The Saturday in F1 Brazil GP was one-sided for Max Verstappen but there were loads of battling behind him especially in the lower points.
It was a solid start from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in F1 Brazil GP sprint race where he took the lead and never looked back. It was a controlled drive due to tyre management but he picked up little pace when McLaren’s Lando Norris started pushing.
But the Brit did not have enough legs. The two, though, had enough to stretch out from the pack behind. In fact, Norris lost to Mercedes’ George Russell but managed to take second back with the latter slipping behind a recovering Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
He held to fourth but was baffled by the huge margin to Verstappen and even Norris. His teammate Lewis Hamilton lost out to both Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda as he was troubled by the drag levels and degradation.
The Japanese driver was surprised by his pace on the new soft and almost had Leclerc, who was on a lift mode along with teammate Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard was in a hefty fight against AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.
Verstappen: “I think the initial getaway wasn’t that fantastic. I think my release wasn’t very good, but then the second bit was very strong, and I could get alongside. So that definitely helped, of course in the beginning of the race. We know 24 laps around here, it’s all about tyre management. Yeah, just incredibly difficult around here. A lot of deg. I mean, last year we were struggling a lot with that already in the Sprint race and that’s why I was a bit careful. And yeah, luckily it worked out. I mean, the whole race, the tyres, they don’t feel particularly great around here. But yeah, with the management that we did, I think it worked out and we won the race. At one point in the race it looked like, you know, Lando was catching a bit, and then I had a better feeling with the car again and I could look after the tyres a bit better and I could pull away again at the end, so yeah, it was close. And I think tomorrow also we have pit stops in the race, so you never know what can happen.”
Norris: “I was first and then second… I don’t know, I think I have to re-watch it. I’m not sure what happened. My reaction and initial drop was good but then the second phase, not so good. But that’s all I know for now. So yeah, tough opening lap I would say. Obviously not what I wanted and then always difficult to manage the tyres as much as you want, when you’re in second. But still a good race, it was still good fun. I was caught sleeping a little bit with George. He was pushing a lot on the opening couple laps and I feel like maybe he paid the price quite heavily on lap three and four and five and six and seven and eight, all the way to the end. But I tried then to get into the DRS of Max.
“I thought if I had an opportunity, I would try and get it early on, so I could kind of control the race a little bit more from out front and in some cleaner air. But I never quite got close enough and I struggled just a little bit too much, especially in the last five laps of the race, to look after the tyres as much as Max was able to do. But nevertheless a strong race and good points. As for the race, I mean, it’s always different. Definitely good confidence. You know, I didn’t do any more laps than three in a row in FP1. So we were a bit blindsided with what to expect, but of course, that was our choice. But maybe we weren’t best prepared for what to expect today, but still to be so good was a positive sign. And we’ll try and maximise that for tomorrow. Of course, I think we know what we’re aiming for. Probably not P1. But up there in the top three is probably our goal.”
Perez: “I think I just undershooted a bit, with the grip there was, and ended up losing a place to George. At that time, there was a race, but at that point, when the guys in the lead were looking after the tyres, I was sliding around fighting with Lewis, with George and I ended up paying the price later on in the race. I had a quite a bad start and poor first lap in general, losing another place to Lewis into Turn 4, which meant I had to use much more my tyres and I wanted to. I think it’s a lot to do with the degradation, you know. You hit a lot of degradation, as we saw today. Obviously, everyone will learn from the race today and tomorrow will try to improve what everyone had, including me. But generally, it’s a race when if you are close in the DRS zone, if you have good traction around the corner, then everything’s possible.”
Russell: “A tough pill to swallow there, it was really quite confusing. Unfortunately, it’s always down to these tyres and getting it into the sweet spot. I think, especially these last two weekends, nobody has really understood when it’s working for them and they find a lot of performance like we saw with Ferrari in qualifying last week, and then we found the pace in the race and suddenly, it wasn’t there for us today when we expected quite a lot. I don’t know, going into tomorrow. Right now, we’re not too optimistic but conditions are different and that can totally change everything. I enjoyed the first lap, enjoyed it with Lando. It was a bit tight but, to be honest, the pace we had was kind of in line with my expectations, it was just that everybody else was substantially quicker. Even Max, we’ve never been that far behind. He finished 25 seconds ahead in a 24 lap race, so over a second-a-lap and that was really quite surprising for us.”
Hamilton: “It was a very tough race. I don’t know, I think we got a good start and then… balance. We tried to get the right balance with the wing, just a lot of understeer, snap oversteer and the rear tyres just dropped off. And in the mid-sector, huge understeer. I don’t know whether we got the set up wrong, we probably got the setup wrong, but it is what it. I don’t think that’s going to make much difference. It’s one of those circuits that’s challenging for tyres, but that’s the worst deg I think I’ve ever had here. I can’t remember last time I had that bad a deg here.”
