the latter at turn one. Tsunoda tried an opportunistic overtake, resulting in contact between the two drivers. The Japanese rookie lost his front wing, and bits of bodywork got strewn across the track. The incident got flagged for investigation, and Tsunoda got a 10 seconds time penalty for his misdemeanour. He had to pit for hard tyres and a new front wing shortly after.
Meanwhile, Hamilton continued to push with an overtake on Leclerc before a position swap with Bottas on lap 5 for P3. Hamilton was now the quickest driver on the track as he tried to hunt down Perez.
The incident between Tsunoda and Stroll had left a lot of debris on the track, and the Race Director decided to deploy the Safety Car. The Safety Car directed the field through the pit lane as the marshalls cleared the debris from the track. Meanwhile, Russell pitted for the hard tyres.
Racing resumed on lap 10, and it was a clean getaway for Verstappen. Perez managed to fend off any challenge by Hamilton and Bottas, and the status quo got maintained. Further down the field, Latifi lost two positions to Raikkonen, Norris and Tsunoda and was down to P19. Raikkonen got the better of Schumacher for P15, but the latter lost his front wing from a resulting contact. The stewards deployed the Virtual Safety Car to remove the debris from the track, and Schumacher pitted for another front wing and new hard tyres.
Racing resumed on lap 14, and Norris relegated Mazepin to P15. Meanwhile, Tsunoda got past Russell for P17 and then overtook Raikkonen for P16 on lap 17.
Hamilton was now all over Perez in the battle for P2, and the Briton got past him at turn one. However, Perez, with the use of the 2nd DRS zone, reclaimed P2. The Mexican had no answer for Hamilton on lap 19, though, getting relegated to P3 on lap 19. Further down the field, Gasly overtook Vettel for P7, while Tsunoda and Raikkonen relegated Mazepin to P17.
Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Bottas, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Vettel, Ricciardo and Ocon were the top 10 on lap 20.
Alonso overtook Stroll for P11, and the latter pitted for the hard tyres on lap 23. Meanwhile, at the front, Verstappen's lead over Hamilton was hovering around the 3.5 seconds mark. Gasly was the next driver to switch to the hard tyres on lap 26 and got past Raikkonen for P14 shortly after rejoining the race.
Hamilton pitted for the hard tyres on lap 27, Mercedes trying to undercut Verstappen and Red Bull. Sainz also pitted on the same lap but switched to another set of mediums. Red Bull wasted no time in pitting Verstappen to cover off for Hamilton's earlier stop. The Dutchman pitted on lap 28 and rejoined the race, albeit 1.7 seconds clear of Hamilton. Hamilton had to get past Ricciardo on track which cost him an extra second. Meanwhile, Verstappen wasn't pleased about losing time due to the undercut and requested Red Bull to ensure that they don't lose the initiative later in the race.
Leclerc pitted for medium tyres on lap 28 and rejoined in P9. His teammate Sainz got past Tsunoda for P12, who then got relegated to P13 by Gasly. Meanwhile, Norris overtook Giovinazzi for P10, and Stroll got the better of Latifi for P18. Sainz continued his recovery, getting past Giovinazzi for P11, while Perez pitted for hard tyres and rejoined in P5.
Hamilton was the fastest man on track as he tried to get within attacking range of Verstappen. Further down the field, Vettel and Raikkonen pitted for the hard tyres. Gasly got the better of Norris for P10, while Stroll, battling with Russell down the pit straight, lost more bodywork from his Aston Martin. The stewards deployed the Virtual Safety Car to extricate the debris from the track.
Taking advantage of the VSC period, Bottas, Ricciardo and Ocon switched to the hard tyres on lap 31. Pitting under the VSC allowed Bottas to jump Perez in the battle for P3.
The VSC period ended shortly after, and Ocon got past Russell for P12 while Gasly overtook Ricciardo for P8. Bottas was the fastest man on the track as Leclerc got the better of Alonso for P5, and Raikkonen relegated Latifi to P18 on lap 33. Vettel got past Russell for P13, the Briton going backwards in the Williams.
Pit stops continued with Alonso switching to the hard tyres on lap 35 and Norris pitting for a 2nd time, again for the hards on 38. On the track, Ocon broke into the top 10 with an overtake on Tsunoda, with the latter losing more positions to Vettel and Alonso, who were on fresher tyres. Tsunoda pitted for the 2nd time, served his time penalty and took a new set of hard tyres on lap 40.
