What just happened in Brazil?

In due time, we’ll get into how everything played out during the São Paulo Grand Prix. But first, we must say, if there was ever an argument needed for Interlagos to keep its place on the Formula 1 calendar, simply point to the 2022 São Paulo Grand Prix weekend.

Every session was unpredictable, and we had the Firsts for two drivers and a constructor. We had differing strategies, overtakes, changing conditions, safety cars, penalties, a Hamilton-Verstappen clash, and a return to P1 for Mercedes.

And we learned what we already knew: Max Verstappen is a ruthless and aggressive competitor, which makes him an incredible racer and a lousy teammate.

Without further ado, we’ve got three sessions to review. The first might have been one of the wildest qualifying sessions ever.

“Hello, Netflix? Are You Watching This?”: A HAAS WINS QUALIFYING

Qualifying started in changing conditions and ended with each driver getting one shot on an increasingly wet track. Over Q1 and Q2, the front runners were constantly under threat of missing out on making the cut as the track improved. The timing screen lit up with green and purple sectors and rolled over every time a car crossed the start/finish line.

Unbelievably, in the end, Kevin Magnussen scored his first pole position in his one-hundredth start for Haas, achieving Haas’ first pole position as a constructor. Magnussen’s lap wasn’t the best in any particular sector, but it was a fantastic overall performance.

As the conditions worsened, teams needed to act quickly and decisively – something that almost cost Ferrari their spots in Q3. Decisive action is what gave Haas pole position out of the pitlane for Q3 and to start the Sprint race on Saturday.

It also hand-delivered Netflix the climax for the Haas, and Kevin Magnussen return story episode.

São Paulo Grand Prix Fastest Qualifier

Kevin Magnussen – Haas (Yeah, we still can’t believe it either): 1:11.674.

The First of Mr. Consistencies’ Two Firsts: The São Paulo Sprint

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon aren’t ending their relationship on the best terms as the drivers caused enough damage in unnecessary contact to compromise both Ocon and Alonso’s sprint. Yes, the incident was caused by Fernando Alonso who lost his front wing and damaged Ocon’s car.

Alonso’s future team, “the green car” as Alonso puts it, weren’t without inner-team rivalries blowing up as Lance Stroll proved that his racecraft needs dramatic improvement as he attempted to run Sebastian Vettel off the track on the start/finish straight. Stroll earned a ten-second time penalty for his efforts, while Vettel took to the grass and took the position from his slower teammate.

However, Mr. Consistency – who we should add continued his streak consistent pattern of finishing in the top 6 with his performances in Brazil – was the story of the Sprint. With Red Bull struggling with tires and understeer, Russell built momentum over multiple laps closing in on a slower Verstappen on the medium compound tire that didn’t really work for anyone all weekend.

Russell put the final move on the Red Bull out of turn four and took off into the distance to get his first Formula 1 Sprint Race Victory. Verstappen fell down the order to fourth, but a five=place grid penalty dropped Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz from second to seventh, giving us a Mercedes front-row lockout for the Grand Prix.

After starting on the pole for the Sprint, Magnussen dropped back to eighth.

São Paulo Sprint Race Top Six

P1: George Russell – Mercedes
P2: Carlos Sainz – Ferrari
P3: Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
P4: Max Verstappen – Red Bull
P5: Sergio Pérez – Red Bull
P6: Charles Leclerc -Ferrari

Russell’s Second First of the Weekend: The São Paulo Grand Prix

With two safety car periods, a safe car procedure controversy (not again…), a Verstappen-Hamilton clash, and a double DNF for McLaren, there is a lot to review here, so we’re not going to try.

However, it’s lights out, and away we go for our hot lap of the São Paulo Grand Prix.

George Russell led from lap one, essentially sealing his victory as he pushed his W-13 through Curva do Sol (turn 4). From here, Mercedes had to play the strategy game correctly, and they did that, engineering Russell and Hamilton to a 1-2 finish, securing Mercedes a Grand Prix win in a season when that seemed improbable fifteen races and many months ago.

Daniel Ricciardo is choosing to go out with a bang by literally crashing into Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, ending both their Grand Prix on the first lap. Ricciardo was like any road car driver stuck in traffic who got a little too close and caused a fender bender. Only instead of pulling over to asses damage, health, and exchange info, Magnussen’s car spun around to take out Ricciardo in true “what comes around, goes around fashion.”