Leclerc: “A lot of lifting. A lot. But I mean, luckily for me tomorrow I’ll be starting second. So, hopefully much less cars in front of me after the first lap. And that will help me to be a bit in a better window compared to today. I don’t know if passing him works, I check the last lap of Max and myself. My one was a pretty good lap. I was nine tenths off, a second off. If this is the pace of the cars, then I’m pretty sure that even if I pass him that’s a bit irrelevant, because I think in two or three laps he should be passing me. But I will focus on my race. I think our main target at the moment is beating Mercedes in the constructors. We’ve had a really positive weekend looking at that. But we’ve still got a huge amount of work to do for catching both Red Bull but now also McLaren that has made a huge step forward.”
Sainz: “We would use all the worst possible sets that we had available. And we saved the good ones for tomorrow so hopefully this helps but it will not be very positive if we need to keep doing so much lift and coasts which for our temperatures was very, very tricky. We simply couldn’t push our race. I was just playing around with it seeing if it was my only way to keep position, because Daniel with a new soft was a lot quicker. And I was having to do so much lift and coast that I couldn’t even push the braking so I had to make sure I had DRS to at least be quick on the straights.”
Tsunoda: “A big surprise for me the pace we showed today, especially in the race, but yeah, we are happy. I think overall, Daniel was also having good pace as well. So, overall the team efforts and, yeah, looking forward to tomorrow. It won’t be easy as today. Because we starting from the back. But anyway we do what we can do. And yeah, at least we know that we have good pace. So yeah, try to overtake as much as possible. I think that’s possible still.”
Just outside the points, it was not only Ricciardo and Piastri but they had the Aston Martin pair of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll close behind. The Spaniard and even Alpine’s Esteban Ocon played down their sprint qualifying incident as they praised the team.
The stewards put equal blame on both as the mechanics completed a solid job of putting them in the race. It wasn’t a good outing for Williams’ Alexander Albon and even Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, as Haas’ Kevin Magnussen says their gamble didn’t work.
Ocon: “It doesn’t matter because things have happened, it was a hard one and luckily not too many bruises. I was able to race as the team did an awesome job putting the car back together which was not a guarantee. There was a lot of parts that were damaged and we got it back to how it was before which is not usually the case. Usually it feels a bit weird with the feeling of the car. It was working like before, so that’s a good thing. We got the learning from the race, we managed to finish it and gained two positions but at least we know where to improve.”
Alonso: “I think we had a good pace. Now in the race, we saw that we were fast. So yeah, we lost a possibility to score a few points. But it is way it is. Better that it happened today and not in the main qualifying yesterday. So let’s see tomorrow in the race, if we’re going to score big points. it was promising. Definitely we have to execute a good race tomorrow without any mistakes. Hopefully a good start with the strategy, and we can go through the first couple of laps without any incident. And let’s see the pace. If it’s enough to finish in the top five, top six, whatever, we will take it. I don’t think it could go either way. I think he lost the car, and unfortunately, I was in the wrong place in the wrong moment. But without losing the car, you never go there. But you know, this is the way it is.”
Albon: “It was a decent race for us today, despite being at the back. The pace was reasonable but the degradation for most drivers was massive, so it feels quite terrible to drive if I’m honest. It’s a strange one as when you have that much deg, you’d think you’d just go on harder tyres, but the Hard tyres are so bad around here, with the Softs being the only tyre with reasonable grip. I think strategy is going to be quite interesting tomorrow with it ultimately being dependent on deg, so we’ll see but hopefully we’ll be okay.”
Magnussen: “I think the way we saw this race, being on the same tyre as everyone else meant we weren’t going to get into the top eight, and we want points. We took a big risk, I didn’t quite expect everyone else to be on the softs, as only one Williams was also on mediums. We rolled the dice and tried something different to score points. We always learn but there’s nothing we can change on the car now, but at least we got a feeling on the medium tyre and a good look at everyone else on the soft.”
Bottas: “It’s been a difficult day in which we didn’t have the pace we expected, especially towards the end of the Sprint, and it was very challenging not to slide around in the corners and overheat the tyres. It seemed our difficulties were very specific to today’s conditions, and I really hope tomorrow’s expected cooler temperatures will help us improve. My race was compromised at the start – I tried to make some gains, but got squeezed out at turn two and that cost me all momentum on the straight. We had to roll the dice in the first couple of corners, but it didn’t pay off: afterwards, it was quite a frustrating race, which felt much longer than 24 laps. Still, we don’t drop our head, we will try again tomorrow: everything can happen in Brazil and we need to give it our all.”
Here’s how F1 Brazil GP sprint panned out