If yesterday’s Brazilian Grand Prix showed anything, it was that this title race really could come down to the final corner of the final race. A great start by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen gave him an early lead before a memorable Lewis Hamilton show handed the Mercedes driver victory, and cut the points deficit to 14 with three races remaining. But what takeaways did we uncover from yet another Interlagos showstopper?
Hamilton displayed all of the qualities that have led him to seven world championships. His dogged performance across Saturday’s sprint qualifying and yesterday’s race could be one talked about for years to come.
Four cars on the opening lap, a further two cars in the following; Hamilton’s electric start was reminiscent of his late overtaking masterclass at Interlagos in 2008.
The 36-year-old used his extensive experience to pick the perfect moment to pass rival Verstappen, who couldn’t keep up once behind, knowing a non-finish in Brazil would scupper any title hope this year.
Hamilton described the weekend as “the hardest he’s had” as “things kept going against us [Mercedes]”.
He’s not wrong, though. No one has won from as far back as 10th at a Brazilian Grand Prix.
Should Hamilton go on to secure an eighth championship, this performance could prove decisive.
Hamilton v Verstappen strategy
Strategic calls can make or break Grands Prix. A tenth here or a second there can make all the difference come the chequered flag. Interlagos is famously a short, quick track and strategy again played its part yesterday.
Following Verstappen’s first pit stop, he demanded that at the next round he would come in first. Whether or not this was the will of the team is unknown but the driver was adamant on doing so. Red Bull followed the same plan and targeted the undercut.
The Brit, however, insisted on medium compound tyres prior to his second pit stop. And although he’s at the wheel, the team makes the final call. Hamilton was given a second set of hards, to his dismay, but by lap 71 he wouldn’t have been complaining.
The defending champion lost the title lead in Turkey due to strategy and reluctantly pitted in Russia on team orders – though he won the race that day.
Strategy is key, and in the team doing their job in Brazil Hamilton reaped the rewards.
Sun, sea and grand prix
A lot has been said about who has the advantage at any given track across the racing calendar. In Mexico, Red Bull seemed to dominate in the thin air of the capital city.
That said, yesterday’s race was set in Sao Paulo, 700m above sea level, and the set up of the Mercedes shone on the straights.
In the remaining three races, there will be no more altitude racing.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi will all see sea level Grands Prix, and Mercedes have tended to perform stronger in those conditions.
Though they don’t decide races, they go a long way towards helping teams choose how to approach a weekend. They certainly shouldn’t be completely discounted.