Meanwhile, Alonso got past Vettel for P10. At the front, Verstappen had begun to report about his tyres losing grip, and Red Bull decided to pit him again on lap 41. The Dutchman rejoined in P4, with another set of hard tyres for his final stint in the race. His pit exit, however, got compromised by Latifi, who had also pitted in his Williams.
Mercedes called in Bottas on lap 42 to switch him to new hards, while Hamilton extended his stint at the front. Perez followed suit a lap later, rejoining in P5, which allowed Bottas to regain track position. Verstappen was the fastest man on track on lap 43 and began to reduce the deficit to Hamilton.
Mercedes couldn't afford further delays and pitted Hamilton again on lap 43. It was now a race to the finish between the two title protagonists. Hamilton wasn't pleased with getting another set of hard tyres for his final stint, but Mercedes insisted that this was the correct choice and the mediums wouldn't have lasted for the remainder of the race. Bottas and Perez exchanged the fastest laps of the race, and the latter got past Leclerc for P4. Further down the field, Stroll lost positions to Raikkonen and Norris, dropping down to P14.
Hamilton was setting blistering lap times and got within the DRS range of Verstappen. Verstappen had the edge over Hamilton in the 2nd sector, but the latter made up ground on the straights in sectors one and three. Lap 48 saw Hamilton pressure Verstappen for the lead. The Briton was side-by-side with Verstappen going into turn 3, but the latter didn't turn in enough, resulting in the duo running wide. Verstappen held onto the lead. The incident got noted by the stewards and, after deliberation, decided against an investigation.
Meanwhile, Norris got Raikkonen for P12, and Stroll had to retire from the race due to the extensive damage suffered from the earlier incidents. Ricciardo also retired on lap 51 after reporting a "power loss" on his Mercedes engine. Gasly and Leclerc switched to another set of hard tyres on laps 52 and 53, respectively. Sainz followed suit on lap 54, with Raikkonen switching to the mediums. Vettel was the next driver to pit for the medium tyres on lap 57.
At the front, Hamilton continued to pressure Verstappen but failed to get closer to launch an attack. Verstappen got caught weaving down the straights as he tried to break the tow to Hamilton. The Dutchman got served a Black and White Flag for his unsportsmanlike behaviour.
Hamilton was closer than ever on lap 59 and tried to attack Verstappen at turn one. The Dutchman rebuffed the challenge but then had no answer in the run-up to the third turn. Hamilton, with the DRS assistance, finally got past Verstappen to take the lead of the race.
The Briton then started to pull away and build a gap to Verstappen. Meanwhile, despite his best efforts, Ocon couldn't hold off Gasly in the battle for P8. Gasly then got past Alonso for P7 on lap 62.
Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Perez, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Alonso, Ocon and Norris were the top 10 on lap 65.
Hamilton was now 7 seconds clear of Verstappen en route to a famous victory! Red Bull pitted Perez on the penultimate lap to deny Hamilton the extra point for the fastest lap. The Mexican, with a set of soft tyres, accomplished the task on the final lap.
Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Brazilian GP! Verstappen had to settle for P2, while Bottas took P3 in the other Mercedes.
Perez finished P4, followed by the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz. A stellar drive by Gasly saw him finish P7 for Alpha Tauri, with the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon, P8 and P9, respectively. Norris completed the top 10.
Vettel finished P11 in the Aston Martin, while Russell split the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in P13. Tsunoda was P15 in the other Alpha Tauri, followed by Latifi, Mazepin and Schumacher, who completed the classified finishers.
Hamilton was ecstatic to win at his hero's ( Ayrton Senna ) home race and stopped to take a Brazilian flag from a marshall. While waving to the crowd, he unbuckled one of his safety belts, which was against the safety standards set by the FIA. Hamilton got a 5000 Euros fine, with a further 20000 Euros, suspended for 2022 ( should he repeat this infringement ).
No driver could match Hamilton's performance the entire weekend. Against all odds, the Briton kept pushing through both the F1 Sprint and the Grand Prix to take an unlikely victory. The Safety Car period at the start benefitted his chances, and Hamilton went from a podium contender to a prospective race winner. Verstappen did his best to make life uncomfortable for Hamilton, but the straight-line speed of the Mercedes was too much to handle. Although Red Bull managed to take the point for the fastest lap off Hamilton, the Briton's win reduced the deficit to Verstappen to 14 points. With three races remaining and a new ICE on his Mercedes, the momentum was with Hamilton to go all the way!
