F1 – Brazil GP – Race

Olá, MiniFans! Brazil is back and with more at stake than in the last handful of seasons. The championship battle is hotter than ever, to which we need to add Hamilton’s penalty, which means he will be right in the midst of the midfielders and at risk of one of the track’s infamous lap one spins. Furthermore, the tension can be felt in the air after what has been going on regarding his rear wing and Verstappen’s fine for touching it.

Verstappen managed to return Bottas’ overtake from yesterday in a brilliant start that soon saw him and his teammate in front of the silver arrow, but the problems came a bit further back. Norris caught himself in an incident with Sainz that left him with a rear left puncture, which made him het back to boxes for another set of fresh tyres at the end of the first lap. Meanwhile, Hamilton made his way back up to third in just a couple of laps, while Tsunoda’s front wing and half the side of the car basically disappeared in a collision with Stroll that only seemed hurtful for the Alpha Tauri. However, the carbon fibre pieces remained in the first two turns and prompted a safety car that pushed the Red Bulls and Mercedes together.

Verstappen’s skill with the restarts behind the safety car showed once again as he and Pérez managed to pull away from the Mercedes duo. Another safety car, this time a virtual one, was deployed to recover, once again, pieces from a front wing. Luckily, it was short and didn’t come to more, as Schumacher basically had it under his car. The green flag was waved and racing resumed once again. The fight within the top teams started between Pérez and Hamilton, who had a bit of a back and forth until Hamilton made his second overtake stick and thus the hunt for the championship leader began.

When the gap wasn’t getting smaller, Mercedes started the first attack by pitting Hamilton, but the hand played wasn’t as good as they’d hoped. Having left the boxes behind Ricciardo and needing to overtake him, Verstappen left comfortably in front of him, although the gap had been reduced by around two seconds. Another very brief virtual safety car later, Verstappen was back on the lead and Hamilton was closing in, but could never get close enough to activate the DRS, despite sporting the hard tyres that usually work better for him than Red Bull. After a radio asking Hamilton what tyres he’d prefer if they were to pit again, it was Verstappen who got a fresh set of hards and kept the gap to Hamilton small enough so that if he were to pit too, he’d be behind. Mercedes’ decision to pit him was met with confusion, as he did, in fact, leave behind Verstappen and with a bigger gap than to start.

Neither of the Mercedes drivers was happy with their team’s decisions regarding stops and they made it known over radio. Despite this, Hamilton reduced the gap to DRS range for the first time in the race and wasn’t squeamish about it, but Verstappen wasn’t either, forcing Hamilton out  and getting himself an annotation that did not result in an investigation. A handful of laps later, Hamilton was back on Verstappen’s rear wing and, after a couple of attempts, he finally managed to overtake him and make it stick.

The last ten laps became a show of Hamilton’s pace on used hard tyres, while Mercedes egged Bottas on to try and catch Verstappen. It only remained to see whether Red Bull would pit Pérez to steal the fastest lap point away from Hamilton, which seemed the obvious choice given that he was half a minute in front of Leclerc and would never catch Bottas for third. They finally did it in the second to last lap so that it could not be stolen from them. The softs fitted on the Mexican’s car allowed him to pulverize Hamilton’s time and earned his team one more point.

After the events on Friday, many regarded this race as already lost for Hamilton. However, the pace shown in the sprint qualifying made many recover their faith in the seven-time world champion, who had made his way up to fifth in one third of the Sunday race distance. On Sunday, it did seem at times that Verstappen might get away with another win, but Hamilton was too strong to be tamed. With only three more races on the calendar, two of them being held in brand new circuits for F1 and the third one in a modified track, anything can happen.