Ricciardo’s McLaren teammate Lando Norris had his MCL-36 grind to a halt on lap 50, eventually giving us a late-safety car period.

Remember how we said the mediums weren’t working for anyone? Well, Sergio Pérez began to fall back from P3 on medium tires as Carlos Sainz charged to the front on newer softs. Leclerc, who recovered masterfully (and shockingly) from a hard shunt into the wall by Lando Norris earlier in the race to pass Pérez too. Fernando Alonso continued his recovery drive from the sprint, passing Checo for P5.

With the podium all but set, enter Max Verstappen. Verstappen was charging from the back of the grid after his continued hard, and unrelenting driving against Lewis Hamilton cost him a front wing, pitstop, and a time penalty for the incident, which should have been ruled a racing incident. Verstappen passed Checo with the intention of catching Alonso and Leclerc. What happens next requires its own section.

However, nothing can overshadow Kevin Magnussen’s shocking pole positon or Mercedes’s return to form and a 1-2 finish. George Russell was fantastic all weekend and earned his first Sprint and Grand Prix victory, controlling the race and race restarts masterfully and making good on his almost win for Mercedes during the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020.

São Paulo Grand Prix Top 6

P1: George Russel – Mercedes (1:38:34.044)
P2: Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes (+1.529)
P3: Carlos Sainz – Ferrari (+4.051)
P4: Charles Leclerc – Ferrari (+8.441)
P5: Fernando Alonso – Alpine (+9.561)
P6: Max Verstappen – Red Bull (+10.056)

All is Not Well In the Red Bull Camp

Sergio Pérez is engaged in the only battle Red Bull have to fight for, fighting for second in the Drivers’ standings against Charles Lecerc. For his part, a runner-up position will likely be Pérez’s highest finish in the World Championship standings in his career. For Red Bull, this is a chance to do something they haven’t done, even when Sebastian Vettel and Mark Weber were the dominant duo in the RB’s: win a double World Champion with both drivers finishing 1-2 in the final Drivers’ standings.

This is clearly something important to Red Bull and Checho, considering Checo asked twice for a one-position swap during the São Paulo Grand Prix and the Sprint. Both times he was rejected by the number 1 car.

Max Verstappen is a two-time world champion, locked into Red Bull as the team’s lead driver, and is as ruthless and forthright as he seems on and off the track. He also seems to exact revenge where and when he can. You might win a Constructor’s World Championship as a number two driver at Red Bull, but you will also have to deal with Max Verstappen: world champion and lousy teammate.

That is unless next weekend proves different and Verstappen lives up to his words. Verstappen refused to follow direct team orders to let Cehco have P6 back to help him in his fight with Leclerc for P2. Verstappen wasn’t having it. Verstappen laid out his reasoning for eschewing team orders in a brazen, brash, and forthright radio communication when asked what happened on the cool-down lap.

Allegedly, Verstappen extracted some sort of justice and retribution against Pérez for crashing during the Monaco Grand Prix qualifying and stopping Max from finishing his final flying lap, which was on pace for pole. Verstappen’s father, former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, and the Dutch media have alleged that Checo crashed intentionally, focusing on telemetry that showed Pérez getting on the throttle early and hard in a corner he struggled with throughout the session.

Regardless, Max Verstappen claimed after the race that he and Checo were now even, issues resolved, and he will help Pérez with Leclerc if he needs it in Abu Dhabi. Yet, we think Checo’s message after both team principal Christian Horner apologized and race engineer Hugh Bird said, “we’ll debrief after” to Checo is a perfect estimation of Verstappen as a racer and teammate: it shows who he really is.

Verstappen may have soured the relationship with Checho and has given another warning to any potential teammates: you might be both on Team Red Bull, but Team Verstappen is all that matters, and you’re not on that team.

Even when you become a “legend” and gain the loving moniker “the Minister of Defence,” you are not and will never be on Team Verstappen. That’s a one-driver team.

Verstappen has one more chance to prove he is a better teammate than what he has shown so far in his career. Pérez and Leclerc are tied on points heading into the final race of the 2022 Formula 1 season. We’ll see if Mercedes are truly back, if Verstappen’s thirst for revenge has been quenched, and he lives up to his word and actually helps Checo if he needs it in his fight with Leclerc.

Round 22, the final chapter of the 2022 Formula 1 season, takes place from Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from November 18-20th.

 


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