Williams’ George Russell was closer to securing his maiden championship point than ever before in Brazil, where he was within two seconds of a top ten finish.
Russell is the only driver in this year’s line-up not to have picked up any points in the 20 races so far. His team mate Robert Kubica had been handed a single point in Germany after Alfa Romeo were penalised for using driver aids.
But Russell remains far from downhearted, and insisting that he was happy just to have been properly in the mix in a thrilling race on Sunday.
“The first lap was good, I was able to fight with some quicker cars and the first stint was not too bad,” he said. But afterwards I just lost the pace.
“Especially on the hard tyres, the front end was not working and we have to save the rears. While saving the rears we couldn’t put energy into the fronts and the fronts were just ice cold and no grip.
“Additionally it was quite windy, and with this aero configuration – a mixed car, the old package and a new front wing – the car feels very strange to drive when it’s gusty and windy.”
He had dropped behind Kubica at the start of the race, and the short nature of the Interlagos track meant that he was passed by the leaders on lap 23.
But fortunately for the rookie driver, a late safety car enabled him to unlap himself and put him right back into the midfield battle.
“It was quite a long lonely race to start with, then suddenly it was all kicking off in front,” Russell recalled. “It was definitely crazy in those last few laps and that gave us half an opportunity.
“It was nice to finally be in the mix and within that battle, but everyone’s pace when they are battling is our pace when we go flat out.
“I gave it my everything to try and get an overtake here and there and try and salvage everything we could, but it wasn’t meant to be. That was the maximum we could do.”
Russell ended up crossing the line 1.668s behind Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, who secured tenth place ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Russell himself.
But Russell did have the satisfaction of finishing ahead of Roman Grosjean, Alexander Albon, Nico Hulkenberg, and Kubica who was the last man still running at the line in his penultimate outing with Williams.
“The first lap of the race was good,” said the Pole. “I was able to fight with some quicker cars in the first stint. Afterwards I lost the pace, especially with hard tyres.
“We had to protect the rear tyres, but, by saving these, we were unable to put any energy into the fronts, making them ice cold with no grip.”
While Kubica won’t return to the team in 2020, Russell is assured of a sophomore season although his new team mate is yet to be confirmed.
The Briton now has just one more chance remaining to break his duck in the championship by picking up a point at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi on December 1.
Former Formula 1 driver turned commentator David Coulthard is confident that Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto will sort out the simmering situation between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.
The pair had clashed earlier int he season over team orders, but on Sunday in Brazil they made light contact while running fourth and fifth. The clash put both cars out of the race with six laps remaining.
“It was a misunderstanding between the two drivers and a sad day for Ferrari,’ former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello told Bild newspaper.
Immediately after the race, Binotto was clearly furious and embarrassed about what had unfolded just moments before. He ordered the drivers to attend a summit at Maranello this week to discuss the situation.
“We now need to sit down and decide together where the limits are to make sure we all push for the benefit of the team and make sure these things don’t happen anymore,” he explained.
“Our drivers are very disappointed and sorry from a team perspective. It was a small collision that had a big consequence.”
Binotto confirmed that the drivers had been cleared to fight each other in Brazil and not subject to team orders, as had been the case earlier in the season.
“When we tried to manage the drivers this season we have been criticised,” he pointed out. “And when they are free to fight we may be criticised [for that].
“Today it was right to let them race, certainly, because we [had already] secured second place in the constructor’s championship.
“[Even so] this sort of thing should never happen,” Binotto said, adding it was better that this had happened with the 2019 titles already decided as it meant they could learn and put new rules in place in time for next year.
Coulthard backed Binotto as the right man for the job to sort out such recurring internal issues that keep getting between Ferrari and a successful challenge for the world championship.
“I think Mattia has the strength of character and enough history within Ferrari to sit them down and say, ‘Look guys – this isn’t acceptable’,” the Scot told Channel 4.
Simply ignoring the incident and moving on was no longer an option, according to the former McLaren and Red Bull driver.
“I think they will shake hands,” he suggested. “But you’re dealing with two different people, in two different phases of their life – never mind their careers.
“Right now Charles doesn’t know what he doesn’t know at 21,” Coulthard continued. “He hasn’t got the life experience of Seb. He’ll just be like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to put myself in that position again’.
“And in Seb’s case, he knows he’s running out of time. Does he have enough time left in his career to be able to get a World Championship at Ferrari?”
“It’s subtle but the facts are the facts,” he said. “You cannot deny the facts, otherwise the relationship is definitely all over.”
Sky Deutschland commentator Sascha Roos speculated that the Brazil incident could lead to Binotto taking a hard line on team orders for next season.
“I think they would be well advised to set a deadline,” he suggested. “For example after the first four races of the season, they should make a decision on a number one driver.”
After a year on the sidelines, during which he conducted simulator and development work for Mercedes, Ocon – who started his career with Manor in 2016 before racing for Force India for two seasons – is impatient to return to F1 on a full-time basis.
Subsequent to his early release by Mercedes, Ocon will get back to the grind on December 3 at Yas Marina, the Frenchman driving on both days of the Abu Dhabi test.
Alexander Albon might have missed out on his first F1 podium on Sunday, but the Red Bull driver can still hold his head up high according to team boss Christian Horner.
Albon started the Brazilian Grand Prix from fifth place on the grid and benefitted from the retirements of Valtteri Bottas and both Ferraris. He was running in second place behind team mate Max Verstappen when the race restarted following a late safety car.
Lewis Hamilton had stopped for fresh tyres under the caution and was much faster than those around him when racing resumed – but in his haste to catch the race leader, he clumsily made contact with Albon who was sent spinning.
The incident meant that Albon ended up in 15th place, while Hamilton lost a podium finish after being penalised for spinning Albon.
Hamilton immediately apologised to the rookie driver after the race, and Horner absolved him of any blame and praised him for an outstanding drive.
“It was a huge shame for him to lose that podium on the penultimate lap,” Horner told Crash.net after the race.
“Unfortunately on the last lap, Lewis went for a gap that was rapidly diminishing and contact was made. That was a 1-2 finish for the team and second place for Alex taken away.
“Lewis has obviously put his hand up and apologised but unfortunately it doesn’t get Alex’s podium back,” he continued. “But he can leave here with his head held high.
“He looked really comfortable racing world champions,” Horner added. “He’s now racing wheel-to-wheel with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and Ferraris and he’s making great progress.
“Okay he didn’t get the trophy, but he’s impressed the whole team with his performance.”
Albon arrives at Brazil secure in the knowledge that he would remain at Red Bull in 2020. This time last year he was a very late signing for Toro Rosso, and was only promoted to the senior Red Bull team over the summer.
“It’s an encouraging signal for next year,” Horner pointed out. “He’s impressed his whole team with his race craft.”
Albon said he wouldn’t bear any grudges against Hamilton for the clash and that it had just been one of those racing incidents in the heat of the moment.
“Of course I’m frustrated but I’m not angry, I’m just upset,” he said. I wanted that podium and we deserved it as it was on merit.
“Obviously Lewis had good grip once he pitted and I think he would’ve got me eventually into turn 1, but I thought worst case scenario we had P3.
“I had a good gap to Lewis and I wasn’t worrying about him. I went into the corner deep just to cover him so he didn’t get any ideas, and then there’s a blind spot and obviously we made contact.
“Of course he didn’t do it on purpose, it’s just one of those things,”he shrugged. “It’s done now and we’ll focus on the positives before the next race.”
An earlier drivers briefing had agreed that use of DRS constituted evidence that the driver had failed to slow sufficiently under waved yellow flags, which would make him subject to a five second penalty.
“I think if you look at it, having DRS open is against the philosophy of slowing,” said Masi, who then explained why this hadn’t been the case in Brazil.
“The stewards looked at that and determined that no investigation was necessary,” he reported. “The overriding factor of slowing for double yellows was absolutely complied with.
“We looked at it, and the overriding factor with double yellow flags is the requirement to slow and significantly slow. That’s what we looked at.”
The incident took place on lap 53 of the race before the safety car was then scrambled while marshalls removed Valtteri Bottas’ stricken Mercedes from the tide of the track.
Masi revealed that Sainz had been far from alone in being investigated by the stewards for a possible breach of the rules.
“I think it was eight, all in that area,” he told Motorsport.com. “All of them complied with [the requirement to slow down].
“Yes, a couple of them did activate DRS for a relatively short period of time, but I’ll call it muscle memory.
“It’s one of those things you can’t make a rule to suit every situation,” Masi added. “[It] is the reason why we have stewards to make a determination on things, and the overriding factor is that they slow which they all did.”
Masi admitted that it was weakness of the current technical system that while DRS could be disabled for all cars everywhere on the track in the event of a full safety car for a serious accident, or for inclement weather.
“There isn’t the ability of isolating single DRS zones to turn them off,” he acknowledged. “It’s either they all get turned off or not.
“The technical reasons for it? If it was easy to have been done, it would have been done.”
The Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team admits that it is facing a steep learning curve as it heads into its first-ever two races in the all-electric championship this weekend.
And with back-to-back races in Diriyah on Friday and Saturday, the squad will have to learn those lessons fast if it’s to avoid giving its rivals an immediate advantage.
“Finally, the day has come that everyone in the team has been working towards,” team principal Ian James commented this week.
“Our two cars will make their first competitive outing this week. We’ve worked hard over the last twelve months to devise the best possible setup and achieve the necessary consistency for our race debut at Diriyah.
“The season opener is not the end of this journey but rather the beginning,” he cautioned. “We are conscious of our status as beginners. We therefore have to learn quickly from errors as they occur and to continue developing as a team.”
James added that the team was aiming “to make our learning curve as steep as possible.”
“Finishing the two races somewhere in the points would obviously be fantastic,” he added. “But no matter how this first race turns out for us, I would like to express my gratitude here and now to the entire team for their tireless efforts.
“What I’ve experienced over the past few months has been the epitome of commitment in terms of teamwork.”
