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Verstappen wins Brazilian thriller


When Sebastian Vettel looked at Max Verstappen in the post-qualifying press conference, and queried the Red Bull's amazing pace, all that was missing was the deerstalker, magnifying glass and pipe.

Having suffered at the hands of Red Bull's suspicions in recent weeks one can rest assured that Ferrari is very much on the case.

Over the years Interlagos has provided us with numerous thrillers, indeed it was following one particularly dramatic race, turned on its head by the weather, that Bernie came up with his idea for sprinklers to be installed trackside at circuits.

Only last year we saw Mex Verstappen throw away certain victory by insisting to take on back-marker Esteban Ocon, and today the Dutchman could throw it all away once again.

The opening complex of corners at Interlagos has provided much entertainment over the years, and with Max, Seb and Lewis heading the grid today, not to mention a fired up Charles Leclerc a few rows back, we could be in for some more fun and games.

We've said it before and we'll say it again, the race cannot be won at the first corner, but it can be lost.

The Red Bull's pace, certainly in the hands of Verstappen has indeed, to quote Seb, been a "surprise", and the Dutchman has to be heading into this race odds-on favourite.

While Hamilton has nothing to prove - not that this normally stops him - Vettel will be keen to make up for the disappointment of Austin which brought an impressive string of strong performances to an end.

And then there's Leclerc, starting 14th following his engine change, and as keen as ever to get down and dirty with the big boys.

Albon and Bottas have both had scrappy weekends thus far, and will be keen to wrap up with a decent points haul, both set to gain should there be any silliness ahead on the opening lap.

As ever it's the supporting cast where the real fun should be had, with both Haas drivers in the top ten, along with Raikkonen and Gasly.

All too often we've seen Haas' performance drop-off woefully on race day, the American outfit seemingly at the mercy of the track temperature. Meanwhile, Raikkonen will need all his guile if he is to bring home a decent points haul in his 311th GP outing, thereby equalling Fernando Alonso as the second most experienced driver in the history of the sport.

Just behind Magnussen, we have Norris, Ricciardo, Giovinazzi, Hulkenberg, Perez and Kvyat, the Russian keen to make up for a miserable qualifying session.

And then there's Sainz, starting from the back with a brand new power unit and keen to resume an impressive run of points finishes.

Assuming they survive the first corners, the battle between Verstappen, Vettel and Hamilton should be thrilling, with all three cars showing strength in some sections and weaknesses in others. Understandably, Hamilton is relishing the prospect.

The quickest strategy today is a one-stopper, using the softs for 26 to 29 laps and the hards for 42 to 45 laps.

The second-quickest is to run the softs for 34 to 37 laps, and the mediums for another 34 to 37 laps. About as fast as this is actually a two-stopper: with two stints on the softs of 18 to 21 laps each, plus a medium run for 29 to 35 laps. These stints could all be done in any order, with a soft-medium-soft plan potentially making sense as a two-stopper, for example.

The reason for this is that with warmer conditions today compared to Friday, the hardest compound as well as a possible two-stopper all become much more interesting.

What's slightly slower is a one-stopper with the mediums for 24 to 27 laps, and the hards for 44 to 47 laps.

The pitlane opens in glorious sunshine, and one by one the drivers head out.

Air temperature is similar to qualifying at 21 degrees C, however at 49 degrees the track temperature is much warmer. At least Haas will be happy. That said, it is noticeably windy, which could cause problems in terms of balance.

The national anthem done, there is a late scare for Albon following an issue with his tyre blankets.

With all but Leclerc of the top ten qualifiers starting on softs, the red-banded rubbers has also been chosen by Norris, Giovinazzi, Perez, Stroll and Sainz. The rest are on mediums.

The field heads off on the parade lap, all get away cleanly, with Verstappen leading the way, for only the second time in his F1 career.

Hamilton reports a difference in his front brake temperatures.

The grid forms.

They're away. Verstappen is away well while Vettel, though initially away well, starts to lose ground, and is passes by Hamilton who goes around the outside in Turn 1.

Heading down the back straight its Verstappen, Hamilton, Vettel and Bottas, while further back Norris is attacking Raikkonen, who is attacking the Haas pair.

The McLaren driver begins to lose ground and now comes under attack from Ricciardo who is fending off Leclerc. As the Australian and the Monegasque battle, the Ferrari jinks to the right, causing the Renault to back off just a little.

Leclerc makes short work of Norris who is then attacked again by Ricciardo. The Australian almost follows through behind Leclerc but the McLaren driver isn't having it. Passing Norris in Turn 1, Ricciardo is subsequently re-passed by the McLaren driver on the back straight, the Briton almost forcing the Renault on to the grass. Great stuff

At the end of lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Albon, Gasly, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Magnussen and Giovinazzi.

