F1: Brazil Kicks Tensions Into Overdrive


Brazil was more than a heated race this past weekend. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Over the weekend, Formula 1 (F1) continued its 2022 season in Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix and the penultimate round of the year. This was the final sprint race of the season, which changed the normal race weekend. As a reminder, there are only two practice sessions instead of three with qualifying moved to Friday, the sprint race taking place on Saturday and the full race still being held on Sunday. Qualifying set the order for the sprint race, with the subsequent results of the sprint setting the grid for the full race.

When it came time for qualifying, the conditions on the track were mixed. It began to rain in the final part of qualifying, meaning that everyone went out on the track to set a time with dry tires which were much quicker than wet tires. In these tricky conditions, Kevin Magnussen put his Haas onto provisional pole. With the track leaving little room for error, George Russell took his Mercedes off the track and got it stuck in the gravel, bringing out the red flag and preventing anyone from setting a lap. As the track was being cleared, it started to rain even harder, and everyone realized that Magnussen would get his first ever pole position. When the green flag was shown, everyone went out on the track to see the conditions and saw that it was worse than before. As the chequered flag was shown, Magnussen grabbed pole, the first in his career and the first in the history of Haas. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was second with Russell in third.

On Saturday, when it was time for the sprint race, Magnussen kept the lead with Verstappen and Russell maintaining their positions. It didn’t take long for the lead to change. On lap three, Verstappen overtook Magnussen for the lead of the sprint race with Russell following suit on the following lap. Now it was Russell who was hunting Verstappen down. Eventually, on lap 13, Russell took the lead from Verstappen and started to build a gap. Verstappen was struggling and lost even more places to Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton. Russell won the sprint race with Sainz in second and Hamilton in third. Verstappen finished fourth with his teammate, Sergio Perez, in fifth and Sainz’s teammate, Charles Leclerc, in sixth for the race. However, Sainz was given a five place grid drop for taking a new engine part that exceeded his allocation, promoting Hamilton into second to make it a Mercedes front row with Red Bull locking out the second row.

When the lights went out on Sunday, Russell got a good start and was able to stay in the lead ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen and Perez. Halfway through the first lap, the safety car was called out due to the retirements of Magnussen and Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren. Ricciardo tried to make a move on the inside but tagged the back of the Haas, forcing him to spin out and hit the barrier, ending his and Magnussen’s race. When the race resumed, Russell kept the lead while Verstappen tried to pass Hamilton but the pair collided with Verstappen coming off worse. Hamilton fell down to eighth with Verstappen receiving a five-second time penalty for “causing a collision.” In the same lap, Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris was involved in an incident with Leclerc. Leclerc tried to pass Norris on the outside but ended up colliding with Norris, sending his Ferrari into the barrier. He was able to keep the car running and resumed. With all of this chaos, Russell was able to stay in the front and build a gap to second-placed Perez with Sainz up into third place overall.

As the race continued, Hamilton started to pick his way through the pack and got into fourth on lap 14. On lap 17, Sainz blinked first and pitted for tires. Perez then pitted on lap 23 with Russell pitting a lap later, promoting Hamilton into first for the time being. On lap 29, Hamilton relinquished the lead by pitting and came out in fourth with Russell leading ahead of Perez in second and Sainz in third. Hamilton was chasing Sainz and on lap 38, Sainz pitted again, promoting Hamilton into the podium places. Meanwhile, Perez started to drop back from Russell, giving Mercedes a chance to win their first race of the season. On lap 45, Hamilton breezed past Perez to make it a Mercedes 1-2 order.

Perez pitted again on lap 47 for new tires. Mercedes then made the call to pit Hamilton on the following lap in order to protect him from the undercut. Hamilton pitted and emerged just ahead of Perez, ensuring that they didn’t lose position. But now, both Hamilton and Perez were behind Sainz, who moved up into second. Russell also pitted on lap 49 but was able to emerge from the pits still in first.
On lap 52, the virtual safety car was called out due to Norris retiring from the race from engine failure, causing a flurry of activity in the pit lane with Sainz taking advantage and pitting for soft tires. On lap 55, the virtual safety car was replaced with the full safety car, causing all of the cars to bunch up. This set up a sprint to the finish with 16 laps remaining. The order was now Russell, Hamilton, Perez and Sainz with Leclerc in fifth. Perez was the only one in the top five to be on medium tires with the rest of the drivers being on quicker soft tires.

On lap 60, racing resumed with Russell getting away cleanly but Hamilton hot on his trail. Sainz was all over Perez and was finally able to pass the Red Bull on lap 63 with Leclerc passing Perez on lap 64. Perez continued to fall down the order, losing the place to Fernando Alonso’s Alpine. He was even overtaken by Verstappen who was having a brilliant recovery drive after the collision and penalty.
After 71 laps, Russell crossed the finish line to win the Brazil Grand Prix, giving him his first career win and Mercedes’ first win of the season, an incredible achievement based on where they started back in Bahrain. Hamilton finished second with Sainz in third, Leclerc in fourth and Alonso in fifth. Verstappen was told to give the position back to Perez, who was fighting for second in the drivers’ standings but didn’t do so, crossing the finish line in sixth ahead of Perez. Perez was furious with this, since Verstappen already has the title sewn up and Perez is fighting Leclerc for second where every point counts. Verstappen said that he had his reasons for not letting Perez through, with team principal Christian Horner saying that the team will fully support Perez as he tries to finish second in the driver’s standings.
With one race remaining, attention turns to the Yas Marina circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which served up last year’s major titanic title decider.

With the win, Mercedes cut down the gap to Ferrari to 19 points. As for the drivers, Perez and Leclerc are deadlocked for second place with Leclerc ahead due to winning more races in the season with three wins compared to Perez’s two. It may not be as dramatic as last year, but expect the teams and drivers to give it their all to conclude their seasons on a high note.