The team has been able to rely on the experience of former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who after leaving F1 a year ago has already completed a season of competition in the ABB FIA Formula E championship with the Mercedes-affiliated HWA Racelab.
“I can hardly wait to get racing again,” commented the Belgian. “Testing is very nice, but it’s good to be switching back to race mode and to see where we are compared to the other teams.
“It’s not going to be easy, and it is hard to make any sort of forecast. We have to stay focused and try not to make mistakes. If we manage to do that, we should be in with a chance of a decent result.”
Vandoorne will be joined on the grid by newly crowned Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries, who like Mercedes is also making his debut in the series.
“I’m very excited about competing in Formula E as a team for the first time and finding out how we shape up on our debut,” said the Dutch 24-year-old Dutch driver.
“I have the feeling that we have bonded together well as a team in the past few weeks. Now I’m ready to race again and to go up against our opponents on the track.”
Although no official protest was ever lodged, there had been some pointed queries from other teams about how Ferrari had achieved such a big boost in straight line speed since the summer break.
Red Bull suggested three possibilities to the FIA involving increased flow rates and asked whether they would be considered within the rules, which resulted in two technical directives being issued to clarify the situation.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Autosport at the time that: “If somebody was doing what the technical directive clarified, it would have been foul play,”
The officials determined that Ferrari had not in fact broken any of the rules highlighted in Red Bull’s enquiry. But even so, doubts have remained over exactly how the Italian team has pulled off its mid-season leap in performance.
Reports that the FIA has seized parts of the fuel system for laboratory testing would constitute a significant escalation of the official enquiry into the SF90.
However it does not appear to have been triggered by a protest – official or otherwise – from another team. Both Red Bull and Mercedes had both said they wouldn’t be raising the matter again at this point of the season.
It may be that the FIA simply wants to stamp out once and for all any lingering suggestion of cheating by carrying out its own in-depth and more wide-ranging investigation without waiting for individual specific protests.
After a string of six pole positions from Belgium to Mexico leading to three wins for the team, Ferrari hasn’t topped qualifying or won a race since the technical directives were issued.
Sebastian Vettel started from second place in Brazil and Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest in qualifying, but neither driver finished the race after the pair made contact and were forced to retire with six laps remaining.
McLaren’s return to the top-three last weekend in Brazil, courtesy of a spirited drive by Carlos Sainz, is a prelude to the outfit fighting for podiums in the future on “outright performance” says team boss Andreas Seidl.
After a dismal four-year period during which Formula 1’s second most successful team was but a shadow of its former self, McLaren has finally pulled itself out of its enduring slump.
The papaya squad’s sustained progress has moved it this year to the head of F1’s competitive midfield, a fourth-place position in the Constructors’ standings that it formerly sealed at Interlagos thanks to Sainz’s and teammate Lando Norris’ significant points haul.
“I’m happy for the entire team, everyone has done so much work throughout the year,” Seidl told Sky F1.
“Performing P4 for us is a big step forward, and a great motivation for all of us to keep working hard with the clear aim that at some point, that we fight for podiums down to our own outright performance.”
Sainz extraordinary drive in Brazil from dead last on the grid to third, helped by a bold one-stop strategy, undeniably added a coat of panache to McLaren’s overall achievement.
“He’s done a sensational job all year and he deserves it,” said Seidl.
Mercedes was scheduled to transport the unit back to its HPP facility in Brixworth on Tuesday, after which the engine will be stripped down and thoroughly analyzed in order to determine the cause of the failing.
The results of the inspection will also shed light on whether Bottas will require the installation of a new unit for Formula 1’s season finale at Yas Marina, in which case the Finn will be hit with a grid drop, or if Mercedes will rely on an older unit in Bottas’ pool.
“We don’t know any more about it,” Mercedes technical director James Allison told Motorsport.com.
“We know that we had elevated oil consumption during the race that ran away very sharply – very sharply – about half a lap before we saw it expire.
“The engine stopped itself rather than expired in a heap.”
Formula 1’s hopes of bringing Grand Prix racing to Miami were revived today when commissioners from Miami-Dade County backed a recent Mayoral veto that opposed a ban on racing on the streets of Miami Gardens.
The 7-5 decision puts to rest, at least in the short term, a raging debate between representatives and residents of Miami Gardens, who oppose the Miami GP project, and the event’s promoter, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
The venue for the planned race takes place in the vicinity of the Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium and would use part of Miami Gardens’ public roads.
On Twitter, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that sustaining his veto would buy organisers more time to work out their differences with opposing parties.
“We need more time to work out a compromise with the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Gardens community and racing fans that’s a win-win for everyone to bring Formula 1 to our county,” Gimenez wrote.
“That’s why I’m happy that the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners sustained my veto. This allows us to work toward a solution.
“F1 is a huge international event,” he added. “Like the Super Bowl, it puts Miami-Dade on the world stage.
“We need to continue to study the issues raised and get the correct information, instead of just killing this idea outright.
“Let me be clear, if the veto had been overridden today then the resolution that says street racing is prohibited as currently configured in Miami Gardens would’ve been upheld. I support all parties coming to a solution that brings F1 racing to Miami-Dade.
“The F1 race isn’t until 2021. Sustaining my veto buys three to six months so that the parties involved can continue to work toward a solution for Miami Gardens, Stephen Ross and the Miami Dolphins, as well as racing fans.
“I’ve had three meetings so far with Miami Gardens residents about F1. I’ve met with Commissioner Jordan, as well as Miami Dolphins and racing executives. It was productive.
“The Dolphins agreed to respond within two weeks on community concerns and how to mitigate potential issues.”
Let me be clear, if the veto had been overridden today then the resolution that says street racing is prohibited as currently configured in #MiamiGardens would’ve been upheld. I support all parties coming to a solution that brings Formula 1 racing to Miami-Dade. @MiamiDadeBCCpic.twitter.com/wTgY5srhRt
Hard Rock Stadium CEO and vice chairman Tom Garfinkel committed to addressing the concerns of Miami Gardens’ residents.
“Along with Miami Dolphins, we are encouraged the County Commission sustained the Mayor’s Veto,” he said.
“As Miami Dolphins has done for all its events at Hard Rock Stadium, and as we have done in every city that hosts a race, we will continue to work with the Mayor and the community to make a Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix a huge success for all of Miami-Dade County; including the residents of Miami Gardens.
“We will work very hard to address community concerns in a meaningful way, mitigate any inconveniences or disruptions to local residents, and create an event we can all be proud of.”
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says the Italian outfit should consider itself “lucky” that the clash between its drivers in Brazil occurred this season as it will clarify what is not to happen in 2020.
A contact between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in the closing stages of the Brazilian Grand Prix resulted in the costly retirement of both drivers and questions about how Ferrari shall manage the pair going forward.
For Binotto, there may be hopeful side to Sunday’s blunder as it will potentially allow the Scuderia to clarify the rules of engagement between Vettel and Leclerc in the future and avoid a repeat of the blundering scenario.
“I’m still convinced it is a luxury because they are both good drivers, very good drivers,” Binotto said.
“They both represent a good benchmark for each other and we have seen how well they have improved, and Seb in the second half was certainly very fast.
“So I think overall it is still a luxury. The fact that what happened, I would say it is even lucky it happened this season because there will be opportunities to clarify in view of next year what is not to happen.
“So I’m happy to take this opportunity of what happened, to clarify for the future.”
The consensus among pundits who weighed in on Sunday’s incident pointed to Vettel as the party responsible for the contact, the German simply leaning too soon on his teammate during his overtaking move.
Binotto has summoned Vettel and Leclerc to Maranello this week for a meeting behind closed doors where the Swiss will likely remind both men of their responsibilities, which include accepting and learning from mistakes.
“I think that whether you are a driver, you’re an engineer, whatever you’re doing, recognising mistakes is important, because that can only make you better,” Binotto explained.
“So I think what would be important with both drivers is to understand what happened, making sure that at least – not in the heat [of the moment], but when we have time all together in Maranello – to understand what happened, what has been the mistake.
“It’s not for me to blame them. It’s for them to recognise it.”
Brazilian Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Alex Albon have stocked up on soft tyres for F1’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Pirelli has revealed the compound allocations for the 20-car field at Yas Marina, with Verstappen and Albon making identical choices across the C3 to C5 range, the softest selection on offer by F1’s tyre supplier.
The Red Bull duo has opted for nine sets of the red-rimmed soft rubber, a preference also followed by Toro Rosso and Williams’ chargers.
All other drivers on the grid will rely on eight sets of the soft tyre, with a few variations among the teams regarding the yellow and medium compounds.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which takes place on December 1 will be followed by a post-season test at Yas Marina during which drivers will have another opportunity to sample Pirelli’s 2020-spec tyres after the initial test that took place in Austin.
As a reminder, teams and drivers were unimpressed with Pirelli’s latest product, criticizing the 2020-spec tyre’s grip levels.
F1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn believes Ferrari’s drivers should own up to mistakes and follow Lewis Hamilton’s example of taking responsibility for errors.
Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel clashed in the closing stages of Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, causing their simultaneous demise from the race and a significant loss of points for their team.
In the heat of the moment, each driver pinned the responsibility of the skirmish on the other, while Scuderia boss Mattia Binotto qualified the on-track contact as “a silly mistake”, the Swiss summoning both men to Maranello this week for a meeting behind closed doors.
“It’s never nice when team-mates knock one another out of a race, even more so when it’s not even a particularly important result that goes begging, as in this case, third place in Brazil was the most they could aspire to,” Brawn wrote in his post-race debrief.
“After tensions flared in the races following the summer break, everything seemed to have calmed down in the Ferrari dressing room.
“But now, Mattia Binotto faces the tough task of getting things back on track and indeed he said just that in his interviews after the race.
“He had to get stuck in and tell the drivers to face up to their responsibilities, which in Maranello always means putting the interests of the team ahead of those of the individual, which was not the case in the race.”
