Home Sport Flying Dutchman should find Interlagos to his liking

Flying Dutchman should find Interlagos to his liking

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AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly has enjoyed the conditions in Brazil. Picture: Reuters, Murad Sezer

A calender favourite, the Sao Paulo Grand Prix is this weekend. Here, Morgan Bolton takes a look at what to expect in Brazil.

VICTORY in Mexico and then a week earlier in Texas, added to an immensely important second-place finish in Turkey, have given Max Verstappen and Red Bull a boost ahead of the Brazil F1 Grand Prix this weekend.

Here, Morgan Bolton takes a look at what race fans can expect in at the Interlagos circuit over this weekend.

Pierre review

Interlagos was where Pierre Gasly scored his first podium in 2019 after a thrilling duel to beat a charging Lewis Hamilton to second place.

As was the case in Mexico, Gasly and AlphaTauri can do well here – perhaps not a podium but maybe another top five finish.

Gasly comfortably navigated the Autodromo Hermanos Rodrigues, and was never really threatened by the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who finished behind him in fifth and sixth respectively.

The Frenchman has virtually been a one-man team, single-handedly thrusting Red Bull’s sister team into fifth in the constructors’ championship. Of the 106 points the team have scored, Gasly has accounted for 86 and in 18 races has finished in the top 10 in 12.

Something Red coming this way

Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc races during the Formula One Mexico Grand Prix at the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack in Mexico City on November 7, 2021. Picture: PEDRO PARDO, AFP

In Mexico, Ferrari seized their moment to overtake McLaren into third in the constructors’ title. Trailing by 3.5 points before the race, the Scuderia moved 13.5 points clear heading into Brazil.

Sainz has scored in the last 11 races – the only driver to do so – while Leclerc has been going about his business without fuss or incident.

Of course, the Italian team would rather want podiums, but their recent consistency is swinging their battle with the British team in their favour.

Prepare for a Bull run

Like it or not Interlagos, or officially the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, and much like Mexico, is expected to favour the Honda-powered Red Bull this weekend.

It is an extremely fast track, but the altitude of 786m, coupled with a demanding Sector 2 that coils into the venue, is believed to be advantageous to the Milton Keynes-based team.

Mercedes will not be entirely helpless at the circuit. As noted in previous races, the Silver Arrows are quicker and more powerful in a straight line, which pretty much begins at Interlagos at Turn 12, and speeds past Turn 13 before passing the start-finish and terminating in the first corner of the ‘Senna S’.

On this stretch, the drivers will be at full throttle, and due to the undulation and the demands it puts on the power unit, reliability will key.

The anti-clockwise layout is one of the easier tracks to overtake on and depending on tyre wear, strategies can range from one stop to three.

One for the record books

The Brazilian Grand Prix, now renamed the Sao Paulo GP, has seen its fair share of drama.

It is here that in 2005 Fernando Alonso became the then youngest world champion, only to be eclipsed in 2008 by Hamilton.

That year, Brazilian Felipe Massa came so close to becoming champion himself, winning the race only to see Hamilton dramatically overtake Timo Glock in the last corner to win the title by a point.

A year earlier, it was Hamilton who suffered a similar fate when Kimi Raikkonen won the GP to become champion, also by a point.

In 2009 Jenson Button became world champion by finishing fifth, and four years later Sebastian Vettel beat out the grid to win his fourth consecutive championship.

There will be nothing as extraordinary on Sunday, but the result will have a huge bearing on the title fight with three races left thereafter.

Dutch delight

Max Verstappen should have won at Interlagos in 2018, if not for an unfortunate incident with Esteban Ocon, with Hamilton securing the top step instead.

He did triumph a year later but was pushed by the seven-time world champion all the way.

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Currently, the 24-year-old enjoys a 19-point lead in the drivers’ championship and if he were to collect all the points on offer this weekend – winning the sprint, claiming the fastest lap, and securing a 10th victory of the season – that lead could extend to 28 points.

Much to the delight of the Dutchman and Red Bull, Sergio Perez has also begun putting in some crucial efforts, and has finished on the podium in the last three races.

If both perform well here, locking out first and second, then Verstappen could open a gap touching the 30s.

Hamilton and Mercedes showed to everyone’s surprise in Mexico that they will not go down without a fight by qualifying 1-2, and they will have to put in a similar effort this weekend to deny an in-form Red Bull team.

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