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Verstappen wins, but Alonso and Perez steal the show


Now we may be getting a tiny bit ahead of ourselves but we cannot help but feel that even without the intervention of the weather Gods, today could be a bit special.

First off we have a number of drivers starting out of position, though this is slightly eased by the numerous opportunities for overtaking here, Interlagos being one of the best on the calendar for passing, and then there's tyres...

Asked when he first began to struggle during the sprint, Max Verstappen shot back: "On the out lap", and that went for pretty much everyone else.

Ferrari was one of several teams to "sacrifice" the Sprint in order to focus on today's race, with Charles Leclerc opting for used softs yesterday in order to save a fresh set for today.

Other drivers opted to follow a similar patter while others decided not to, or, in some cases, were so limited they had no choice. As a result, while Leclerc, Verstappen and Norris have one fresh of softs, the majority of their rivals don't.

On the other hand the majority of drivers have at least two sets of fresh mediums and a set of hards, though we don't expect to see much if anything of the white-banded rubber today because it is simply too slow here.

Bottas has three sets of fresh softs, while Hamilton and Gasly have three sets of mediums, as does Albon.

According to Pirelli, a two-stop is clearly the better option today, running a mix of soft and medium. Indeed, from what was seen in the Sprint, the soft has shown itself to be a valid choice, even over quite a long stint, and so the key will be to find the right balance between the length of the various sections of the race and the order in which to use the different compounds.

However, one should not rule out a three-stopper, even if, on paper, it's not the quickest, for those who want to try and push more without being too worried about tyre management on a track where overtaking is possible at several places. Finally, it's worth remembering that the undercut can be very effective here.

Nonetheless, whatever the strategy, we can expect lots of complaints about tyres this afternoon.

While Verstappen made short work of Norris at the start of the Sprint yesterday, Leclerc won't be such a pushover this afternoon. Furthermore, with neither enjoying the support of a nearby teammate they will be under attack from the Aston Martin pair, not to mention the Mercedes duo.

As we saw (again) last week a race cannot be won at the first corner but it can be lost, and in all honesty the ones that need to take the biggest risk at the start this afternoon are Alonso and Stroll, whose race pace yesterday was impressive. Indeed the Silverstone-based outfit would be best served by ordering Stroll to ride shotgun for his teammate by backing up the field.

Of course, positions lost at the start will lead to drivers having to push extra hard to compensate, and with a wary eye on tyre wear this means even the merest of slips could prove costly.

Norris, starting from seventh will be keen to make up places, as will Perez and Piastri right behind, and watch out for the AlphaTauris of Ricciardo and Tsunoda who start from 16th and 17th.

Over the course of the weekend thus far, Norris has been quickest, ahead of Verstappen, Perez, Alonso and Sainz and it will be interesting to see if the Briton can convert that raw speed advantage into another podium finish.

All in all this is a race that promises much, and we can only hope that it lives up to expectations.

Russell and the Alpine pair were all hit with two place grid penalties for impeding in the pitlane on Friday, and while Gasly had an engine change overnight it was without penalty as it was a unit from his pool.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin to head out, among the first out are the Haas pair. The last to join the grid is Hamilton, he and his teammate expecting a tough afternoon.

Air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 49 degrees. It is bright and sunny.

Russell warns of a lot of brake dust and smoke at the front of his car. As his engineers get to work there are some last minute issues on Gasly's Alpine.

All are starting on softs bar Sargeant who is on mediums. Leclerc, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Bottas and Zhou all on fresh rubber, as is Sargeant.

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

Oh no, Leclerc has gone off and into the barriers at Turn 7 on the formation lap. He gets going again but there is damage to the front wing.

"No! I lost the hydraulics, I lost the hydraulics," he cries. "Why am I so unlucky?"

All of which leaves Alonso with clear space ahead.

The grid forms.

They're away! Verstappen leads into Turn 1, while Norris and Hamilton pass the Aston Martin pair who appear to be caught napping.

In fact, Alonso moves to the right to cover off his teammate and Hamilton, thereby leaving a nice gap for Norris, who doesn't wait for an invitation. While the McLaren driver goes on inside of the Aston Martin pair, rubbing salt in the wound Hamilton goes past them on the outside.

Further back Magnussen is off after contact with Albon, the Williams driver having made contact with Hulkenberg on the run to Turn 1 which forced him into the Dane. The spinning Haas of Magnussen then hit the rear of Piastri's McLaren breaking his rear wing before both the Williams and the Haas went off into the barriers.

Adding to the mayhem, the carcass of one of the rear tyres flies into the air and appears to hit Ricciardo's rear wing,

The Safety Car is deployed.

Piastri heads back to the pits but is told to kill the engine as it is not safe for him to continue.

Behind the Safety Car, it's: Verstappen, Norris, Hamilton, Alonso, Stroll, Russell, Perez, Sainz, Ocon and Tsunoda. Tsunoda has made up 6 places, as has Bottas, while Zhou has made up seven and Ocon five.

After 3 laps, such is the debris and damage to the barriers that the race is red flagged.

As the field return to the pits, Piastri is told that they are going to try and repair his car.

At 17:20 race control announces that the race will resume at 17:31 with a standing start.

Ricciardo thanks his crew for repairing his car.

Verstappen leads the field back on to the track, however, following repairs to their cars in the pitlane Piastri and Ricciardo have to start from the pitlane.

Norris joins Verstappen on the front row.

They're away... again.

In a repeat of yesterday Verstappen leaves Norris on the line, and while Hamilton almost passes the McLaren driver in the opening complex it is the Mercedes driver who is passed by Alonso on the run to Turn 4.

Further back Tsunoda is battling Ocon for tenth, while Hulkenberg is up to twelfth albeit under pressure from Bottas.

Verstappen leads, ahead of Norris, Alonso, Hamilton, Russell, Perez, Stroll, Sainz, Gasly and Ocon.

Lap 7 sees Norris post a new fastest lap as he maintains a 0.446s gap to the leader. Alonso is already 2s behind.

At the start of Lap 8, Norris attempts to go around the outside of Verstappen in Turn 1 and having failed has another go on the run to Turn 4.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Interlagos City here.


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1. Posted by RP, 06/11/2023 13:12

"A good article but I was so angry after the first few paragraphs discussing all the tyre issues for the sprint and race. The absurdity of the tyre restrictions seems to grow worse all the time. If someone just cuts a tyre on a curb, their entire race weekend could be compromised. Either instruct Pirelli to make a tyre which will last and provide the teams with enough tyres for their needs. Practice is just that - a time to acclimate to the particular track and experiment with setups. If you cannot practice without compromising the race that makes for a sad display.
So happy to see the extravagance of the race weekends (can't wait for Las Vegas) and the weak argument they're saving money and the environment by alotting less tyres. Sad sad sad."

Rating: Positive (2)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Chester, 05/11/2023 20:38

"Best race of the season for me, but I am biased. And Checo? I think he sealed second place in the WDC."

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