Brawn suggested that Vettel and Leclerc should perhaps take a leaf out of Hamilton’s book on how to deal with mistakes.
The Mercedes driver was also involved in a late race clash at Interlagos when he punted Alex Albon into a spin and out of the points during an over-optimistic move on the inside of the Red Bull driver.
But the Brit immediately recognized his blunder and made it a point to apologize to Albon.
“I wouldn’t want to venture an opinion on who was most at fault for the collision, but in the cold light of day, maybe it would be good if one of them will follow Hamilton’s example and immediately admit culpability, as the champion did regarding his clash with Albon,” Brawn added.
“If Ferrari really wants to put an end to Mercedes’ dominance, not only does it need to provide its drivers with a more competitive car next year, it must also ensure that incidents like this one are not repeated.
“Formula 1 is a team sport, especially so in Maranello.”
Like a few of his midfield rivals, Sergio Perez lucked into a top-ten finish in Brazil, but based on his poor pace in Sunday’s race, the SportPeasa Racing Point driver believes the two points he collected for P9 weren’t deserved.
Perez was running well out of the top ten for the majority of the Brazilian Grand Prix, but the Mexican swiftly moved up the order in the latter part of the event thanks to the retirements of Valtteri Bottas and both Ferrari drivers and as a result of a spin by Red Bull’s Alex Albon.
On its merit however, Racing Point didn’t deserve its points according to Perez.
“I didn’t really see it coming,” Perez said. “It was a chaotic race, we needed to be strong out there.
“We were not good enough. We were lacking so much speed on the straights.
“We got overtaken very easily and then we couldn’t push to get past people, so quite a disappointing race.
“It’s two points that we didn’t really deserve, because we didn’t have the pace all weekend, but I’m just pleased with that.”
Contrary to Perez, teammate Lance Stroll, who also spent his afternoon clear of the top ten, wasn’t even awarded an opportunity to benefit from the commotion that impacted the running order.
The Canadian was forced to call it a day six laps from the checkered flag because of a suspension failure caused by debris from the Ferrari drivers’ clash.
“That’s exactly what happened, I ran over some debris,” Stroll said.
“It was very tight all the way to the end with all the Safety Cars. We were on a good tyre and it’s a bit of a shame because we were definitely in a position to grab some points.”
Unfortunately, Racing Point’s relative underperformance coupled with a big bag of points collected by Toro Rosso in Brazil, courtesy of Pierre Gasly’s second place finish, has pushed the pink outfit down to 7th in the Constructors’ standings
“A tough day for us, even though we managed to salvage a couple of points in the final few laps,” said team boss Otmar Szafnauer.
“We face an uphill task in Abu Dhabi to reclaim sixth place in the constructors’ championship, but we will go there fighting and give it everything.”
Formula 1 boss Ross Brawn was so impressed by Max Verstappen’s tactics on the second restart in the Brazilian Grand Prix that the sport might tweak the rules to produce more excitement on re-launches after safety car periods.
F1 changed the restart rules for 2019, with drivers now getting the green flag to race when they cross the finish line rather than at the Safety Car ‘Line 1’ located near pit entry, as was the case in the past.
On the second restart of the race, with just two laps remaining, a clever Verstappen, moving at a very slow pace, bunched up the field heading up the hill on to the main straight, preventing those immediately behind from slipstreaming the Red Bull driver when he suddenly accelerated away.
The tactic worked perfectly as Verstappen head in Turn 1 with a small gap over teammate Alex Albon and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
An attentive Brawn took note of the Dutchman’s smart ploy.
“He was particularly strong at the second re-start, when he slowed the field right down with the aim of ensuring no one would be able to slipstream past him and snatch victory,” observed Brawn.
“It was an exciting and fascinating re-start which will be analysed very carefully, as the closeness of the pack in the seconds leading up to the green flags resulted in a thrilling spectacle as drivers jockeyed for position and where the slightest advantage proved decisive.
“Examining the possibility of procedurally recreating those conditions in future is an interesting concept and one that will undoubtedly be explored in the coming period.”
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo admitted the restart tactics are fun as they deliver an adrenaline rush.
“It was cool,” said the Aussie, “I think because now they do no overtaking until the control line, or the start finish line, it allows us to basically not leave so early, and push it to the very end.
“When Lewis led the first restart, I think he went early, then saw the others were close so he slowed up again. But to be honest I love all that stuff now, so it’s fine.
“You see cars are locking up brakes, and it can be a bit chaotic, but obviously that gives you so much adrenaline.
“And when the race is a little bit follow the leader at times, a restart ignites a bit more adrenaline in you.”
Jerez de la Frontera, the home of the Spanish Grand Prix in the late 80s and early 90s, is reportedly in talks with Liberty Media to host once again the country’s F1 event according to Spanish media.
The 4.4 k circuit located south of Seville in Andalusia last hosted an F1 event in 1997, a season-finale run under the European Grand Prix banner and memorable for its title deciding showdown between Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher.
Spanish media is reporting that Jerez and Liberty Media have initiated talks to take over the Spanish Grand Prix from 2021, a move that could undermine Barcelona’s own efforts to extend its current agreement with F1 beyond 2020.
Financial woes had put the event at the Circuit de Catalunya in doubt earlier this year, but funding secured from the local government of Catalunya has guaranteed the race’s presence on next year’s calendar.
Some reports in Spain are going as far as to claim that a preliminary deal between Jerez and Liberty was signed in London recently, with Jerez agreeing to a three-year contract and a €22 million annual franchise fee, part of which would be bankrolled by the regional government of Andalusia.
Mamen Sanchez, the mayor of Jerez de la Frontera, confirmed the ongoing negotiations.
“The City Council has been working for two years to get Formula 1 back to Jerez,” said Sanchez.
“We are the administration that has started this but as a reminder we have a confidentiality agreement, so that I hope and wish that those who divulge the news first will not upset the negotiation.”
While Jerez is an FIA Grade 1 circuit eligible for Formula 1, it remains to be seen what infrastructure work might be required to be bring the venue up to modern F1 standards.
Over the years, Jerez has remained a mainstay on the MotoGP calendar, but the track was last visited by F1 in 2015 when it was the venue of choice for pre-season testing.
“In the heat of the battle, and sitting as low as we do, you don’t always see how much room there is,” argued Ricciardo.
“Obviously, I hit him, and he spun so whether he squeezed me or not I don’t know yet.
“I wanted to apologise because, if I’m in that position and someone hits me, I would expect the same.”
The stewards were unapologetic towards the Renault driver however, handing Ricciardo a five-second time penalty.
But the setback still allowed the Aussie to finish a productive sixth, a feat which Ricciardo insisted his team could be proud of.
“I was obviously upset with myself and upset with the incident but I think to be honest we kept our head down, didn’t expect to get up to 7th but I think we made it happen and that part of the race was really strong.
“The penultimate restart was awesome. I think I got three cars, it was fun! We can leave proud.”
As for Magnussen, the Dane concluded his afternoon out of the points, frustrated and disappointed but with no hard feelings towards his opponent.
“It was a shame and it felt like a real missed opportunity for the team today.” Magnussen said.
“I had wing damage so I continued and got the safety car but everyone else was just much stronger than us on the restarts and I missed out on the point.
“I spoke with Daniel after. I think he mis-judged it a bit and he said he was sorry, so there is no hard feelings.”
“A good pit stop from the guys,” said Verstappen. “I think it was 1.9 seconds, so that was incredible.
“I came out, also Robert came out and he almost took me out, I went into the wall. I almost caught the anti-stall, it was very close.”
As a result of the near miss, Verstappen lost a position to Lewis Hamilton, while the stewards’ investigation determined that Williams had released Kubica at the right moment, but the Pole was slow to get away.
After the race, Kubica said he had no issues with the subsequent 5-second penalty.
“That is the rule, the punishment was correct since I was released in front of another car,” he said.
“It’s a pity because I know what it’s like when you’re in the lead and such things shouldn’t happen, especially when we’re [Williams] only fighting with each ourselves.
“I can only apologize, I couldn’t do anything. I had no idea he was coming.”
Lando Norris left Brazil with mixed feelings on Sunday, happy for McLaren’s podium finish with Carlos Sainz but unsatisfied with his own performance which he felt had been undermined by a slow middle stint on the hard tyre.
Sainz’ outstanding dash from last to third using a two-stop soft-to-medium tyre strategy was one of the talking points of yesterday’s race along with McLaren return to the top-three for the first time since 2014.
But Norris might have well finished hot on the heels of his teammate if he’d followed a similar game plan as the Spaniard.
The 20-year-old enjoyed a feisty opening stint, battling in the thick of the midfield before moving up the ranks and comfortably into the top ten.
In retrospect, Allison said the team not only gave its driver inaccurate information regarding the number of positions he would lose, it was also wrong to ask Hamilton to make the final call.
The final pitstop cost the six-time world champion two spots, with Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly passing the Mercedes driver. With two laps to go, Hamilton snatched P3 from the latter and then clashed with the former, an incident that would ultimately cost the Briton a 5-second time penalty and his runner-up spot in the standings.
“Having not had the shiniest of races to that point, we just did something plain dumb,” explained Allison, who was managing the troops this weekend in the absence of team boss Toto Wolff.
“We thought we were exchanging a place for fresh rubber with enough laps left to get that place back properly and then have a go for the lead.
“That was just factually incorrect because we were exchanging two places, we hadn’t factored Gasly and secondly with the amount of debris on the track, there was just a lot more laps taken up by the safety car than we’d anticipated.
“And that was just, I think, that your rookie error of a not quite quick enough car on the day and trying to stretch too far for victory. It wasn’t on, we just made a mistake.”
Allison absolved Hamilton of any responsibility in the botched decision to pit.
“This was entirely our fault, because we saw what we thought was a fleeting opportunity,” added the Silver Arrows engineer.
“It was not at all clear to us that it was the right thing to do. But there was a possibility.
