Will Verstappen deal critical blow to Hamilton’s title hopes? Sao Paulo GP talking points

2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

[raceweekendpromotion]Another win for Max Verstappen this weekend could seriously damage Lewis Hamilton’s title hopes, and the sprint format offers a potentially bigger pay-out to whoever is on top in Brazil.

Here are the talking points for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Can Hamilton turn his title slump around?

It’s a lazy journalistic trope to describe any of many upcoming races as a ‘must-win’ for a driver or ‘pivotal’ to the championship contest. But for the first time all year one of the title contenders is in a position where they could make themselves the clear favourite to clinch the crown.

Verstappen holds a 19-point lead as the teams head to Interlagos. If he leaves with a 24-point advantage, he will be able to win the title without beating his rival in any of the remaining three races.

The title contenders’ past form in Brazil gives Verstappen cause for confidence. He saw off Hamilton to win the last race at this track in 2019 (the pandemic prevented a return last year). Verstappen should have won in 2018 as well, but tangled with the lapped Esteban Ocon, letting Hamilton through.

That was only Hamilton’s second win at this track, however. The venue has never been among his strongest. He’s lost points to Verstappen in six of the last seven rounds, and if he can’t reverse that trend here, his title hopes will look increasingly forlorn.

The final sprint

Start, Interlagos, 2019
There will be two standing startse this weekend
Ahead of the third and final sprint qualifying event of the season Formula 1 has accepted the format needs significant change before it returns for an expanded run of six events next year.

The perpetually over-egged claims of its popularity fail to obscure the fact that, although increasing the number of competitive sessions across a weekend has increased viewership, the Saturday race itself has added little. Except for messing up the pole position statistics, which the series has vowed to fix for the 2022 F1 season.

Will a sprint qualifying race at Interlagos prove more successful than the events at Silverstone and Monza? The low tyre degradation at Monza seemed to be a limiting factor in the quality of the action. Interlagos tends to produce livelier races, so there’s some cause for optimism.

Coincidentally, the two title contenders have collided in each of the grands prix which were preceded by sprint qualifying races this year. What chance a hat-trick?

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

The constructors’ fight closes up

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
Ferrari have nosed ahead of McLaren in the points
The fight for the constructors’ title has come alive in the past two races, as Red Bull have slashed what was a 36 point lead for Mercedes. The two teams are now separated by a single point.

This has come about largely thanks to Sergio Perez hitting his stride and boosting Red Bull’s hauls. Having only reached the podium twice in the first 15 races, he’s now on a run of three in a row.

It’s even closer in the contest for fifth place, where AlphaTauri are now tied with Alpine, largely thanks to the efforts of Pierre Gasly. However Yuki Tsunoda has raised his game in recent races as well, even if he had little to show for it in Mexico due to a power unit change penalty and a first-lap retirement.

Meanwhile the lead has changed hands in the contest for third place. Ferrari have held the upper hand in their fight with McLaren since introducing an upgrade to their power unit, and finally made that tell in their points tally after Mexico. McLaren badly need to get back on terms with them this weekend.

Gasly’s great form

Gasly has been going great guns
This was a pivotal race for Gasly two years ago, as he scored the first podium finish of his career a little over two months after being dropped by Red Bull, and in the wake of the death of his friend Anthoine Hubert.

Since then Gasly has made a persuasive case for his promotion back to a top team, winning at Monza last year and almost single-handedly advanced AlphaTauri’s cause in the teams’ title fight. Last time out he saw off both Ferraris for a superb fourth place. Will he lead the midfield home again?

Can Giovinazzi finally grab a point?

On Sunday Antonio Giovinazzi took the chequered flag in 11th place – first of the non-points-scorers – for the third race in a row. It was an especially bitter result as he’d got his Alfa Romeo up to sixth place in the aftermath of the first-lap drama. The team later admitted it had misjudged his strategy.

His hopes of retaining his drive for next year seem increasingly forlorn. While his qualifying pace has looked good compared to team mate Kimi Raikkonen, he hasn’t had the race results to show for it, and he admitted as much ahead of last weekend’s race. He may not have many more chances left to grab a result which may boost his morale, if not save his seat.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Are you going to the Sao Paulo Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to Brazil for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you:

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

    Browse all 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix articles

    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

    Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

    33 comments on “Will Verstappen deal critical blow to Hamilton’s title hopes? Sao Paulo GP talking points”

    1. Even as Max win both as long Lewis is 2th Lewis has the chance to became WC. I think the last race will decide who is WC even if Lewis isn’t 2th but stays within 1-2 spots.
      If Lewis DNF (and the numbers will getting against him) It wil be the race before the last so we will know then.

