F1 Brazilian Grand Prix: What we learned, from Mercedes’ 2023 chances to Verstappen’s selfish radio message

f1 brazilian grand prix what we learned from mercedes 2023 chances to verstappens selfish radio message

George Russell took the first victory of his Formula One career and Mercedes‘ first win of the season with a thoroughly impressive, controlled drive at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old was out in front from start to finish in a chaotic race at Interlagos, and led home a 1-2 with team-mate Lewis Hamilton behind in second, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz joining them on the podium with a solid third-place finish.

Hamilton and arch-rival Max Verstappen had made contact early in the race as they battled after a safety car restart, dropping the Mercedes man down the order and the Red Bull driver to the very back of the field and out of contention.

i looks at what we learned from the race in Sao Paolo.

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Mercedes are set up to be real contenders again in 2023

Make no mistake, Mercedes had the fastest car this weekend and Russell’s victory owed nothing to circumstance or fortune. This was a win down to sheer speed alone.

The W13 has been a troublesome, skittish car throughout the majority of its lifespan, but in the last few weeks of the campaign it has come alive and competed at the very front of the order in ways its drivers (and probably designers) would not have dreamed possible even a couple of months ago.

The upgrades the Brackley-based squad brought to the United States Grand Prix have paid dividends, unlocking significant performance from the car and reeling both Ferrari and Red Bull in.

The progress the Silver Arrows have made in the final weeks of the season is reminiscent of Red Bull’s impressive end to the 2022 campaign, which set them up to win the drivers’ title the year after, and suggests Mercedes can be serious contenders once again in 2023.

Brazilian Grand Prix 2022 results

  1. George Russell – 1:38:34.044
  2. Lewis Hamilton – +1.529
  3. Carlos Sainz – +4.051
  4. Charles Leclerc – +8.441
  5. Fernando Alonso– +9.561
  6. Max Verstappen – +10.056
  7. Sergio Perez – +14.080
  8. Esteban Ocon – +18.690
  9. Valtteri Bottas – +22.552
  10. Lance Stroll – +23.552
  11. Sebastian Vettel – +26.183
  12. Pierre Gasly – +26.867
  13. Zhou Guanyu – +29.325
  14. Mick Schumacher – +29.899
  15. Alex Albon – +36.016
  16. Nicholas Latifi – +37.038
  17. Yuki Tsunoda – +1 lap
  18. Lando Norris – DNF
  19. Daniel Ricciardo – DNF
  20. Kevin Magnussen – DNF

Verstappen and Hamilton cannot race each other

For the first time in a long old while Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were battling for position on lap seven after the safety car restart, but within a matter of seconds they made contact and sent each other tumbling down the order.

The upshot was that Verstappen needed to pit in order to replace his front wing, while Hamilton was able to carry on climbing back through the field towards the front. The stewards ruled that Verstappen was at fault, giving him a five-second time penalty, though that felt slightly harsh given that neither driver was willing to back down in the slightest when there was clearly not enough space for both of them to round Turn 2 together.

The performance deficit between Verstappen’s Red Bull and Hamilton’s Mercedes has meant that the two protagonists of the sensational 2021 title fight have not often directly duelled in 2022, but the sight of them colliding at Interlagos felt pretty much inevitable as soon as the Dutchman lined up the move to try and pass the British driver.

Great rivalries are one of the most defining things in world sport – they provide a frame for storytelling, a hero and a villain for fans to determine, and the high drama which keeps everybody coming back for more.

But true rivals should be able to properly compete with one another. What Verstappen and Hamilton have too often shown is that their battles descend into acrimony, chaos, and crashes. Them majority of those incidents have been Verstappen’s fault, but not exclusively.

They simply cannot race each other, it seems.

F1 2022 drivers’ standings

  1. Max Verstappen – 429
  2. Charles Leclerc – 290
  3. Sergio Perez – 290
  4. George Russell – 265
  5. Lewis Hamilton – 240
  6. Carlos Sainz – 234
  7. Lando Norris – 113
  8. Esteban Ocon – 86
  9. Fernando Alonso – 81
  10. Valtteri Bottas – 49
  11. Sebastian Vettel – 36
  12. Daniel Ricciardo – 35
  13. Kevin Magnussen – 25
  14. Pierre Gasly – 23
  15. Lance Stroll – 14
  16. Mick Schumacher – 12
  17. Yuki Tsunoda – 12
  18. Guanyu Zhou – 6
  19. Alex Albon – 4
  20. Nicholas Latifi – 2
  21. Nyck de Vries – 2
  22. Nico Hulkenberg – 0

There is an ‘I’ in team for Verstappen

In the final stages of the race, after the safety car had been called out once again as marshals recovered Lando Norris’ stricken McLaren, Perez dropped through the field like a stone as those on soft tyres passed the Mexican on the slower medium rubber.

With team-mate Verstappen ahead, the Dutchman’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase instructed him to allow Perez to pass. Verstappen already has the championship wrapped up, while Perez is battling Leclerc for second in the standings, so the instruction made sense.

But Verstappen refused and crossed the line ahead. “Max, what happened?”, Lambiase asked. “I told you already last time, you guys don’t ask that again to me, OK?,” Verstappen responded. “Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”

Verstappen’s lack of team spirit left Perez furious. “After everything I have done for him I am really surprised. He showed who he is today,” the former Racing Point driver said afterwards.

For Verstappen, clearly, there is a pretty big “I” in team.

F1 2022 constructors’ standings

  1. Red Bull – 719
  2. Ferrari – 524
  3. Mercedes – 505
  4. Alpine – 167
  5. McLaren – 148
  6. Alfa Romeo – 55
  7. Aston Martin – 50
  8. Haas – 37
  9. AlphaTauri – 35
  10. Williams – 8

Ricciardo’s late in the day aggression could cost him his future

This was the second race in a row that an inexplicably aggressive attempt at an overtake from Daniel Ricciardo saw him take one of his rivals out of the race.

In Mexico it was Yuki Tsunoda when Ricciardo, on faster rubber than the AlphaTauri driver, tried to dive down the inside for the pass when there wasn’t adequate room and forced the Japanese into the barrier. On that occasion Ricciardo was able to carry on here and score but in Brazil this time his collision with Kevin Magnussen, who had qualified on pole for Saturday’s sprint race in the damp conditions, meant both drivers’ days were over.

Ricciardo was following Magnussen through the slow second sector on the opening lap and simply squeezed up too tight behind the Dane, sending him spinning off the circuit. As Magnussen’s Haas drifted off circuit Ricciardo the tried to pass it but slammed into its rear tyre, causing terminal damage to both vehicles.

After being dumped by McLaren in favour of compatriot Oscar Piastri, Ricciardo knows he will not be racing in F1 next year, and is instead hoping to secure a reserve driver role with the hopes of returning to the grid full-time in 2024.

Whether the 33-year-old has consciously tried to be more aggressive and bold in his final few races is unclear, but these errors are the ones that will be most fresh in the minds of rival teams when they come to consider their 2024 line-ups at the end of next season, and could cost him the F1 redemption he yearns for.

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