“We thought, well, let’s give Lewis a chance to give his view, which we shouldn’t have done because we didn’t give him the right information.
“We said one place and it was two and secondly, we should have just made the call ourselves. “So he uhmmed and ahhed for a second or two before diving in the pits, because he likes racing. But that was our mistake.
“I think from the moment that we made the call it was like a heart-sink moment after he emerged from the box behind Gasly and then we just were thinking: ‘Why do we do that?’ ”
Alfa Romeo Racing boss Frédéric Vasseur says his team was left “proud and happy” by its double top-5 finish in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix and the huge bag of points it delivered.
Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished respectively fourth and fifth at Interlagos, a season best for the Swiss squad and its first top-5 since Belgium in 2009, or 1951 depending on whether one relates the performance to Sauber or Alfa Romeo history.
While F1’s midfield obviously benefitted from a succession of incidents that impacted several front-runners, Vasseur insisted there had been no “defining factor” behind his team’s feat.
“We can be really happy and proud with this result,” Vasseur said.
“To bring two cars in the points just outside the podium is the reward for the hard work of everyone in the team.
Binotto labeled the incident a “silly mistake’ although the Ferrari boss stopped short of assigning responsibility to either driver.
The Italian outfit subsequently canceled its post-race press conference at Interlagos, but Binotto, who spoke only briefly to both drivers yesterday, made clear that a meeting behind closed doors at Maranello was in order.
“I heard both drivers, but there will be time together with them to discuss again what happened today, and there will be time for the team to analyse all the video and the data,” the Swiss said.
“Whatever will be the judgment, the most important thing is that we are disappointed and sorry for the team.
“First, the two drivers should be sorry for the team. Because it was a very small crash with big consequence. But that is a silly thing that should not happen.”
Brazil marked the third time this season that Vettel and Leclerc have found themselves at odds with each other.
At Monza earlier this year, Vettel blamed Leclerc for not returning the favour of a slipstream in qualifying, while in Russia, Vettel ignored a pre-race agreed team order to let his teammate pass after the start of the race.
“It’s a matter of recognising, eventually, what has been the actions and the mistakes,” Binotto added.
“And I think that whatever you are, a driver, an engineer, whatever you are doing, recognising mistakes is important because that can only make you better.
“So, I think what would be important with both drivers is to understand what happened. Making sure that at least not in the heat, but when they will come all together in Maranello to understand what happened, what has been the mistake.
“It’s not me to blame them, it’s them to recognise it.”
The stewards took no further action against Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc following the pair’s clash in the Brazilian Grand Prix, but Scuderia boss Mattia Binotto suggested the incident between his two drivers had been “a silly mistake”.
Leclerc and Vettel were involved in a tight battle for fourth soon after the first safety Car restart, with Monegasque outbraking his teammate into Turn 1.
Vettel fought back however and got a run on Leclerc out of Turn 3, but somewhat forced the issue when overtaking him on the right and then drifting left, with Vettel’s left rear wheel touching Leclerc front right.
The end result was a broken suspension for the latter and a puncture for the former with both cars retiring within a few hundred yards of each other, meaning zero points on the board for Ferrari.
Both drivers were left off the hook by the stewards, who determined “that both drivers had the opportunity to avoid or mitigate the incident and therefore that neither driver is predominantly at fault”. But behind closed doors Binotto might not show such leniency.
Speaking to Sky F1 after the race, the Scuderia boss suggested that both drivers “have got at least a small percentage of responsibility” in the incident. Ultimately however, it was the team that suffered the most.
“I think the drivers need to feel sorry for the team – because at the end, they were free to fight,” added Binotto.
“Free to fight but they know that silly mistakes are something we should avoid for the team itself.
“And today it has been a very small contact I have to say, but there will be time to analyse it, there will be time to look at the video, I don’t want to do that in the heat.
“With the drivers, I had already a chat with them and I don’t want to judge now, they should not judge now, there will be a time to do it all together.”
Leclerc and Vettel immediately blamed each other over the airwaves, but when the everything had cooled down, they took a measured view of their clash.
Leclerc said that Vettel had “started to squeeze me a little bit to the inside, and we were very close. Everything happened very quickly, and as soon as he went to the inside we touched.
“I’m pretty sure we are mature enough to put that behind us,” concluded Leclerc.
The German admitted that he didn’t have much space as he passed his teammate.
“Obviously we were fighting ourselves in the chicane quite aggressively,” he said.
“I didn’t have much space to the right and obviously had a better exit out of Turn 2, 3 and a lot more battery left and I thought I was already past. I don’t know why we touched.”
Carlos Sainz claimed his first career podium in 101 starts in Formula 1, after successfully picking up third position in the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Sainz was originally classified in fourth place at the line, but was promoted to the top three after Lewis Hamilton received a five second penalty for making contact with Alexander Albon on the final lap.
“It’s a special day for me, for the team, because we just did everything that we could do. We did it right,” he told reporters after the race.
“Everything that was in our hands we did it very well. It was maximum attack from lap 1,” he added. “”One of those days as a driver where everything happens and clicks.”
It was a remarkable comeback after a dismal Saturday for Sainz, in which technical issues with his engine meant he couldn’t take part in qualifying.
That meant he had to start the race from dead last at the back of the grid, but he was soon moving his way forward with a series of great passes during an extended first stint on soft compound tyres.
“The moves on [Sergio] Perez, the Alfas, the Haas, everything … I made it stick every time I could,” Sainz said.
Unfortunately for Sainz, the delay in deciding Hamilton’s penalty meant that he missed out on the formal podium celebrations, and instead received the trophy after the stewards decision was announced.
“A bit weird not being there [on the podium] after the race, but still extremely happy,” he said on his Twitter page. “Today’s race was just unbelievable. The one stop strategy was difficult but paid off.”
However there had been an anxious wait before McLaren could celebrate its first podium success in 119 races, since Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button finished in second and third place in the Australian Grand Prix in 2014.
Sainz himself was among a number of drivers placed under review by the stewards for potentially using DRS behind the safety car.
But after an analysis of data prvided to the stewards by the teams involved, it was decided that no further action was required over any alleged breach.
That allowed the McLaren team to start the celebrations in the pit lane at Interlagos.
“It’s a great achievement obviously,” McLaren principal Andreas Seidl told Motorsport.com after the result was confirmed.
“I’m very happy for the entire team after putting in a lot of hard work here at the track and back home at the factory.
“It’s great to achieve this podium, the first one for Carlos in his career, also the first one for us for a long time,” he added.
“It’s great motivation to make sure we keep working hard and fight for podiums in the future down to our own performance.”
Max Verstappen said he had been pushed to the limit in his efforts to secure victory in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Having claimed pole position in qualifying, Verstappen was able to keep the lead going into the first corner and went on to lead the first 21 laps.
But he was held up during his first pit stop by a backmarker, and when he came out it was behind Lewis Hamilton. He pulled off a pass on the Mercedes at the end of the lap, only to lose it again next time by.
Finally he was able to stamp his authority on the race and was back in the lead on lap 26, but it was still a close, back-and-forth affair all the way through right to the finish.
“Lewis was very quick so I had to keep pushing all the time,” Verstappen admitted after the race. “Mercedes was quick again, but I think as a team we did a really good job with the pit stop strategy.
“[Lewis] pitted early so we had to be on top of our pitstops,” he continued. “I was behind so I was pushing flat out in my outlap to try and be close to him and it was my only shot, so because of that I was close into the DRS.
“”We knew we had great top speed the whole weekend already, but that was a guess and I’m very happy to have got past.”
“Two times we had a good move with him, and that brought us back into first. From there onwards I could control the race with the tyres I had.”
Verstappen made an extra stop during the first of two safety car periods, and the fresher tyres helped him immediately retake the lead.
“As a team we did a really good job,” he continued. “With the pit stop strategy, especially the last one to get back on the red tyres that basically saved our race and gave us an opportunity to fight Lewis again into turn 1.”
He kept the lead through a further restart a few minutes later and ultimately had a six second lead over the rest of the field by the time the chequered flag came out.
“Unbelievable. It was a lot of fun out there, and of course great to win the race,” he said. “It was incredible to come out on top here.
“I don’t give myself marks [out of ten] but it’s been a pretty good day.”
Verstappen’s success in winning this year’s race was lauded by Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
“It was a fantastic race,” the team principal told Sky Sports F1. “He was not going to give up that win today!
“We got compromised on the pit stop with the Williams and with the unsafe release that happened but he had the benefit of a new set of tyres.
“He really used that on the out lap, and he was able to take the lead quickly again and control the race again from there.”
Horner also congratulated the impressively fast work by the pit crew working on Verstappen’s car today, as well as the contribution of their engine suppliers Honda.
“The guys have done a great job. This sport is all about team work, and [everyone] have done well, done their part.
“All credit to Honda as well,” he added. “The job they’ve done this year is fantastic. When you think of the difficulties they had when they came back into F1, they’ve kept their heads down, they’ve worked hard.
“To see both their teams up there on the podium for the second time this year, at a circuit that is power sensitive – to beat Ferrari, to beat Mercedes, hat’s off to them!”
However he still had to battle Lewis Hamilton to retain the spot in a wild two-lap shootout at the final restart.
Initially unable to fend off the Mercedes, he had another chance when Hamilton clashed with Alexander Albon – the man who took Gasly’s Red Bull seat over the summer.
“At the end I saw they were battling and tried to push as hard as I could and the opportunity came to us.
“Lewis had new tyres, and I knew he was going to try something [on Albon]”, he told Sky Sports F1. “He tried, they collided. When I saw we could go through this and we were second, I was like, ‘Okay, this is looking really good!’
“I still had Lewis behind me until the last centimetre before the line. He was really trying and I could see his front wing,” he continued. “I really didn’t want to let him past, because I wanted to hold onto that second position.
“I don’t know when I crossed the line. I had so many things going through my mind, and so many emotions as well, and yeah – it’s just incredible!