      1. IMO, Max needs to win the next 2 races and at least 34 pts ahead to have one hand on the title.. to give a DNF + 2nd place w/o FL buffer, as anything CAN happen. A single engine DNF could play straight into Hamilton’s hand knowing his luck… And more so if Abu Dhabi is a Merc track again

        1. I hope Lewis get a DNF as if you calculate the numbers his number is up as it was 2016 when he had engine problems..

          1. Hope? think should that be Keith edit

    2. @keithcollantine Alpine and Alpha Tauri instead of Alpine and Aston Martin as Gasly and Tsunoda drive for Alpha Tauri

      1. Thanks for the heads-up – clearly I can’t cope with this many team names beginning with ‘A’…

    3. messing up the pole position statistics

      “It’s a lazy journalistic trope to describe” SQ like that.
      Penalties have ‘messed up’ those statistics many times over.

      And now for something completely different: I wonder what Gasly could’ve done in that second RBR.

      1. I disagree completely. Drivers have been losing pole positions due to penalties and technicalities since the fifties. Like it or not, it’s not new, though it’s gradually become more common.

        While that possibility has always existed and been understood, sprint qualifying is different because it sets out to award pole position (and all the other places) by something other than whoever’s fastest in qualifying. What’s different about sprint qualifying is it’s an enforced break with tradition. For that reason it was always going to be less popular with long-standing fans of the sport, as appears to have been borne out by F1’s research.

        It’s a good thing they’re already talking about changing that aspect of it for next year, but it’s a pity they didn’t listen to those who pointed out its obvious flaws before inflicting it on everyone.

        1. Totally disagree.
          Have to check it, but would not be surprised if 2021 is the first year that the pole position was lost due to an ‘engine penalty’.

          Independent of if you like or dislike SQ, it is at least a competitive session whereas an engine penalty is the result of some rules by suits and/or strategy decision by a team.

          1. What does it matter which penalty? Rules change, penalties change, but there were always penalties. This is not about how you could lose the pole position, but how do you earn it. Fastest lap doesn’t matter anymore, you have to win a race before the race. This is a change of concept, not tweaking of the existing rules.

          2. I don’t need to check to give you an example off the top of my head — Monza 2005. Kimi was P1 in quali but started 11th because of an engine penalty.

            1. Good example of when pole was set “by something other than whoever’s fastest in qualifying”.
              And of course Hamilton in Turkey 2021.

              Also, 2005 (Spain) was the year when Trulli was fastest during the single lap qualifying sessions but did not get pole, even though he did not have a penalty.

              I read all the arguments, but ain’t convinced that statistics is a reason to drop SQ.
              I don’t like SQ either, but for different reasons than “messing up the pole position statistics”.

            2. Where was it claimed that statistics is the only reason for dropping sprint races? There have been plenty of articles on this site about the subject, maybe you should read them. Don’t know why I’m bothering, I can already see you’ve dug your heels in.

            3. Yes pastaman, I’m pretty stubborn here.
              Though, I merely mentioned that in my opinion (thus I can be stubborn) it’s nothing more than a straw man argument to claim that it has messed up “the pole position statistics”.
              And if you had bothered to read my comment, you’d see that I am also in favour of dropping/changing SQ (not Sprint Racing per se).

              But even purely as a reaction to the italic part of your comment; the article DOES state: “the Saturday race itself has added little. Except for messing up the pole position statistics”. And yes, that means that the messing up is the only thing it added (although you mention “reason for dropping’).

              PS – I do read most articles here. And you’ll see in many of them that I (stubbornly) make similar comments when statistics are mentioned.

            4. Just wanted to reiterate my opinion that a race start to me is much more exciting than the final moments of flying lap qualifying, even though they can be exciting too. So I don’t mind a Sprint Qualifying for the excitement and tension of the race start it provides, but I also understand and don’t mind if they go back to pole for Sunday’s races being set either on Friday or Saturday flying lap qualifying, depending on the weekend, as it sounds like they will do next year.

              But for me if they must do Sprint Races (assuming they’ll be no longer to qualify so no need to call them SQ’s) as a separate thing, then I say do them on Fridays of the 6 weekends, after FP1, start them in the order they finished the previous full race, make them for Constructor points so they don’t decide the WDC nor dilute the meaning of the full Sunday race, and that way all Saturdays can be reserved for the usual non-points-paying flying lap qualifying, even on the 6 Sprint weekends.

            5. jff

              But even purely as a reaction to the italic part of your comment; the article DOES state: “the Saturday race itself has added little. Except for messing up the pole position statistics”. And yes, that means that the messing up is the only thing it added (although you mention “reason for dropping’).

              Non sequitur: the very fact that it adds little in terms of racing quality is something negative for the sprint “qualifying”, and the big statistical conundrum it has brought about just made it worse. So there are more reasons to drop it, we all know pretty well, and this statement doesn’t contradict it.

