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BRAZIL GP: VERSTAPPEN DOMINATION AS USUAL, SPECTACULAR ALONSO AND KO FOR LECLERC



"I lost the hydraulics of the steering wheel and soon after the rear wheels locked on their own sending me into a spin and into the barriers. There was nothing I could do." were the words of Charles Leclerc, who dramatically went off track during the reconnaissance lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver started from the second position on the grid, but things couldn't have gone worse for him and the Italian team.


It was a real setback for Leclerc, who had his sights set on the podium and beating the two Mercedes to score as many points as possible for Ferrari in their pursuit of Toto Wolff's team in the constructors' standings.


It was a tough day for the team led by Frederic Vasseur, which also couldn't make a significant impact with Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard started seventh and finished sixth, remaining stuck in those positions throughout the Grand Prix. In essence, it left little to desire. Beyond Leclerc's expectations mentioned earlier, one has to wonder if the Monegasque's SF23 would have been on par with McLaren and Aston Martin (had it not suffered that hydraulic issue), or if it would have gradually lost positions lap after lap.


We wanted to begin this article by discussing Ferrari because the withdrawal during the formation lap was truly shocking, a cold shower for everyone. But the Brazilian race marked another triumph for Max Verstappen, flawless in both starts and race management. Why two starts? In the initial launch, there was a rather violent incident in the middle of the pack triggered by Kevin Magnussen, who collided with his teammate Nico Hulkenberg while side by side heading towards the first turn. Hulkenberg ended up hitting Alexander Albon, and the latter then collided with Magnussen, ending both of their races. In this chaos, Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo were also somehow involved, with Ricciardo's car getting hit by a stray tire from Albon. The red flag was inevitable.


Returning to Verstappen, he did as he pleased. He managed the tires, allowing Norris to get closer, but when he realized he might face an attack (which Norris attempted, albeit timidly), he extended the gap at his leisure. Farewell to the competition. Verstappen secured his 17th victory of the season in 20 races, and if it weren't for Ferrari's win in Singapore with Carlos Sainz, Red Bull would have had a clean sweep in all of the 2023 Grands Prix, including Sergio Perez's wins in Jeddah and Baku.


In second place, Norris and McLaren-Mercedes wrapped up an exceptional weekend. Lando secured pole position in the Sprint race qualifying, finished second in the 30-minute race, and took second place again in the Grand Prix after a great start. This marks the sixth time this year that Norris has finished in second place, with an additional third-place finish in Losail. Seven podiums for him. Unfortunately, Oscar Piastri was quickly penalized due to a contact.


Astonishingly, the return to the top for Aston Martin-Mercedes. The second row secured by Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso wasn't just a stroke of luck due to a unique qualifying format, with only one free lap available because of the race's Sprint format, and only one chance to set a time due to rain arriving. No, the AMR23 showed consistency, much like it had in the first eight races of the season when they achieved six podiums. Then, it had vanished from the top positions for eleven races, except for Zandvoort, where Alonso claimed second place.


In Sao Paulo, Alonso had an effective Aston Martin at his disposal, and he made the most of it. He held onto third place for a long time, but towards the end, he was caught by Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull. The two of them battled for a long time, until the Mexican launched his attack two laps from the end. It was a beautiful, hard-fought overtaking move at turn 1. Alonso didn't respond immediately, waiting for the last lap and the fourth turn at the end of the long straight, where speeds reached 325 km/h.


He executed the sequence of turns 1-2-3 well, benefiting from Perez's slipstream, and on the outside of turn 4, he forcefully passed him, reclaiming the third position. He knew that in the following corners, it would be impossible for Perez to find an opening. But the Mexican didn't give up and tried to overtake him in a neck-and-neck sprint, running side by side until the checkered flag, where Alonso beat him by just 53 thousandths of a second. It was a thrilling performance, and let's not forget that Fernando is 42 years old.


To confirm Aston Martin's result, Lance Stroll finished fifth after a poor start that cost him three positions. Nevertheless, the Canadian raced well, redeeming himself from a challenging season. We will see if he continues on this path in the upcoming last two races. Stroll was followed by Sainz, who was hindered by a sluggish Ferrari, and then the lively Pierre Gasly, who finished seventh with the Alpine-Renault, securing tenth place as well with Esteban Ocon.


If Ferrari had a rough day, the same can be said for Mercedes. Sluggish on the straights, Lewis Hamilton finished eighth, and George Russell retired due to a power unit issue. Compared to other cars, which easily overtook it on the straights, the W14 seemed to have the aerodynamics of a truck. This is quite remarkable considering that Hamilton had finished second in Austin (before the disqualification) and second in Mexico. It's a testament to how challenging it is for everyone, except Red Bull, to find the right setup race after race.


Finally, kudos to Yuki Tsunoda, who finished ninth with Alpha Tauri, while Sauber made the unfortunate decision to retire both their drivers due to technical issues.




© Cavalieri Garage & Co.

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