“That’s why I love motorsport, these emotions – I just kept believing until the end,” he added. “That’s why I want to stay in this sport for so many years, because this kind of day is just amazing.”
Without doubt, thoughts of that difficult period over the summer when he was demoted from the senior Red Bull squad back to the junior Toro Rosso team couldn’t have been further from Gasly’s mind on Sunday.
“To get [my first podium] with these guys, Toro Rosso have given me such a fantastic car since I’ve come back. It’s an amazing day.
“It’s just the best day of my life right now,” the French driver said afterwards. “I didn’t really imagine it was going to happen right now in the second part of the season with Toro Rosso.
“I just gave everything I had, I kept working the entire time, tried to get more out of myself the entire time, and today is just fantastic.
“I’m thinking about all the people that helped me through my career, to put me in Formula 1 and help me, just all the people that supported me.
“I must say a big thanks to Honda because without the progress they have made, without them, I would never have held the second place on the line. Big congrats and thanks to all the guys.”
Gasly was congratulated on his achievement by his former boss at Red Bull, Christian Horner.
“It’s great for Toro Rosso too, and it was great to see them get that result today,” he said, adding that the smaller team was the best place for Gasly right now.
“In that environment, there’s been less pressure, the car is a little easier to drive, and he’s driving brilliantly and it’s great for him and great for his confidence.”
When all was said and done, the six-time world champion offered his apologies to Albon, admitting the move – which warranted an investigation by the stewards – had perhaps been a tad optimistic
“I massively apologise to Albon,” said the Briton after the race. “I went for a move that, the gap was kind of there, but obviously it closed right at the end. Completely my fault.”
After the Turn 10 commotion, Hamilton attempted to wrestle back second place from Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly who had inherited the spot after the Red Bull/Mercedes contact. To no avail unfortunately.
“He [Gasly] did a great job,” said Hamilton. “He was very fair with how he positioned the car.”
“We threw everything and the sink at it. We could keep up with them [Red Bull] through the corners, but they were just outshining us on the straights. I think there was nothing we could do.”
The stewards subsequent investigation into the Turn 10 incident determined that “Car 44 was predominately at fault for the collision with Car 23 at Turn 10 and therefore ordered a five second penalty”.
The offence demoted Hamilton down to seventh, while McLaren’s Carlos Sainz saw a priceless podium land in his lap!
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen finally achieved redemption for missing out last year by claiming victory in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.
A thrilling finish to the race saw Pierre Gasly take second place for Toro Rosso ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who had tangled with Alexander Albon in a fight over the runners-up spot during a late restart.
Ferrari suffered a self-inflicted disaster after Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc made contact while vying over fourth position with five laps to go, putting both cars out of the race.
Lance Stroll was a casualty of the debris from the incident, while Valtteri Bottas had been the first retirement of the afternoon after his Mercedes suffered a power unit issue.
Bright and sunny conditions meant that the track at Autódromo José Carlos Pace was hotting up nicely as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel arrived at the front of the grid for the start of Sunday’s race. However the drivers also had one eye on the wind, which had started to gust around Interlagos by the time the lights went out to get the penultimate event of 2019 underway.
It was a short, sharp run up to turn 1 and Verstappen was able to confidently defend his pole position into the Senna esses, immediately starting to pull away. However Vettel was less fortunate and succumbed to a move around the outside from Lewis Hamilton starting from the second row.
Valtteri Bottas, Alexander Albon, Pierre Gasly, Romain Grosjean, Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen had all maintained their initial starting positions over the opening lap. In contrast, McLaren’s Lando Norris had promptly lost two places, allowing Charles Leclerc to jump straight into the top ten ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
The Ferrari had qualified in fourth but had then been hit by a ten place grid penalty for an engine change. Starting on medium tyres while all those ahead were on the soft compound, the Monegasque made his intentions clear with further rapid moves on the two Haas cars to move up to eighth by lap 6. The following lap he put Raikkonen to the sword into turn 1, and shortly after it was Gasly’s turn to have to defer to Leclerc.
Daniel Ricciardo was less successful in his bid to pass Magnussen for 13th into turn 4, with the Renault tapping the Haas into a spin on lap 10 as Ricciardo tried to take the inside line only to find the gap disappearing before he could make it work. Magnussen was able to gather himself together and get back underway with minimal damage to the VF-19’s bodywork, while Ricciardo was forced to make an early pit stop for a new front wing and was subsequently handed a five second penalty by the stewards for causing the collision.
A dozen laps into the race, Verstappen reported that he had picked up a vibration on the left-front tyre on the Red Bull, but he nonetheless seemed able to comfortably sustain a two second lead over Hamilton with Vettel a further four seconds behind but still well ahead of Bottas, Albon and Leclerc.
In fact it was Hamilton who pitted first on lap 21 in an effort to pull off the undercut, forcing Verstappen to immediately respond next time by. Both drivers took another set of softs, committing them to a two-stop strategy. The Red Bull pit crew performed flawlessly but Verstappen was held up by Williams releasing Robert Kubica ahead of him at the exit which meant Hamilton gained track position. A furious Verstappen immediately counterattacked and blasted past the Mercedes at the start of the next lap with help from DRS, only for Hamilton to do the same to the Red Bull a lap later. However the Mercedes was lacking power and a worried Hamilton asked the team if there was a problem, all of which helped Verstappen to once again retake the position.
Vettel had inherited the lead but pitted at the end of lap 25, opting for a set of medium tyres indicating he was hoping to run to the finish without another stop. A lap later Bottas was in, and his choice of the hard compound likewise hinted that Mercedes were also hoping to run a one-stop strategy. Their stops promoted Verstappen and Hamilton back to the front, with a yet-to-stop Leclerc now struggling in third ahead of Vettel, Bottas and Albon.
Told to switch to ‘Plan C’, Leclerc made his stop on lap 30 to take on the hard compound to see out the remaining 41 laps. He came back out in sixth ahead of Gasly, with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz briefly up to eighth despite starting from the back row until his pit stop on lap 31 dropped him back down the order. With his departure, the top ten was rounded out by the two Alfas of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
The mid-section of the race became a waiting game as teams watched to see how their respective tyre strategies played out. Verstappen had pulled out a three second lead over Hamilton who was ruing the decision to stick to used softs and wishing he’d gambled on mediums. Either way both men had to stop again, which would hand the lead to Vettel – but would the Ferrari make it to the end on the mediums? Bottas seemed better poised on the hard tyres but he was slipping away from the leaders and on the verge of handing them a ‘free’ pit stop, while also coming within range of Albon immediately behind.
Wary of being undercut by Albon and Leclerc, Mercedes made the surprise decision to bring Bottas in on lap 42 for mediums after just 11 laps on the hard compound. Next time by, an increasingly agitated Hamilton was also in for a service and a similar switch to the yellow-walled tyres, Red Bull responding by calling in Verstappen in on lap 44 for another impressive display by the pit crew compared to that of their rivals, which duly kept him in front of Hamilton. Vettel was now in the lead but only by six seconds from Verstappen and Hamilton, and his pace on the worn tyres soon dropped off, leaving him a sitting duck. As soon as Vettel fell to third, Ferrari called him in on lap 50 for a final stop and a new set of softs.
Meanwhile Bottas found himself faced with having to dispense Leclerc and Albon on track if he was to successfully regain fourth place, and the Ferrari was proving a particularly tough nut to crack. The longer it took, the fainter the Finn’s prospects of challenging Vettel for the podium. Worrying smoke signals from the back of the W10 indicated that the effort was causing his Mercedes power unit to overheat, and on lap 53 Bottas was forced to pull over and become the first retirement of the afternoon.
The need to recover the stricken car triggered a full safety car, wiping out the big gaps between the drivers on track and allowing lapped cars to unlap themselves before the restart. Verstappen and Leclerc both opted to use the opportunity to pit for a fresh set of soft tyres, while Mercedes told Hamilton to make the opposite move and stay out.
Hamilton did all he could to back Verstappen into Vettel’s clutches at the restart on lap 60 but it wasn’t enough for the Mercedes to hold on to the lead through turn 2. The unintended consequence of all the manoeuvring was to give Albon the chance to strike successfully on Vettel for third. The rookie then had one idea on catching Hamilton ahead of him while at the same time ensuring Vettel didn’t strike from behind.
In fact Vettel had problems of his own, as Leclerc used his fresher tyres to challenge his team mate for position on lap 66. The pair made light contact – Leclerc’s front-right touching Vettel’s rear left – but the consequences were disastrous for Ferrari with both cars suffering mortal injuries and immediately forced out of the race. The debris from blown tyres also took out Lance Stroll and a second safety car was triggered. Hamilton made the surprise decision to pit, dropping him to fourth place with only four laps remaining and no certainty that the clean-up would be completed in time to allow a restart.
The efficient track marshalls completed their work with enough time to allow a final two-lap shoot-out. Verstappen took off at the front with Hamilton quickly passing Gasly for third place. However his attempt to pass Albon for second was messy and the pair made contact, the Red Bull spinning round from the impact in an incident that will be reviewed by the race stewards. Gasly reclaimed second place while Hamilton was recovering, and front wing damage to the Mercedes left him unable to retake the position by the time the chequered flag came out – leaving the Frenchman enthusiastically celebrating his first podium success with Toro Rosso.
Behind the top three, Sainz picked up fourth ahead of Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Ricciardo, Norris, Perez and Daniil Kvyat. Missing out on the points were Kevin Magnussen, George Russel, Romain Grosjean with Albon limping home in 15th ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Kubica a lap down in last place.
As well as the Hamilton/Albon clash, stewards also announced that they were investigating the use of DRS by a number of drivers behind the first safety car, meaning that all of the race results remain highly provisional.
“I don’t think it is going to happen,” Hamilton said ahead of Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix. “But that doesn’t bother me.
“It doesn’t mean I am not British, and I will continue to try and raise the flag as well as I can.
“Just the fact that people have mentioned it, is an honour, but I have not spent my life chasing it. It is just not something you grow up thinking of.
