F1 – Brazilian GP – Race
Olá, MiniFans! Interlagos woke up to a perfectly sunny day, hopefully a sign of what was to come. Friday’s qualifying left us with the usual poleman this season, but the almost instant change in the weather meant that quick thinking and acting was more important than speed. Aston Martin read the conditions perfectly, which allowed them to go out first and score a lockout second row, which raised spirits in a team that needs it.
The formation lap came with a shock under its arm, as Leclerc losing the hydraulic system made him crash into the barriers, eliminating him from second place. Despite this, the tace kicked off as normal, but Leclerc’s crash was only a small taste of what would happen at the start. Norris’ impeccable reaction helped him to get past everyone in front of him save for Verstappen, while Hamilton did the same on the right side, finishing turn one right behind his compatriot. However, the midfield didn’t experience a clean kick-off. Hulkenberg’s front right and Albon’s rear left collided, sending the Williams spinning and into the other Haas, leaving both out of the race. A safety car ensued, which soon turned into a red flag to recover cars and fix barriers.
The melee not only affected those in the crash, but also Ricciardo, who got caught up in all the debris, including a flying tyre casing that impacted on the AlphaTauri’s rear wing. Both him and Piastri, who got told his car wasn’t safe to drive, were pulled into the pits to repair their vehicles. This instance helped them rejoin the race, but they would start from the pitlane during the standing start procedure, as the changes made weren’t in the umbrella of those allowed in the fast lane during a red flag period, as well as lapped due to having entered the pits one lap before everyone else.
This second start was clean, with Norris trying and failing to overtake Verstappen, who quickly started to open up a gap. Meanwhile, Alonso got the upper hand on Hamilton, redeeming himself from his first start and climbing up into third with an overtake in turn 4. He started to open up his own gap to his former teammate as Russell asked Mercedes to work together, assuring them that he wouldn’t attack so that they both could get to the Spaniard. Back at the front, Verstappen wasn’t having a great time, as Norris had caught up to him. However, just one try by the McLaren later, Verstappen clicked on the rocket and shot out into the distance.
Mercedes’ concerns about their tyres were crystal clear in the pace of their drivers: Hamilton’s tyre management created a train of cars that ended up helping Pérez pass Russell. The Red Bull also overtook the seven-time world champion as soon as he reached him, starting to close the eight-second gap to Alonso and the podium. The Silver Arrows were also the first of the top guns to pit for mediums, a good handful of laps before everyone else save for Pérez, who did it just one lap after them and lost the previously gained position to Hamilton, which was less than amusing to the Mexican driver.
The mediums weren’t working too well for Mercedes, their degradation problems dragging on the whole weekend, while Aston Martin, who had barely had a chance to test them, seemed to be having the complete opposite experience, as Stroll easily overtook the Mercedes and Alonso hung onto third halfway through the race. The only Ferrari still in contention, Sainz, didn’t struggle too much either to pass the Mercedes.
Back in the fight for the only podium position up for grabs, Pérez couldn’t quite reach Alonso’s DRS zone, helped by Aston Martin’s new found race pace and somewhat fresher tyres. The Spaniard even increased the distance to the Red Bull, consistently pulling faster laps.
The second wave of stops was kicked off by Russell, desperate to get rid of the mediums for softs, a choice also made by a disgruntled Hamilton who complained about having preferred hards as he saw himself in a battle with an Alpine. Pérez pitted as well, trying to undercut Alonso, but it didn’t work out, as the Spaniard visited his box in the following lap and left the pitlane three seconds in front.
The gap between the two Spanish speakers started to slowly trickle away as Pérez chomped at it, getting close enough to be able to open his DRS, but Alonso’s expertise helped him to keep the faster car behind, defending the podium with his life for many laps. Meanwhile, Russell was instructed to retire the car, one more among the sea of DNFs of the day. With only two circuit lengths to go, Pérez finally managed to get past Alonso, making it stick, but the Spaniard hadn’t said his last word and got past again on the outside of turn 4, managing to edge the Red Bull by barely half a tenth of a second over the finish line, returning to the podium many races after his last one.
Interlagos is part of a group of tracks where racing is never boring and something always happens. Circuits like these provide a kind of magic that allows one hit wonders, such as a Magnussen pole, or is a witness to resurrections, Like Aston Martin’s. Once Norris had made it up to second in the start, the only real question was who would occupy the third step of the podium, a fight that went down to the wire and saw Alonso as the winner of the duel, overshadowing the true winner of the race.