The Brazil GP saw Lewis Hamilton pick up an impressive win and reduce the deficit in the championship race against Max Verstappen.
Formula 1 returned to Brazil this weekend, and the expectation was that anything can happen. In truth, that is almost always the case when the Brazil GP rolls into town. The Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace has been home to more than a number of suspensful and thrilling races.
This weekend was different, however; the title would not be officially decided in Brazil, but it’s direction would become clearer. A Max Verstappen win would have significantly extended his lead atop the standings.
The good news for fans in general is that, with Lewis Hamilton’s victory, the direction of the title remains undecided. What has been F1’s most thrilling title battle in years will go down to the final three races.
As always though, the race week left us with plenty to ponder. Let us now look at the major talking points from the Brazil GP 2021.
When Lewis Hamilton, winner of 101 F1 races, says that this was one of his best weekends ever in the sport, you can understand just how much the victory meant to him. This isn’t solely down to the fact that he kept the 2021 title race alive. It also has to do with what he needed to get past to claim the victory.
Hamilton took pole on Friday qualifying for the sprint, but was disqualified due to a rear wing that didn’t meet the regulations. That meant he started the sprint last. He clawed his way back up to 5th but, having taken a new internal combustion engine unit, took another five-place penalty.
Thus, he started from 10th but was able to register a win in the end. And it required him to be at his absolute best; not only was plenty of overtaking needed, it was also needed in quick succession. He was partially helped by a Safety Car period, as well as two Virtual Safety Cars, but take nothing away from the drive the defending world champ put in.
Coming into raceday, Max Verstappen and Red Bull knew the Mercedes was the quicker car. Therefore, this race was always going to be about getting whatever points were possible. Verstappen said as much afterwards, saying his finish was ‘damage limitation’ given the pace of the Silver Arrows.
Indeed, the title is still his to lose. But he can count himself very lucky to have avoided a penalty when, on Lap 48, he pushed Hamilton and himself off the track in a defensive move to save position. Hamilton, with the aid of DRS, had his car slightly ahead when Verstappen turned inwards.
The stewards took note but deemed no investigation was needed, something which even the on-air commentators seemed surprised at. It didn’t matter much in the end as Hamilton got the move done anyway. But it did not lead to much easing of tensions off the track.
Continuing on from the previous point, the tension over a lack of a penalty for Verstappen permeated through the Mercedes team. When Hamilton was informed over the lack of a penalty over team radio by engineer Peter Bonnington a.k.a Bonno, his response was dripping with sarcasm. “Of course man, of course,” came his reply even as he drove at 200 miles per hour.
The tension also got to team principal Toto Wolff. “Get him Valtteri,” he growled at Bottas in an attempt to get the Finn to pass Verstappen for second place. It did not happen, but afterwards Wolff made his feelings on the Verstappen-Hamilton incident clear, saying there would be ‘no more diplomacy’ in dealing with such things.
Hang this in the Louvre. 😂 pic.twitter.com/Xk9Ah6L8pB
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 14, 2021
Given Mercedes and Red Bull have been involved in several verbal volleys through the year, this won’t do much to ease tensions going into the final three races. Many will say it is churlish behavior, and they would have a point. Many would also, however, point out that a better degree of consistency is required from the FIA over what constitutes ‘hard and fair racing’ given drivers have been seemingly punished for less this season itself.
Given the pace they showed in qualifying, many expected the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to be mixing it up with the Red Bulls and Mercedes cars. That didn’t happen, of course, but finishes of P5 and P6 for Leclerc and Sainz, respectively, still capped a decent weekend for the Scuderia.
Their car lacked the pace to even compete against the midfield in 2020. At present, they are on course to seal the ‘best of the rest’ tag over McLaren, which is good progress. It was helped, of course, by the McLaren’s having a poor weekend. Lando Norris finished 10th after an opening lap puncture in an incident with Sainz. Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, had to retire the car due to engine issues.
Ferrari are currently 30.5 points ahead of McLaren, which is a decent gap going into the final three races. Whether McLaren can do anything to pull this back remains to be seen.
Poor Yuki Tsunoda. The young Japanese driver’s raw talent and potential is obvious, but he is becoming renowned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and – worse still – indirectly causing pain to parent team Red Bull in the process.
At Mexico, he was pilloried by all and sundry for unintentionally obstructing Verstappen and Perez. And while that was harsh, his move on Lance Stroll during the race which saw him break his front wing and leave debris on the track. This required a Virtual Safety Car, which reduced the gap between the Red Bull’s and the Merc’s up front.
The move Tsunoda made was unnecessary, but it also spoke of a driver desperate to right his flailing career path. His drive for 2022 is secured with AlphaTauri, but one gets the feeling the season’s end can’t come quickly enough for Tsunoda.