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Hamilton's Brazilian masterclass


Fate, luck, superstition or mere coincidence, it is a fact that that the previous two Grands Prix that compromised Sprint weekends saw controversial collisions involving title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

First there was Silverstone, when the Briton was penalised - but still won - the British Grand Prix following his clash with the Red Bull driver on the opening lap, while at Monza both were eliminated in an equally infamous coming together, this time at the first chicane.

Unlike some sections of the media we do not want such controversy today, we want to see a thrilling but clean race, which sees victory go to the fastest and bravest.

By the same token, as the war of words continues between Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, we want to see the titles decided on track, not in some anonymous courtroom long after the season has ended, for, as is so often the case in legal proceedings, in such cases the only real winners are the lawyers.

Of course, Liberty Media will be salivating at the prospect of another headline-grabbing clash, for such is the way the sport is heading it fits in perfectly with the sport's new agenda, for which one needs look no further than Netflix's Drive to Survive series, which finally delivers the 'high octane soap opera' F1's stakeholders have craved.

We used to laugh at the late, great Mike Lawrence's reporting on the efforts of Turk Thrust and the infamous Formula One Script Unit, but increasingly 'The Doctor's' legendary creation is becoming more and more real.

While no fans of the Sprint, yesterday's performance by Hamilton was something we shall be talking about for some time, however, if we hear one complaint of "dirty air" or "I can't get closer" from the world champion today we shall scream.

Having failed to capitalise yesterday, Red Bull must learn from its lesson today, in much the same way Verstappen turned things around at Silverstone, before it all went wrong.

Other than dealing with Bottas, Red Bull will need Perez to pass Sainz as quickly as possible, whilst fending off the threat from Norris, Leclerc, Gasly and Co.

Verstappen fluffed it yesterday, not least in his choice of tyre, but the Dutchman usually learns from his lesson.

Meanwhile, a few rows back Hamilton will be seeking to get in the mix as soon as possible. That said, despite starting from the back yesterday, today his task is all the more difficult, for whilst he's sizing up the likes of Vettel, Ocon and Gasly, he will be in the midst of the minefield that is the midfield where no prisoners are taken.

As they head to towards the first corner and the Senna Esses that follow, the likes of Ricciardo, Alonso, Giovinazzi, Stroll and Latifi won't give a fig about Hamilton's title only their own ambitions to score and those of their teams.

While last week proved that races can be won at the first corner, Hamilton will need to avoid the heroics this afternoon, certainly on the opening lap, for as Toto Will gladly tell him a DNF would be catastrophic.

As we know, it is the constructor standings that decide who gets what from the prize pot, consequently as McLaren battles Ferrari for third and AlphaTauri and Alpine go head-to-head over 'best of the rest', Hamilton's title ambitions will mean nothing.

We have been increasingly impressed by Sainz this season, the Spaniard having given Leclerc a race for his money. Indeed, one cannot help but feel that in Carlos, deep down Helmut Marko must realise - a little like Gasly - that the Spaniard is the one he let slip away.

Having messed up 'big time' seven days ago, this afternoon Bottas has the chance to make amends, however whether he does so remains to be seen. There is increasing speculation suggesting the Finn feels let down by Mercedes, and in many ways he has every right to feel this way. However like Verstappen at Red Bull and Leclerc at Ferrari, teams have their chosen sons, in the Black Arrows case it is Lewis. Much like Irvine, Barrichello and Massa at Ferrari all those years ago, they knew what they were getting into.

Better to prove to a team that you are a winner and nobody's "wingman" than to suggest they were right all along.

Given that drivers have a free choice on tyres - one of the few benefits of the Sprint weekend in our humble opinion - all three compounds can play a key role today.

The fastest strategy should be a two-stopper but a lot will depend on track temperature, though the weather should be a little warmer.

On Saturday, the soft and medium tyres showed similar performance but higher levels of wear than expected. On paper, a two-stopper using the medium followed by two sets hards should be the fastest option.

Another possibility - really close in terms of overall race time - is to use all three compounds, starting on the medium and then using the hard for the central stint, before finishing on the softs.

However, a one-stop is another possibility. This could be medium to hard, to benefit from a long opening stint and gain track position, or alternatively soft to hard, though this would require more management, with the cars full of fuel at the start of the race.

A change of rear wing sees Raikkonen set to start from the back of the grid, however as he only 'qualified' 18th this won't come as too much of an imposition. Indeed, should there be any first corner shenanigans he would probably avoid them.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin to head out, it is bright and sunny and noticeably warmer than yesterday which is going to seriously affect tyre deg. Indeed, air temperature is 23.9 degrees C, while the track temperature is 55 degrees, compared to 37 at the start of the Sprint.

Even in the moments before the formation lap, Wolff and Horner are arguing about work that is alleged to have been carried out on Verstappen's rear wing, work which the Briton denies.

Ahead of the formation lap we see that all are starting on the mediums bar Tsunoda who is on softs. However, Vettel (9th) is the first starter on used mediums, and he's ahead of Hamilton.

They head off on the formation lap, all getting away cleanly.

The grid forms.

They're away! Bottas and Verstappen both get away well, and while Verstappen has the inside for Turn 1 Bottas has the inside for Turn 2. However, the Red Bull driver gets just ahead as the Finn runs a little wide.

Losing traction, Bottas not only loses ground to Verstappen but allows Perez to close. Into Turn 4, Bottas runs wide and Perez is through, while behind the Ferrari pair also run wide.

Meanwhile, Norris went off at Turn 1 after an opportunist move on Sainz off the line which saw the pair touch wheels.

"Yeh, let's go," says Verstappen as he leaves Bottas in his wake. Meanwhile, Hamilton is up to seventh.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Perez, Bottas, Leclerc, Sainz, Vettel, Hamilton, Gasly, Ricciardo and Ocon.

Hamilton did well to get ahead of much of the midfield mayhem at the start, for behind him Gasly, Ricciardo and Ocon are involved in a frantic battle for position.

"Might just be a puncture," reports Norris, "I'll try to get back."

As Norris arrives back at the pits, switching to hards, Hamilton, having made short work of Vettel, is all over Sainz. Indeed, the Briton nails the Ferrari heading into Turn 1.

Meanwhile, Tsunoda and Stroll clash in the Esses as the Japanese makes a reckless move on the Aston Martin.

Hamilton subsequently passes the second Ferrari of Leclerc, and as he sets about closing the 1.7s gap to his Mercedes teammate, Verstappen has built a 1.3s lead.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Interlagos, here.


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1. Posted by Wokingchap, 18/11/2021 14:52

"The FIA set a terrible precedent in Brazil by not giving Max a penalty after his move on Lewis."

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2. Posted by Motorsport-fan, 15/11/2021 9:42

"What a drive and in the hands of Lewis - what a car."

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