“But if it did happen I don’t know how I would handle it. I have stood in front of Her Majesty the Queen before and it was incredible. She really is awesome.”
Oddly, the plaudits – whether royal or from the fans – have always been slow to come Hamilton’s way.
The sheer numbers associated with his career or the F1 star’s unblemished track record appear unjustly outweighed by the image of a dashing jet-setter operating in a niche sport while residing in tax haven Monte-Carlo.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff believes Hamilton – a “polarizing” figure in the UK according to the Austrian – will finally get the recognition he deserves once his career in F1 is long over!
“It is difficult for me, as an Austrian, to understand the importance of the British honours system,” Wolff told The Telegraph.
“What I feel is that there is a lot of polarisation around Lewis, particularly in the UK. Why that is, I don’t know.
“But one thing I’m certain of is that one day, if he decides to stop his career, people will acknowledge his successes and what a great superstar he was.
“You cannot judge a person on a picture in a magazine, or on what you see under a helmet,” added the Mercedes boss.
“The human I know is a fantastic personality, and I think if people were to know him, even the sceptical ones, I’m confident they would change their minds.”
Mercedes technical director James Allison says Ferrari’s straight-line speed in qualifying at Interlagos was “pretty useful”, but the Briton admits the Scuderia’s overall dip in form is “interesting”.
After its run of six consecutive pole positions which started at Spa after F1’s summer break, Ferrari’s relative underperformance in qualifying in Austin and in Brazil has pundits scratching their head.
Questions have emerged about whether the FIA’s recent technical directives clarifying and reiterating fuel flow and oil-for-fuel regulations have had an impact on Ferrari’s engine performance.
And that interrogation suggests that the Scuderia had perhaps been using an illicit ploy to generate gains before the US Grand Prix.
Allison has kept a watchful eye on the red cars’ performance and while he believes that Ferrari’s dip in form is “interesting”, the Mercedes man insists that various factors could have induced the underperformance.
“I think they were still pretty useful on the straights, but not quite as marked as it was [Friday], said Allison, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“That could be all sorts of things. We all run different power modes on a Friday.
“Probably the only thing that you could stand back from a distance and say is that it’s two races on the trot where it hasn’t been pole position for a Ferrari. And they sort of had a reasonably comfortable margin.
“So it’s an interesting thing, but not anything you could draw any solid conclusions from.
“They’re still a quick car on the straights and let’s just see how they are in the race tomorrow, how they are in the in the races to come.”
The speculation of late surrounding Ferrari’s engine performance gains, and the FIA’s subsequent technical directives, has incited everyone to closely scrutinize the red cars straight-line speed in Brazil.
In qualifying, the Scuderia’s chargers were nowhere to be found in the speed trap readings covering the top ten, a fact that will only add more fuel to the fire lit by those who believe the House of Maranello was in violation of the law before the FIA’s recent clarifications.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz has vowed to deploy “maximum attack” mode in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix after an ignition issue thwarted his qualifying efforts.
Sainz was confined to his team’s garage from the outset in Q1, stranded by an ignition wiring issue on the McLaren’s Renault engine that prevented the Spaniard from setting a time.
With a guaranteed start from the back of the grid, with or without an engine swap, McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl pondered specification changes to Sainz’s MCL34, a choice that would imply a pitlane launch.
“It’s still open at the moment, we need to figure out what we want to do,” Seidl said;
“We also have a first analysis now, which means that the wiring system of the of the ignition failed and that was causing a power loss Carlos felt, and nothing we could fix.”
Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes Lewis Hamilton should call it a day on his career in F1 if Mercedes leaves the sport at the end of 2020.
While Mercedes has given no indication that it could pull out of F1 after next season, the prospect of the manufacturer’s departure from Grand Prix racing isn’t being dismissed.
Paradigm shifts in the automotive industry imply that F1 could become less relevant to Mercedes, but its overwhelming success in the sport – with six consecutive constructor and driver titles achieved in the last six years – also entails that its mission is complete.
Furthermore, rumors of Toto Wolff leaving the helm of the Silver Arrows outfit to take the reins of F1 from current CEO Chase Carey are also gaining momentum.
For Ecclestone, if Hamilton wins a seventh title next year – a feat that would put him level with Michael Schumacher in the history books – and Mercedes leaves the sport, the Briton should drive off into the sunset rather than seek a final challenge with Ferrari.
‘There has been change at the top and the new people are not so enthusiastic about Formula One as the old people used to be.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Mercedes stopped,” Ecclestone said at Interlagos, quoted by the Daily Mail.
“They might think we have won seven world championships — which they will have done by the end of next year — so why stay?
“If I were Lewis I’d think, ‘I’ve won another title,’ and I’d stop. If Charles Leclerc stays at Ferrari, I’d put money on him to win against Lewis. He’s not necessarily better but he is established in the team.
“Ferrari is a strange place to work. Lewis doesn’t speak Italian. They might gang up on him — or fall in love with him — but I don’t think he would do as good a job for himself or the sport as he is doing with Mercedes.”
Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes runs until the end of next year. But regardless of Mercedes’ future, Ecclestone isn’t sure Ferrari would up the ante to acquire the Briton’s services, suggesting the Scuderia would perhaps prefer Max Verstappen whose deal with Red Bull also expires at the end of next year.
“If Ferrari had a choice of Lewis or Max Verstappen I think they would go for Max, for the same reason they like Charles,” contends the 89-year-old.
“With Sebastian Vettel or Lewis they will only get a couple of years but with the younger two they might get 10 years. I’m not sure Max isn’t the best guy at the moment, including Lewis.”
It’s been a tough time for the Haas F1 Team since the summer break, with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen seemingly sinking further and further down the running order with each race.
But the American squad found something of its previous form this weekend in qualifying at Interlagos, with both drivers making it through to the final round for the first time since Spain back in May.
Grosjean will start from seventh place on the grid and Magnussen will line up in ninth after both drivers gained a bonus position as a result of an engine change penalty for Charles Leclerc which drops the Ferrari out of the top ten.
“It was a brilliant job by the team,” said a delighted Grosjean. “Having both cars in Q3 is unbelievable.
“Tomorrow might be a different day, but that doesn’t matter, we’ll take the pleasure from today,” he continued. “I’m happy for the team, it’s a brilliant job from everyone.”
The success had been a particular surprise given that neither car was in the top ten in Saturday morning’s session.
“We didn’t really get to show the speed we had in final practice,” acknowledged Grosjean. “I had confidence that we might be around P11.
“Then obviously Q2 went really well, and Q3 wasn’t too bad!
“We were only two-hundredths of a second off being best-of-the-rest,” he pointed out, after narrowly failing to catch Toro Rosso’s Pierre gasly for sixth.
Magnussen was also pleased to have something to show for his efforts ahead of what will be his 100th Grand Prix appearance since his debut in Australia in 2014 with McLaren.
“It’s good to have both cars in Q3 again,” having not made the final round since Belgium in September. “It looks like we might have something to fight with this weekend, which is really good.
“There’s nothing to be disappointed about from today,” he enthused. “The circuit and conditions were right for our car.
“It’s been very up-and-down all the way through the year, so it’s not a surprise that we can do this.”
However, this year the team has struggled to maintain its momentum in race trim, and the Dane acknowledged that this was a concern again in Brazil.
“I’ll be more surprised if we can finish it off tomorrow, we know we struggle a little bit with tyre management in the race,” he said. “[But] we’ll certainly be giving it our all.”
Torday’s performance was warmly praised by Haas team principal Guenther Steiner, who certainly needs a boost after their recent struggles.
“The whole team and the drivers did a great job to get everything out of the car,” he said. “It was a fantastic execution of a qualifying session with some fantastic drives.
“It’s good for the team, everyone’s worked hard for this, and we never give up. We keep on fighting and today we’ve had a good result.
“Hopefully, tomorrow we can do something. For sure, we’ll be trying!”
Despite today’s welcome success, Haas still faces an uphill battle to avoid finishing the season in ninth place in the constructors championship. With two races remaining, the team has 28 points and needs seven to catch Alfa Romeo.
Kevin Magnussen has a chance of overhauling Lance Stroll for 15th place in the driver standings, but Grosjean is 12 points behind his team mate.
“It was a bit of surprise to see – not to see them this quick, but to see them that quick on the straights?” Vettel suggested. “A little bit suspicious!
“I don’t think they have introduced a new spec?” he queried. “Obviously there is no progress from one race to another, because it’s the same engine I suppose.
“We were always a bit faster than everyone else on the straights. Today Max and Alex were as fast as us. I don’t know why, we haven’t done anything different.”
Turning more serious, Vettel explained how he had lost time in his first run in Q3 which ultimately gave Verstappen the advantage to clinch pole.
“I had a bit of a wobble at the exit of the last corner on the first run,” he said. “But Max improved his time [on the second run] so fair play. I think it’s his pole position.
“Max’s time was a bit far away, so I think we have to admit we got beaten fair and square.
“I think we were a bit shy yesterday, more aggressive this morning which was a step forward. And then in qualifying it seemed to go up and get better,” he continued.
“I think the track ramped up,” he added. “I’m happy with the front row, now we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.
“The car has been good, I think it got better throughout qualifying which was the target and I think we improved it. Hopefully we can keep that momentum also for the race.”
Although the matter of this year’s drivers and constructors titles has already been wrapped up, Vettel is still hoping to beat Verstappen and his own team mate Charles Leclerc in the championship standings.
Vettel is currently in fifth place on 230 points with two races to go including tomorrow’s Brazilian GP. That puts him five behind Verstappen, and 19 behind Leclerc who will start tomorrow’s race from 14th place because of an engine penalty.
“It will be difficult,” Vettel said when asked it he felt a valuable victory was possible on Sunday. “Both Red Bull and Mercedes look a bit stronger managing tyres, but we are there for a reason.
