Blog 5 - F1 Goes Nuts In Brazil
As you will already know, Max Verstappen emerged victorious in quite frankly epic Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos – a result which was not really a surprise, but it doesn’t even begin to tell the story of this incredible race. It’s hard to know exactly where to start, so oddly we’ll start briefly at the end, and congratulate Pierre Gasly on taking a 2nd position that nobody will have seen coming. Gasly held off a late charge from 3rd place finisher Lewis Hamilton to take the spot on the podium less than a week after Alex Albon (who replaced Gasly at Red Bull) was confirmed as the second driver for the big-brother team for 2020. I wonder if the powers that be at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing are pondering that quite hasty decision….?
Hamilton incidentally may have finished third but a five-second penalty (more on that later) dropped him to seventh in the official race result. This promoted Carlos Sainz on to podium for his first top 3 finish in F1 after starting plum last, and gave McLaren a long overdue podium (their last went to Kevin Magnussen, in case you were wondering!) So to the race....
Hamilton vs Verstappen Max Verstappen took pole on Saturday with a majestic qualifying lap, and despite Sebastian Vettel starting 2nd ahead of Hamilton in 3rd, this was billed as Verstappen vs Hamilton, due to the twiaty mid-section of the magnificent Autodromo Interlagos doing the quick-in-a-straight-line Ferrari no favours.
The safety cars would come out towards the tail end of this race, we’ll get to those shortly as a dramatic end to the race saw collisions between Lewis Hamilton and Alex Albon, and the two Ferraris Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. Before these emerged, the race was frenetic, and Hamilton and Verstappen were very much to the fore.
Once the five red lights vanished, Verstappen led the field away from pole, while Hamilton dialled his Mercedes in perfectly to leapfrog Vettel into the now iconic turns one and two, the Senna Esses, in an attempt to get himself onto the back of the Red Bull which was son impressive in qualifying. It wasn’t to be as the young Dutchman, seemingly on a one-stop strategy with great race pace rapidly built a two-second lead over the Englishman and the chasing pack behind – a chasing pack that soon lost the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, as Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo stuck his nose into the left hand of the Dane’s car at Descido do Lago (or Turn 4 to me and you!) and punted the Haas from the tarmac. Not a wise move so early in the race, as Ricciardo needed to come in for a new nose and dropped to the rear of the field.
With the Silver Arrow of Hamilton failing to make any inroads into Verstappen’s lead it was Mercedes who blinked first on lap 21, bring the Englishman for the first of his two planned stops in an attempt to undercut Verstappen. Red Bull responded a lap later by bringing in Verstappen and switching to a two-stopper in the knowledge they simply had a faster car here. However their hopes of retaining the race lead were inadvertently dashed by Williams, who released Robert Kubica directly into the Red Bull's path in the pit lane leading Verstappen to to take evasive action to avoid hitting the struggling Grove outfit’s Polish pilot. For this, Williams were handed 5-second penalty which, let’s face it, makes no difference. Hamilton was now ahead but the lead lasted only one lap as Verstappen hurtled up behind him on his out lap from the pit lane mix up and overtook him into turn one. Advantage Red Bull.
It should be said that while this was a most enjoyable watch, not a lot happened in the mid-part of the race but this will soon be forgotten as with 20 laps of the tussle remaining, and with Verstappen and Hamilton well ahead of the field it seemed the drama was going to unfold between these two super racers and the Brazilian Grand Prix was set up for another hammer-and-tongs battle for the race victory. However, it was Valtteri Bottas who accidentally set into motion a chain reaction that is to be seen to believed – his usually reliable Mercedes suffered and engine failure (indeed this was Mercedes' DNF of the season that wasn’t down to an accident). This led to the standard Safety Car deployment, and a head-scratcher for Mercedes and Red Bull regarding what to do with their front-runners.
Verstappen, again with the pace advantage pitted while Hamilton did not, Mercedes clearly hoping to get cars between them and the Red Bull and hoping the tyres would cling on to the end of proceedings while Red Bull armed the Dutchman with fresh tyres on which to attack the newly crowned six-time champion. It proved to be Red Bull who called the situation correctly, and Verstappen passed Hamilton pretty easily shortly after the restart, retaking the lead. A lead he would not relinquish.