As for Bottas, it was a tough start, losing positions to both Verstappen and Perez, but then he reclaimed P3 from Perez thanks to a VSC period. The Finn kept it clean after that and believed that he could have achieved a 1-2 with Hamilton had he not pitted for the 2nd time. The result helped him cement his grip on P3 in the Driver Standings. More importantly, Mercedes outscored Red Bull in the Constructors to extend the buffer to 11 points at the front. Mercedes looked favourites to retain the Constructors crown.
It was damage limitation day for Red Bull. While Verstappen led for most of the race, he ran out of steam against a charging Hamilton towards the end. The Dutchman eventually finished the race 10 seconds adrift, accepting that P2 was the best result achievable from the weekend. Verstappen saw his lead get trimmed to 14 points in the title battle. Meanwhile, Perez was unfortunate with the timing of the Virtual Safety Car, which robbed him of P3 against Bottas. The Mexican now trailed Bottas by 25 points in the battle for P3 in the Driver Standings. Red Bull lost ground to Mercedes in the Constructors, and it promised to remain a tight affair until the end.
Ferrari was the best of the rest, with Leclerc and Sainz bagging P5 and P6, a big haul of points in their battle against McLaren. Ferrari was confident about a two-stop strategy from the start, and their planning paid dividends. The Italian outfit now led McLaren by 31.5 points and strengthened its hold on P3 in the Constructor standings.
Alpha Tauri stayed level on points with Alpine in the Constructor standings, thanks to Gasly's P7. The Frenchman had yet another stellar performance in the sister Red Bull, completing several overtakes on the track, getting past the Alpine duo as well. It was a frustrating day for Tsunoda in P15. The Japanese rookie had never raced at Brazil and would like to put this result behind him as soon as possible. His accident with Stroll earned him a time penalty and brought out the Safety Car, which allowed Mercedes to close up on the Red Bull cars. If Alpha Tauri hoped for securing P5 in the Constructors, it needed Tsunoda to feature in the top 10 in the final three races.
Ocon's P8 and Alonso's P9 ensured that Alpine scored as many points as Alpha Tauri. Alpine stayed P5 due to the victory earned in Hungary. It wasn't a straightforward race for the Alpine duo, with both having to defend and overtake other cars en route to the final positions.
It was a horrid weekend for McLaren in Brazil. Ricciardo was in contention for points finish until McLaren detected power issues in his engine. The Australian eventually retired. Norris suffered a puncture on the opening lap from his collision with Sainz and bagged the final point in P10. The result was far from ideal, and McLaren was fading away rapidly against a resurgent Ferrari. Overturning a 31.5 points deficit seemed highly unlikely for the Woking-based team.
Aston Martin had another point-less weekend. While Vettel finished P11, Stroll had to retire the car after suffering extensive damage from the accident with Tsunoda. Neither driver seemed to have the pace to challenge other midfield teams, and once their tyres got older, both began to fall backwards rapidly. Aston Martin was out of the race for P5 ( although not mathematically ) and running out of positives in the season.
An inspired drive by Raikkonen after a pit-lane start saw him finish P12. Only Hamilton had gained more positions than Raikkonen ( 8 vs 9 ). Giovinazzi had another mediocre pit strategy to blame for his finish in P14. He got called to the pits sooner than he would have liked ( just like Mexico ). Both drivers struggled with outright performance as soon as their tyres began to age. Alfa Romeo has work to do in the final three races, or else they will finish the season as the 9th best team.
Russell and Latifi could only manage P13 and P16 in the Williams cars. Like the Alfa Romeo drivers, the Williams duo couldn't compete with other midfield teams. Both the drivers at Haas F1 had never raced at Sao Paulo, so race finishes for both was an achievement in itself. Schumacher was in the mix until a collision with Raikkonen bumped him to the back of the pack. Mazepin also managed to keep it clean en route to his P17 finish.
The F1 circus now travels trans-Atlantic to the Middle East, with two countries hosting a Grand Prix for the first time. Momentum will play a pivotal role in the title battle, and Hamilton and Mercedes seem to have a measure of their rivals.
Hamilton was feisty, determined and purpose-driven in Brazil. Will there be a response by Verstappen in Qatar?