    4. Having only reached the podium twice

      This is a crazy stat for Perez, especially when you realise the podiums came on successive race weekends in Baku and Le Castellet. His Austria weekends reminded me of Webber in 2013, or Bottas in 2018. Teammate out in the front dominating while you fight in the mid-pack.

    5. Coincidentally, the two title contenders have collided in each of the grands prix which were preceded by sprint qualifying races this year. What chance a hat-trick?

      I do think that the two sprint races so far have provided the teams and drivers (especially the title contenders) a great insight of how their rivals behave on track – both car and driver. In case of Lewis v. Max: in Silverstone Lewis knew he had to be ahead of Max after the first lap, once Max’s tyres would be up to temperature overtaking would be difficult as was seen in the sprint race. In Monza Max knew that he had to stay ahead of Hamilton on a track that was favouring the Mercedes. The latter not being a surprise in general, but the sprint race gave him a better idea of what the Merc would be capable of in this year’s main race.

      In other words: let’s hope for radically different circumstances on saturday and sunday, or a team that can make multiple strategies work so they can throw up some smoke on saturday to surprise on sunday.

    6. Too early to tell. It’s all about the form of both teams at the remaining races. I think MB has a slight edge at all 3 races in the Middle East. Are RB and Mercedes take one last engine penalty of are they safe?

    7. If I were Red Bull, I’d first see whether next year’s Red Bull is easier to drive, before considering a Gasly promotion. Ironically, a good performance by Perez next year may be to his detriment, as it suggests that the car is easier to drive for a non-top tier talent.

      1. @aapje Note that Keith speaks of Gasly making his own case for a promotion to ‘a’ top team, not RBR specifically. It seems like for now that ship has sailed for Gasly at RBR, or at least as you suggest they will certainly have through next year to see. I’m not sure I take your point about next year though. If the car is easier to drive for whatever reason, I would think SP will come out of the gate swinging as opposed to this year when he was acclimatizing to the team and car. If he does that why would they want to replace him? Unless of course you believe they want a non-top tier talent beside Max? My bet would be they want two drivers as high up on the grid as often as possible, and my money is on SP for next year being an even stronger teammate for Max, and for RBR’s Constructor Championship.

        1. @robbie

          There are many ways that Perez can go sour. He’s been very much into fighting with his team mate in the past and if he does better at the end of this year, he may no longer want to to be Max’ wing man when the team expects him to. Or he can just be to slow/inconsistent.

          I do think that Gasly has been doing quite well and might have a shot if Red Bull doesn’t want Perez anymore and believes that Gasly will be able to drive the new car well enough.

          1. @aapje Fair enough. I do think SP is in a better place now than he has ever been in terms of winning car and team spirit, and even in terms of where he is now with the car compared to the start of the season or even the middle. So I’m not expecting much in the way of friction like you are portraying from Checo’s past. But hey, one never knows right? It’s one race at a time.

            I don’t disagree at all with your second paragraph, and again one never knows and it’s just a matter of them feeling things out as the races and seasons go along. Although I don’t believe they want someone who can just drive the car ‘well enough.’

    8. Unless Max gets a DNF in this race & Lewis wins, I reckon he stays ahead in points until the end, given recent form.

    9. Describing an engine change assisted 5th and 2x 2nd place in the three races since Hamilton’s last win as a “slump” is a bit of a stretch!

      I can see Giovinazzi finishing in the top 10 in Brazil, but only in the Sprint Race, scoring him zero points.

      Anyone know the weather this weekend? Rain in Brazil never seems trivial, so Saturday rain could pay havoc and make the Sprint Race actually interesting for once.

      1. Weather rain Thurday and monday weekend dry clouded Sunday more sun. 18-19celsius friday Saterday 24 on raceday.

        1. @macleod thanks. That’s a shame in a way, but I guess I’d prefer less random weather events impacting at such a late stage in the season.

    10. @eurobrun maybe when you consider that Max took a penalty in Russia and went from 20th to 2nd, while Hamilton’s penalty was from 10th to 5th, so THAT is a slump.

      1. @omarr-pepper Russia was a freak result for Max. Without the sudden rain storm, he’d have been nowhere near the podium.
        I still think the word “Slump” is being used overdramatically to deliberately engineer column inches!

    11. IMO, it’s still too early but it’ll be a critical blow for HAM if Max keeps winning and is at least 34 pts ahead with 2 races remaining. That means a DNF and 2nd place w/o FL will be enough to win the title.

      However, if Abu Dhabi is a Merc track again and it’s a 1-2 for them (meaning Bottas swansong on-form), then even 34 pts buffer won’t be enough for Max (though 37 would do it).

      So Brazil? Still too early for any critical blow.

      1. The above assuming Hamilton has bulletproof reliability (only DNF prior to Monza is Austria 2018!) and of course if he keeps finishing directly behind Max…

    12. When the smoke clears I want to see race car diver crowned WDC, not a social influencer slash fashion model.

    Comments are closed.