Red Bull are on the hunt for their tenth consecutive win – but could Max Verstappen’s mixed fortunes on Sprint weekends be a stumbling block? Here’s what to watch out for at the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix!
One year on from Hamilton’s Brazil masterclass
It’s no secret that Lewis Hamilton loves Brazil. In the past week, the seven-time World Champion has been made an honorary citizen of the country. Interlagos is, of course, the scene of Hamilton’s famous first title win in 2008 – as well as the venue at which he pulled off a remarkable weekend to win last year’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Starting last on the grid for the Sprint race after being disqualified from the qualifying session, Hamilton made his way to fifth by the end of the 24 lap Saturday race. After serving a further five place penalty and starting tenth for the Grand Prix, Hamilton won the event, seeing off title rival Max Verstappen along the way, despite the Red Bull driver’s bold defensive moves.
Time is running out for Hamilton to keep up his record of winning at least one race in every F1 season in which he has competed. Hamilton has recorded eight podium results this year – including finishing as runner-up in the last two races. Perhaps Interlagos, a circuit at which he has won three times previously, will present an opportunity for his 104th career win.
The F1 Sprint returns
For the third and final time this year, the Sprint format returns. The traditional qualifying hour will be run on Friday evening, setting the grid for Saturday’s 100km sprint race. Interlagos will become the first venue to have hosted two Sprint events, with last year’s Saturday race here arguably being the most exciting of the five held so far.
Max Verstappen has won both sprint races so far this year and is yet to finish below second in any of the five Saturday races across the last two seasons. He’s one of only five drivers – along with team-mate Sergio Perez, both Ferrari drivers and Kevin Magnussen – to pick up points in both Saturday races in 2022.
Luck doesn’t always go Verstappen’s way on sprint weekends. He won the inaugural Sprint race at the 2021 British Grand Prix only to be taken out on Lap 1 of Sunday’s race by Lewis Hamilton, he suffered a race-ending crash – again with Hamilton – at Monza last year and, despite starting last year’s Interlagos sprint from the front of the grid, Verstappen finished as runner-up to Valtteri Bottas. Also, of his seven pole positions in 2022, the only one Verstappen has failed to convert into victory was at the Austrian Grand Prix – the last F1 weekend to have hosted a sprint event. Will luck be on Verstappen’s side this weekend?
Red Bull’s dominant form
Despite Verstappen’s mixed fortunes on Sprint weekends, it’s difficult to back anyone other than Red Bull to win a Formula 1 race at the moment. Last time out, in Mexico City, Verstappen secured the team’s ninth consecutive win, while home hero Sergio Perez accompanied him on the podium.
Now in search of their longest ever winning period, the team could make the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix only the sixth time in Formula 1 history that any team has won ten races in a row.
Meanwhile, a podium for Verstappen or Perez would make this the 20th consecutive race in which a Red Bull driver has finished in the top three – again, the sixth longest such streak in Formula 1.
Six of the last eight Interlagos races were won from pole
Whoever starts from pole position on Sunday is in a good place to win. Six of the previous eight races in Sao Paulo have been won by the polesitter. Hamilton’s win from tenth on the grid last year was certainly an anomaly, being the only time since 2004 that a race at Interlagos has been won by a driver starting outside of the top three grid slots.
But that’s not to say that good results can’t be scored from further back on the grid – just look at Carlos Sainz in 2019, who finished in third place having started on the back row!
AlphaTauri vs Haas
Just a single point separates AlphaTauri and Haas in their battle for eighth place in the Constructors’ Championship. The ranking may be lowly, but the financial reward will be high for whichever team comes out on top in this fight at the end of the season. The two teams have been separated by a single point or less since September’s Italian Grand Prix.
Based on previous results in Brazil, it could be another close weekend between the two teams. The Red Bull junior team has scored on each of their last two visits to Interlagos. It has been Pierre Gasly who has scored for the team each time, scoring his maiden podium with second place in 2019 and finishing seventh last year. Gasly will need to be on his best behaviour for the foreseeable future, though, as he stands just two penalty points away from a race ban.
While AlphaTauri’s points haul has been plentiful in Brazil in recent seasons, Haas have not scored at Interlagos since 2018. That’s the only time the team have picked up points in Brazil, with both drivers finishing in the top ten that afternoon. However, in more hopeful news for Haas, Kevin Magnussen has scored points for the team in each of the last two sprint races – finishing eighth in Imola and seventh at the Red Bull Ring. AlphaTauri, on the other hand, are yet to pick up Saturday afternoon points in 2022. They’ve finished in the top eight at a sprint race only once previously.
Will the championship points gap remain so small heading into the final race of the year – or will one team take the advantage this weekend?