The Brazilian Grand Prix was an instant classic, but a difficult spectacle to summarise with so many things happening across the race.
So, for our usual Sunday evening round-up, we thought we would pick out the standout performers and the people with a lot to think about on the journey back home.
Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton is box office
Lewis Hamilton has met his match in Max Verstappen. The weeks leading up to the Brazilian Grand Prix were full of plaudits for Hamilton following his sixth championship victory at the U.S. Grand Prix, but Verstappen deserves glowing praise for his performance throughout this weekend.
No-one needed convincing of Verstappen’s pedigree before this race but it felt like a significant display. We had a tantalising glimpse of a wheel-to-wheel Verstappen-Hamilton fight at the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this year and the sequel surpassed the original in quality.
The two fought for the lead earlier in the race, almost coming to blows but giving each other just enough space on the race track. I had expected them to collide during the race, given the increasingly tense feeling between the two in recent months, but they kept it clean.
Verstappen’s crowning moment came after the first Safety Car restart 10 laps from the end, finding space on the outside of Hamilton and passing the Mercedes driver through Turn 1. If we can get a few more instalments of Verstappen-Hamilton in 2021 that season won’t be in bad shape whatsoever.
Pierre’s popular podium
It was hard not to feel incredibly happy for Pierre Gasly at the end of that race. It’s been an odd 2019 – he struggled for form at the start of the year having been elevated to Red Bull and was demoted to Toro Rosso in August. Ahead of his first race back with his former team, his close friend Anthoine Hubert was killed in an F2 crash at Spa-Francorchamps.
Gasly has been in great form back at Toro Rosso and he put himself in a perfect place to capitalise on the remarkable chaos at the end of the race. The Frenchman qualified best of the rest and ran in that spot for most of the race, so its hard to characterise his elevation to the podium in the closing stages as merely good fortune.
Red Bull has already confirmed Albon will keep the seat alongside Max Verstappen next season, but the podium will only reinforce Gasly’s growing confidence in that seat.
Sunday Sainz delivers again
Carlos Sainz is a beast on Sundays. Here, he started 20th after an engine issue on his McLaren meant he failed to set a lap in qualifying. The Spaniard had to battle his way back through the field and, like Gasly, was perfectly placed when an opportunity presented itself late on.Sainz was overlooked by Red Bull last year and allowed to fall away from its driver programme.
He’s been doing a great job of proving his worth at McLaren this season and a podium seemed like a fitting way to cap the best season of his F1 career so far. It was also a mega moment for an improving McLaren outfit, its first podium since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. The team has now secured fourth position in the championship, another indication that this famous team might finally be on the right track back towards former glories.
Good things come to those who wait… ⏳🤩
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) November 17, 2019
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) November 17, 2019
Albon unlucky, but shows his mettle
Alexander Albon should have been the Red Bull driver enjoying the view from the Interlagos podium, but Lewis Hamilton’s clumsy overtaking attempt put paid to that on the final lap. It will sting for the time being, but Albon can take comfort in the fact that this was far and away his best performance at Red Bull since that switch, with a decisive move on Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages the highlight. Red Bull boss Christian Horner was quick to point out as much after the race and that is valuable credit in the bank at an event which saw his primary rival for Red Bull machinery in the long-term claim the best result of his career.
Hamilton ruins Albon’s day
Hamilton played his part in a thrilling grand prix, starring in two wheel-to-wheel fights with Verstappen as mentioned above, but he added to the drama in the closing stages. While chasing Albon he misjudged a gap at Turn 10 and punted the Thai driver out of contention on the final lap of the race. It’s rare to see a Hamilton mistake these days – seriously, try to list some on one hand. Perhaps it’s the mark of a champion that he saved one of his biggest blunders of the season for the race after wrapping up the title.
Ricciardo’s mail strike
Daniel Ricciardo once famously said he “licked the stamp and sent it” when asked to describe a late-braking passing move on Valtteri Bottas. Brazil wasn’t one of his better attempts, with the Australian getting caught up in a uncharacteristically clumsy move on Haas’ Kevin Magnussen on the inside of Turn 4 early in the race which rightfully led to a five-second penalty.
Ferrari finds new ways to lose
Man, it’s difficult watching Ferrari at times, isn’t it?
It’s been an up-and-down year for the Scuderia but this second half of the season has had a better feel to it, albeit before Ferrari’s engine seemed to lose some of its competitive edge over the past two races – some point to a recently-published technical directive for that one. It was clear at Interlagos from the early stages of the race Ferrari wasn’t going to The clash looked like Vettel’s fault.
Having got himself alongside Leclerc down the stretch of road leading down to Turn 4, he listed lazily to the left, prompting contact. Vettel has previous in this department which makes it easier to apportion the blame with him – he had a similar collision with Mark Webber at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix, while he drifted to the left and into contact with Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen at the start of the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix.
Both drivers were quick to point the finger at their teammate, although the stewards found neither driver “wholly or predominantly to blame”. However you slice it up, it will have given Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto a lot to contemplate on the long flight across the Atlantic back to Italy.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 17, 2019