Leclerc passes Giovinazzi for tenth, as Verstappen sets a blistering pace out front as he builds as 2s lead.

Sainz passes Perez to take 15th, a strong opening from the Spaniard.

Having dropped to 17th, Hulkenberg is advised to "use overtake when possible".

Up to 8th, Leclerc's next target is the wily old fox that is Raikkonen.

At the end of lap 6, courtesy of a tow and DRS, Leclerc sweeps past the Alfa to take 7th. Next up is Gasly.

Ricciardo, with Sainz in hot pursuit, is all over Magnussen. The Australian makes a move, but the Haas driver isn't having it, they touch and the Dane spins while the Renault has front wing damage. Ricciardo subsequently pits for a new front wing, rejoining in 20th on softs.

"******* idiot," says Magnussen.

Russell is complaining that a tear-offs his car has picked up is causing him problems.

The crowd cheers as Leclerc passes Gasly for sixth as they head into Turn 1.

The Ricciardo/Magnussen incident is under investigation.

Verstappen warns of a "little vibration" from one of his front tyres.

Giovinazzi continues in tenth, with Norris, Stroll and Sainz closing in.

"We are on Plan A plus 2," Vettel is told. The German is currently 5.7s adrift of the race leader.

Ricciardo is handed a 5s time penalty for causing a collision. However, that won't help Magnussen who is now down in 17th.

Asked about his tyres, Norris responds: "They're OK, I'm just stuck behind the guys ahead. The tyres are fine."

Check out our Sunday gallery from Interlagos, here.


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1. Posted by Spindoctor, 18/11/2019 9:57

"@4-Wheel Drifter
I don't know what your beef is with us Brits, but you only have to look at the race to see why Hamilton is universally considered the greatest of the current drivers. His closest rival for that accolade Vettel made yet another unconsidered move, and crashed again - this time into his team mate. Not bias, just fact.
As to Hamilton 'shutting us up' I think Lewis' response merely confirmed why he is so highly admired, both in UK & world-wide. Instead of deflecting the blame, he admitted that he'd made a mistake, took responsibility & apologised. Compare & contrast with Mr V.

More generally it seems that Mercedes is no-longer the fastest car, so next season should prove interesting. If Mercedes concentrates 100% on the 2020 car, that suggests they'll pull the plug for 2021 - there's no point in over-developing a car with zero shelf-life when they could spend the (uncapped) budget on the 2021 car. If they can win in 2020 they may want to pull-out on top, concentrating, I suspect, on Formula E. I suspect this would also suit Hamilton, as he could bag championship No. 7 and then move to another Team or retire, as a candidate for GOAT."

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2. Posted by Tom2681, 17/11/2019 23:31

"@4-Wheel Drifter:
" Seb, of course, was blamed for turning in too soon"
Completely disagree. They were in the middle of a straight. There was no turning required at all. Seb Vettel thought he could intimidate Leclerc by moving towards him, and it obviously didn't work. This is 100% Vettels fault.
If it hadn't been against his own teammate, he would have a 1-race ban right now."

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3. Posted by 4-Wheel Drifter, 17/11/2019 22:02

"And the new owners of F1 think it's a good idea to move the race to Argentina when, as always, Interlagos is the best real race of this entire year. With the ridiculous tyres, which make most races a boring "strategy" procession, not working and the Manufacturer's and Driver's championships settled, the drivers were finally cut loose from the conservative strategies which are more about money than driving, and so we got an actual race!

Of course, Charles LeClerc drove an excellent race and, for once, his team didn't let him down. So, he managed to take both himself and Seb out of the race, never mind out of the points. He had several laps to find a way around Seb and would have been able to do it easily, but he couldn't wait. Seb, of course, was blamed for turning in too soon, but that's just the Brits. For some reason they hate Vettel and always find fault with him. Their own boy, the brilliant Lewis, can never make an error in their minds, but this time he shut them up, saying after the race that he had ruined Albon's race which was decent of him and he deserved his penalty for sure. What to take from this is the hope that Red Bull/Honda. is on the brink of coming back into the championship race next year. Indeed, if I were Mercedes, I'd be preparing my announcement for the party when they pick up their sixth Manufacturer's trophy in a row: we will celebrate this unprecedented achievement all winter and next year will be our farewall to F1, this time under happier circumstances than the last time we withdrww. Red Bull shows that when the owner demands the best from everyone on the team and supports them by signing the checques without complaint, winning will be the result. Though I love Ferrari history, Fiat ownership has been a disaster for the Red Cars. And next year will be fun to see both Red Bull and Toro Rosso fighting it out. Also, Kudos to Kimi. He is not only a brilliant racer but one that has even more of the "never give up" in him than Lewis, who has yet to face the kind of adversity Kimi has."

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