The Safety Car naturally caused the chasing pack to bunch up, and after the restart the mightily impressive Alex Albon threw the second Red Bull around the outside of Vettel’s Ferrari to take third and the same moment Verstappen took the lead. Hamilton now split the Red Bulls and the Ferraris were going head to head for fourth. Soon there was to be the first of two huge talking points in the closing stages of this contest…
…the first came on on Lap 66 when Leclerc and Vettel collided.
Leclerc had put on a fresh set of tyres, the soft compound (no relation!) and overtook Vettel into the popular overtaking spot down the inside of turn one pushing Vettel to the outside, but as the German looked to retake the position following the Senna Esses, he (in our eyes) edged to the left while outside and alongside Leclerc and the two scarlet cars touched. The contact was absolutely minimal, but Vettel’s left rear had clipped the front wing of the Monegasque, not only slicing it in two but causing Leclerc’s front right to shred and remove itself from the car as it slid off at turn 4 – both cars were out, and both drivers were livid on the team radio. It was Leclerc who had far more right to be. We would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in Ferrari’s post-race debrief… ouch! Or “Ahia!” as they say at Marinello.
Cue another Safety Car, and in a risky call Mercedes chose to pit Hamilton – this seemed like the wrong call form our perspective, and so it was confirmed as he dropped back to fourth with so few laps remaining. As it was, the Englishman only had two clear laps to attack Gasly (who had driven beatifull through the carnage ,we should add), Albon and race leader Verstappen, the latter being a seemingly forlorn pursuit.
Despite the Frenchman’s super drive, Gasly was soon gobbled up by Hamilton who immediately set his sights on the Red Bull of Albon… and so followed huge talking number 2… …in the uphill-downhill twisty section of mid-lap at Interlagos, Albon appeared to leave the door open down the inside at turn 10 and as any driver would, Hamilton dived into the gap but from our standpoint he was clearly carrying far too much speed, perhaps a rare rush of blood. When Albon then rightly and safely turned into the corner contact was inevitable and it was Albon who went pirouetting to the fringes of the circuit and with him went his chance of a first Formula One podium – it should be said that Hamilton immediately took the blame and offered his apology to Albon at the first opportunity in Parc Ferme.
This incident however, allowed Gasly to move up into an unlikely second and the drama wasn't complete as Hamilton came back at Gasly in his injured Mercedes (which had sustained nose-damage) – but happily for those of us who love a surprise result and an underdog, the Toro Rosso just held on finishing just six-hundredths of a second ahead in second place, securing Gasly and Toro Rosso a scarcely believable podium. Cue utter pandemonium in their pit, and emotional radio transmission for a long-overdue Honda one-two, and a social media video that can’t help but make you smile – we urge you to watch it. It’s glorious!
Carlos Sainz had started at the back of the grid here, and through superbly controlled driving and through all the carnage and safety cars, the Spaniard crossed the line in fourth. He would later be promoted to third after Hamilton was handed a 5-second penalty for the Albon incident, but cruelly he didn’t get to stand on the podium after such a strong comeback drive. Huge congratulation to McLaren on a podium that highlights their stellar improvement of the last 3 seasons.
And so, the Interlagos race was one of those that pokes a finger into the eye of those who continually trawl up the tiresome “Formula 1 is boring” drone. This contained enthralling wheel-to-wheel battles between Verstappen and Hamilton, a near pit-lane disaster for Red Bull, spins, contact, team-mates colliding and utter chaos.
Through it all Verstappen took a superb third race win of 2019. It does seem that every time Verstappen wins, the race is never short of drama, and historically the Brazilian Grand Prix is often full of incident and excitement. Today was definitely no different!
The F1 circus rolls on to the season’s curtain-closer at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit this weekend. Quite frankly, the UAE race is generally dull on a high speed but uninspiring track. Let’s see if we have anything to write about at it’s conclusion…
As always, we welcome your comments and opinions, just keep them subjective and free from insults – that’s how The Hard Compound rolls!
See you next time all, and thank you for supporting our page.
Rich - THC