“We [have to] make sure we manage the tyres and make the right call on strategy,” he said. “We know the race for us is not as strong as qualifying but I was quite pleased with the balance.
“We, therefore, did another long-run this morning which felt better than yesterday, so that gives me hope for tomorrow.”
“There is always something crazy happening [at Interlagos],” he added. “It might rain tomorrow, even though it says sunshine, here you never know.
“We’ve got the speed, we’ve got the power, so let’s see what the race brings. I’m carefully optimistic. I think it should be a good race.”
“We seemed quite competitive in FP3 and then we seemed to lose when it got to qualifying, or they gained,” he said after ending up almost two tenths slower than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. “Congrats to Max, obviously a great lap by him.
“We’ve been down on power I guess compared to the others particularly, that’s where we seem to lose most of our time,” he explained. “We went in knowing that it was going to be very tight, but in the end we didn’t have the pace to be on pole.
“Once we got to qualifying both Ferrari and Red Bull had great pace and we were losing out on the straights by quite a chunk. I kept chipping away at it and I think the last lap was as good as it could get for us.
“I gave it everything I had and I’m glad at the end. My best lap was the last run, so [that was] awesome.”
Although he was also outpaced by Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton took satisfaction in beating the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. “I’m glad I was able to divide the Ferraris, it’s always a tough challenge,” he said.
“I don’t think there was any juice left in the car. I’m happy I got myself into the top three, that makes it a much better challenge for me position-wise to fight for a win.
“Our long run pace looked strong on Friday, it’s been one of our strengths throughout the year. It’s going to be really hard for everyone tomorrow with track temperatures potentially reaching up to 50 degrees which we’ve not seen all weekend.
“I’ve been conscious of that with my set-up, so hopefully that works well tomorrow.
“This is such a tough race to win,” he admitted. “The track is very, very challenging, and of course there’s so much history here.
“Everytime we come of course for me I’m often putting Senna’s helmet design on my helmet, just reminiscing about watching him winning here and how crazy the crowd went,” he said, receiving a big ror of approval from the local fans. “I think I have a lot of support here, which I appreciate.”
Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas finished qualifying in fifth place, but will move up one spot on the grid to join the Briton on the second row because of Leclerc’s ten-place drop for taking a new engine.
Bottas admitted that this hadn’t been his weekend so far, but insisted that things were gradually turning around for him.
“That was better than my pace earlier today,” the Finn pointed out. “I really struggled in practice, it was a tricky one so I really had to build up into it during the qualifying.
“The very first few clean laps I actually got were Q1 and Q2 of this weekend,” he continued. “Honestly it was not a bad feeling.
“In Q3, the first run I had a tiny lock-up in one corner and lost a few hundredths there, but other than that I thought I could really squeeze everything out of the car.
“My laps in Q3 actually felt pretty good, there were maybe a few hundreds left to extract from the car, but not enough to challenge for pole today,” he admitted. “I was quite surprised to see the pole lap time and I think we were just not quick enough today, and that’s a fact.
“I’ll still start the race from the second row, so it will be interesting to see what I can do from there. We have a good race car, but the Red Bull looked very strong in the long runs as well.
“For sure we always keep optimistic and we’ve won races away from the first row and we’re not going to give up on that. We so have a good race car that’s for sure.
“I’m sure tomorrow we can have lots of fun,” he predicted. “It’s going to be an exciting race tomorrow. Everything is still to play for, so we’ll keep upbeat and look forward to a good fight.”
Pierre Gasly’s performance as ‘best of rest’ in qualifying at Interlagos put a smile on the Toro Rosso drivers face and offers an opportunity to deliver a solid bag of points to his team on Sunday.
While his team Daniil Kvyat failed to make the Q2 cut, Gasly cruised without any drama through qualfying’s first two segments before banging in a time in Q3 that put him P7 and at the top of F1’s midfield.
The Frenchman credited his team for supplying him with a competitive car on Saturday afternoon.
“Really happy with today, P7 is the best we can expect, so it’s our small pole position for the midfield teams,” he told Sky F1.
“I’ve felt good in the car all weekend, the team managed to give me a really competitive car and I think we can be pleased with the result today.”
From the outset, Gasly’s game plan involved avoiding traffic as much as possible around Interlagos’ short 4.3 km track, a difficult task he admitted.
“I tried to avoid the traffic which was more or less impossible in quali,” he said. “We tried to do the best we could, the pitwall managed everything pretty well to put us in that position in Q3.
“It wasn’t easy, it was really tight between us and the midfield, but the team did a really good job.”
Indeed, while there was almost a second between sixth-place contender Alex Albon and Gasly in Q3, the spread was only 0.017s between the Toro Rosso charger and Haas’ Romain Grosjean who qualified 8th.
With the midfield so tight, Gasly insisted that only a perfect lap allowed him to gain an edge.
“You need to nail everything, it’s so tight here like a few hundreds can make you win two or three positions.
“It’s really difficult like every weekend but today the car was great for me, I felt comfortable and managed a good lap.”
Thanks to Charles Leclerc’s grid drop, Gasly will launch his race from the outside of the third row and seize any opportunity that may come his way although he admitted his race pace was a bit of an unknown quantity.
“Starting from P6 I think we’ll have an opportunity for sure,” he added.
[Regarding] the race pace, I have no idea because we had a small issue yesterday, so we don’t have much data.
“The car was really good,” Verstappen acknowledged. “I think throughout qualifying, the track temperature was changing a bit so we had to adjust to that.
“But straightaway from Q1 the car was flying and it was actually really enjoyable to drive, so I’m really happy with this pole position.”
Even though he made an error in his first Q3 lap, Verstappen went straight to the top of the timesheets.
“I tried a different line but also the track was a bit warmer so it gave me a bit more understeer, and then of course I went a bit wide,” he said.
“But the second lap luckily was a bit better,” he added, ensuring that he stayed ahead of Sebastian Vettel for pole position.
It was the best birthday present that Red Bull boss Christian Horner could have wanted.
“I think he just got the car really hooked up,” Horner told Sky Sports F1 after the end of the session.
“The whole package has been working really well. The circuit got a little tricky at the end there, it was difficult to improve and he just eked those last little gains. A brilliant qualifying for him.
“We have got a good car, we have been a contender for pole in the last three races now so that’s really encouraging.”
The pole was the team’s second of the season, and Horner credited engine partners Honda for all their hard work since their partnership began at the start of 2019.
“All credit to Honda, they are doing a wonderful job to get what is now officially their second pole position in the hybrid era,” he said. It’s the Japanese manufacturers’s first pole in Brazil since Ayrton Senna’s in 1991.
“It’s high altitude here, it’s a tough track on engines, and if you think of where a few years ago the effort going in is really impressive.
Meanwhile the second Red Bull will start from fifth place on the grid for tomorrow’s race, with newly re-signed Alexander Albon admitting that Interlagos was proving a difficult nut to crack for a rookie.
“It’s my first time but I don’t like that excuse,” he said. “It was okay. I think after FP2 and FP3 I struggled to get into the rhythm.
“Actually my laps didn’t feel bad, which is not a nice feeling when you feel good and the pace isn’t there!” he added. Coming from FP3 it was a positive turnaround in that sense, but I wanted more.”
Albion said that the first series of corners – the Senna Esses – were particularly tough to get to grips with.
“Even my second run, I had a little snap into turn 2. It’s not even that turn 2 is slow, it’s that the tyres are too hot for the rest of the lap.
“It is like very fine margins around here because all the corners are after each other so you basically you compromise one corner and then you’ve just ruined four or five.
“There’s no many tracks like this, and I do enjoy driving here, but I wanted to be a bit quicker at it!”
Charles Leclerc will launch his Brazilian Grand Prix from P14 on Sunday and with the bit between his teeth following a qualifying session that left the Ferrari driver very disappointed.
After a strong showing from the Scuderia in FP3, all eyes were on the red cars in the afternoon shootout at Interlagos.
But an impeccable performance from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen thwarted Ferrari’s hopes of pole, with Sebastian Vettel qualifying second while Leclerc’s best effort was only good for fourth, or P14 following the Monegasque’s 10 spot grid penalty linked to an engine change.
Leclerc rued a “big mistake” in Q3 on his first timed lap in the last corner, an error he felt had perhaps cost him a run at pole.
“I don’t think pole was out of reach today,” Leclerc said.
“I am very disappointed with myself today, I did quite a big mistake on my first timed lap in the last corner which cost me at least three tenths. It’s my fault and I take it completely.
“The team did a great job, I think the car was there to fight for pole at least and I didn’t do the job in the car.
“So disappointed, but anyway I have 10-places grid penalty for tomorrow so it was always going to be a difficult day.”
With nothing to lose – except perhaps his third place position in the Drivers’ standings versus Verstappen and Vettel, Leclerc vowed to put himself in “full attack mode” when the lights go off on Sunday.
“I enjoy starting at the back, but I enjoy it a little bit less when I’m fighting for third place in the championship, but it’s life and I’ll try and enjoy it as much as possible and come back.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix from pole position, with Sebastian Vettel alongside him on the front row.
Verstappen was quickest in all three rounds of the afternoon session, and his final run of 1:07.508s put him 0.123s ahead of the Ferrari. It’s his second pole of 2019 since the team’s switch to Honda.
Lewis Hamilton had to settle for third place at the end of qualifying. His Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas will be next to him on the grid, after a ten-place engine penalty for Charles Leclerc is taken into account.
It was a rough afternoon for McLaren, with Lando Norris narrowly missing out on the final round and Carlos Sainz unable to set any time at all due to a power unit issue.
Q1: Verstappen fastest as Sainz fails to set a time
With the cloud building up over the Autódromo José Carlos Pace and track temperatures starting to fall a little, Robert Kubica was first out on track at the start of qualifying in the Williams FW42 that had been rebuilt following his FP2 accident on Friday afternoon. He was soon joined by his team mate George Russell and by Alfa Romeo pair Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
Russell set the opening time of 1:10.688s but the Alfas were over a second quicker, the newly re-signed Giovinazzi just pipping his senior colleague. His time at the top didn’t last long however before Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat displaced him by the smallest of margins, just four thousandths of a second.
By now the two Ferraris were in action, with Sebastian Vettel clocking in at 1:08.556s which was 0.036s quicker than Charles Leclerc. Then it was the turn of the rookies, with Red Bull’s Alex Albon going top and Lando Norris fourth. However there was bad news for the second McLaren, with Carlos Sainz reporting that “Something went! Something went on the engine!” resulting in an order over the team radio to to pit immediately without setting a time.
Despite a scrappy lap with traffic, Max Verstappen’s time of 1:08.242s was enough to put him clear at the top ahead of an improved effort from Leclerc, while the Silver Arrows appeared a little off-colour with Lewis Hamilton only fifth fastest and Valtteri Bottas just behind in sixth. With Kevin Magnussen finding good pace in the Haas for seventh, Norris had been pushed down to eighth ahead of Romain Grosjean and Pierre Gasly.
Daniel Ricciardo was looking safe in 11th but his Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg was under pressure in 16th, which put him in the drop zone along with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and the two Williams – plus Sainz, who was still in the MacLaren garage and yet to set a time.
Red Bull and Mercedes opted to sit out the second run, leaving the track clear for Hulkenberg to improve to tenth place ahead of Ricciardo, and safely through to Q2. Pushed into the drop zone in his place was Kvyat, with Stroll, Russell and Kubica all unable to fight their way out of the bottom five, which was anchored by Sainz whose engine problems had proved intractable in the time available.
Q2: Verstappen stays ahead of the Ferraris as Norris misses out on progressing
The sun was winning its fight with the overcast conditions as the remaining 15 cars geared up for Q2. No one was in a hurry to get out, and it was two and a half minutes before Hamilton and Bottas blinked first and roared off down pit lane. Significantly they were both still on soft tyres, but Leclerc – already knowing he would suffer a ten second penalty for Sunday’s start for a new power unit – came out on a set of mediums.
The early honours went to Verstappen, who set a time of 1:07.503s on the red-walled tyres putting him almost four tenths quicker than Leclerc who was second quickest despite the slower compound. Hamilton could only manage third ahead of Albon, Bottas and Grosjean. Vettel was the final driver to set a time in the second round, and his first run on soft tyres was enough to insert him between Leclerc and Hamilton for third.
After the first runs were completed, Raikkonen was on the bubble in tenth followed by Norris, Ricciardo, Giovinazzi, Hulkenberg and Perez, but only a little over two tenths covered all six drivers meaning there was still everything to play for in their final runs before the chequered flag.
Verstappen, Vettel and Albon all felt comfortable enough to remain in the garage, and it turned out to be a good call as no one was able to significantly improve on their earlier times. That was due to a combination of falling track temperatures and yellow flags for a harmless spin for Giovinazzi at turn 8.
Joining Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes in progressing were the two Haas cars together with Gasly and Raikkonen. On the other side of the dividing line, a crestfallen Lando Norris – informed that he had missed out on making it into Q3 by just 0.01s – replied: “I know. Sorry about that, I just didn’t put it together.”
Q3: Verstappen sweeps qualifying to claim pole position
Despite the sunnier conditions, lengthening late afternoon shadows meant that track temperatures were still falling as the remaining ten cars headed out for the final 12-minute pole shoot-out round.
Hamilton took the initial provisional pole ahead of his team mate, but it was quickly reclaimed by the Ferraris and then further repossessed by Verstappen by just 0.008s with a time of 1:07.623s, despite the Red Bull not setting any purple sectors on the way. A little over three tenths covered Verstappen and his team mate Albon in sixth ahead of Grosjean, Raikkonen, Gasly and Magnussen.
After that there was a brief lull in proceedings as the cars reported back to pit lane for any final tweaks before their last push for pole. Leading the charge back out was Albon with Raikkonen and Magnussen in close pursuit, and everyone jockeying for position and clear space to work with. This time the two Silver Arrows cars were bringing up the rear – but would that prove to be to their advantage?
Verstappen was able to find even more time on his last push lap and extended his advantage at the top, keeping him clear of Vettel who lacked pace in the middle sector. Hamilton pushed hard to move into third place ahead of Leclerc, who will drop to 14th on the grid for tomorrow’s race – which is good news for Bottas who will move up to the second row of the grid alongside his team mate.
Albon also improved his time if not his position and finished qualifying in sixth ahead of Gasly, with Grosjean beating Raikkonen to eighth place and Magnussen the slowest of the ten runners as the clock ran out.
With the championship wrapped up for both team and driver, Lewis Hamilton sees an opportunity to trial alternative “strategies or processes” in the final two races of the 2019 season.
Hamilton sealed his sixth world title in Austin while the Silver Arrow squad was crowned for the sixth consecutive time in Japan.
The atmosphere is anything but laid back in the German camp however as the outfit’s competitive spirit remains intact. But Hamilton is nevertheless open to experimenting, especially as next year’s on-track testing schedule will be reduced compared to 2019.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has remained in Europe this weekend, missing a race for the first time since 2013, an absence which Hamilton jokingly welcomed, insisting it was akin to a “breath of fresh air’ for the Silver Arrows troops.
“I think he has such a presence in this team that even whilst he’s not here he’s still here,” Hamilton said on a more serious note.
“Everything that’s been set up is because of him and all the people that he’s put in place and everybody’s still here knuckling down as normal.
“Just because you don’t see them on the pit wall and don’t see them in the meetings but I know he’s done the debrief on the other end and listening to everything that we’re saying.
“So, I think everyone’s behaving as well as they can.”
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton led the field in the final free practice before this afternoon’s Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying at Interlagos.
Hamilton – like most of his rivals – ran exclusively on the soft tyre in the 60-minute session, the Briton’s benchmark time edging the best effort by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 0.026s.
Ferrari’s Chares Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel concluded their dress rehearsal third and fourth, the Scuderia pair appearing to gain on the straights whatever time was lost on their Mercedes and Red Bull rivals in the twisty section.
Alex Albon and Valtteri Bottas closed out the top six, the Finn struggling to match the performance of his pace-setting teammate.
As the weekend unfolds, the sessions get drier and FP3 kicked off on under normal conditions, with McLaren’s Lando Norris the first driver to spring into action, followed by Red Bull’s Alex Albon and Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
Williams Robert Kubica was also circulating early on, the Pole eager to finally put some mileage under his belt after handing his car over to Nicholas Latifi in FP1 and crashing out of FP2 on his first flying lap.
The action remained subdued in the first quarter of the session, but traffic progressively ramped up, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg laying fastest times until Vettel went top with a 1m09.666s.
Now also on track, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton toppled his rivals with a 1m09.562s that edged Leclerc by 0.037s, Vettel, Bottas and Hulkenberg, with everyone running on the soft tyre.
But Verstappen leap-frogged the entire group, beating Hamilton by 0.391s, the Red Bull looking very much a match for Mercedes, at least in Interlagos’ middle sector.
As the halfway point came and went, Ferrari got down to business, with Vettel and then Leclerc outpacing the front-runners, the Monegasque lowering the benchmark to 1m08.611s.
No sooner had Leclerc taken command, Hamilton – still on the softs -vaulted to the top by nearly three tenths of a second, while Verstappen also jumped the red cars to position himself in Hamilton’s wake, just 0.026s behind.
Bottas on the other hand appeared to struggle to find some extra pace to emulate his teammate, the Finn sitting sixth, just one spot behind Albon.
Many believe Ferrari’s performance on the opening day of practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix put to rest suspicions about the Scuderia’s engine power, but Red Bull’s Helmut Marko still has his doubts.
Two technical directives recently published by the FIA addressed, and outlawed, potential ploys that could be exploited to increase engine power.
The TDs, the first of which was issued in Austin and was a response to a query from Red Bull, were rumored to be aimed at Ferrari, whose rivals have been scratching their head about the boost in straight-line speed and power of the Scuderia’s cars since last summer.
Coincidently – or not for some – the US Grand Prix saw a dip of form for the Italian outfit, an underperformance that only increased speculation about Ferrari’s use before Austin of a special technical stratagem that boosted its engine power.
However, the team’s performance in FP2 – in which Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc led the field – appeared to indicate that despite the FIA’s intervention, Ferrari’s power was still very much alive and well.
According to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Ferrari held a 0.7s advantage over Red Bull in terms of straightline speed in Brazil and an even greater edge over Mercedes.
The data led Marko to believe that Ferrari, contrary to its rivals, had run its engines in full power mode in FP2 in order to pretend that its output was unaffected by the governing body’s recent technical rulings.
“If I were Ferrari, I would do anything to drive away from the others on the straight,” the Austrian said, quoted by AMUS.
“Otherwise, everyone believes that they are cheating. It will be interesting to see what it will be like on Saturday.”
Since Spa, Ferrari has only been defeated twice in qualifying: in Mexico where Max Verstappen secured pole, although the Dutchman eventually saw his time deleted for a yellow flag infringement, and in Austin last time out.
Stay tuned for likely more comments and innuendo on Ferrari after qualifying at Interlagos…
Brazilian Grand Prix promoter Tamas Rohonyi is confident the F1 race will remain at Interlagos for the foreseeable future, dismissing a switch to Rio de Janeiro from 2021.
Earlier this year, Rio made a bid to host the Brazilian Grand Prix at a purpose-built facility located on the outskirts of the city, with the endeavor receiving the full support of the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro who claimed there was a 99 percent chance the race would change venues.
However, Sao Paulo is eager to remain the race’s home in Brazil beyond next year, with Rohonyi questioning the viability of Rio’s plans.
“Either F1 remains here or there will be no Brazilian GP,” Rohonyi told Autosport.
“I make no comments about Rio de Janeiro that I do not know, but what I do know is that there is a land with trees and animals, and so far there remains a land with trees and animals.