George Russell, Max Verstappen, Interlagos, 2022

Will Verstappen’s tyre advantage allow him to defeat “unbeatable” Mercedes?

2022 Brazilian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Mercedes’ win-less streak is over. Technically. After 20 grands prix and three sprint races, George Russell did what he and Lewis Hamilton had previously failed to do all season – take the chequered flag first during a race session in 2022.

Crucially, Russell’s sprint race win was down to him being the quickest on the track. It was not won by default – a gift from Red Bull with a mechanical failure or a crash involving cars ahead. Russell passed surprise pole-winner Kevin Magnussen, then chased down Max Verstappen. After three attempts to get by, the lead was his, and with that soon followed the victory and pole position for today’s grand prix.

For the first half of the sprint race, Verstappen appeared to have the race under control. He was the only driver, aside from Nicholas Latifi, to choose the medium tyre compound. Once he slipped by the Haas to take the lead, Red Bull could have expected the champion to keep a steady pace until the end for a comfortable win. That did not happen.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner explained the team’s choice was based on their doubts about the soft tyres, rather than being sold on the mediums.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2022
Verstappen couldn’t run away from his rivals in sprint race
“We felt that the soft was limited in range so we took the decision to start on the mediums, thinking if we could survive the first half of the race, we would be alright,” Horner explained.

“However, when we got there, we found we were suffering worse degradation than anticipated. To add to that, Mercedes had a quick car today and those two factors meant we couldn’t hold them off.”

Russell admitted the call to start on softs was not as obvious as it may have seemed. “I think it definitely wasn’t clear-cut,” he said in the press conference following yesterday’s race.

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However Russell suspects Verstappen’s sprint race strategy could have earned him an advantage for the grand prix.

Sprint race start, Interlagos, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix sprint race in pictures
“I think we’ve all recognised that the soft was probably the best-performing tyre this weekend in the race, which is quite odd. Obviously that means if you use the soft today, you’ve got one less tomorrow. So even though Max and Red Bull didn’t have a strong race, they’re probably in a slightly better position than the three of us going into the race tomorrow as they’ve got that one extra set of new softs.”

The weird race weekend schedule caused by the sprint races mean second practice becomes more reflective of potential race pace than usual. Russell was quicker in that session than Verstappen, the Mercedes’ first push lap on softs quicker than the Red Bull’s. But what was telling was how their performance varied through the lap.

Naturally, Verstappen enjoyed a large top speed advantage over the Mercedes, even with both forgoing DRS. But Russell gained plenty of time back on the exits of corners, flooring the throttle earlier than the Red Bull did. If Russell has to defend from Verstappen in the grand prix, that seemingly superior traction could be crucial.

Even if Russell and Hamilton keep their one-two on the grid intact in the earlier laps, they will be wary of Verstappen holding an extra set of softs in reserve. Not least because of how much better the softer rubber appeared to perform in the sprint race.

“The advantage is we go into tomorrow’s race with an extra set,” Horner recognised after the sprint. “So what we gave up strategically today we get back tomorrow.

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“Mercedes will be quick, they will drive a tactical race and its two Red Bulls against two Mercedes with Ferrari thrown in. It sets up a fascinating grand prix.”

Mercedes unexpectedly locked out the front row of the grid
While Mercedes have flirted with victory occasionally in the second half of the year, Sunday presents them their best chance of converting a first win of the season. However, the memories of Mexico and the USA – where Mercedes’ strategy did them no favours – hang over them. Russell expects the team will try to cover both options in the race.

“I think as we saw in Mexico that we both did the same strategy and ultimately it affected us both,” Russell explained. “Sitting here right now, we probably don’t know what the right strategy is going to be.

“We’ll race each other fairly, for sure. And I’m sure we’ll probably be splitting the strategies tomorrow to try and cover all options – hopefully one of us comes away happy tomorrow. But I think we, we both recognise based on recent experience, we’re probably going to have to go two separate ways.”

With Hamilton lining up alongside his team mate on the front row, Mercedes hold the advantage. That begs the question whether Mercedes will enforce team orders to maximise their hopes of winning.

“There definitely won’t be any team orders,” pole winner Russell insisted. “But I think between the two of us we will definitely be strategic to try and get that win for the team.”

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For the first time, Hamilton is staring down a win-less season in his Formula 1 career. But, tellingly, his focus appears to be on a Mercedes victory regardless of whether it’s him or his team mate who takes it.

Max Verstappen, George Russell, Interlagos, 2022
Overtaking proved possible in sprint race
“I think I’ll just say that getting a one-two either way, I’m going to be a happy person,” Hamilton said. “Just because of how hard everybody’s worked.

“George has done an amazing job this year and he’ll be pushing for that win – but we’ll, of course, drive carefully and clean. We’ve just always got to just have at the front of our mind, it’s the team – Getting the result for the team. But of course, individually, we’ll do our best to try and get the best result.”

Should Mercedes race pace be maintained over the 71 laps of the grand prix, Verstappen knows he could have a genuine fight on his hands. Despite his tactical advantage of a second set of fresh softs.

“Even on the softs, we wouldn’t have been fast enough,” Verstappen explained. “We were clearly struggling on keeping the tyres alive, so this is something we need to try and fix for tomorrow. Even though there’s not a lot you can do. But it can’t get worse than this.”

Having won 14 races this season, Verstappen has every reason for confidence. And yet, it seems this is the first time all year he may genuinely have find a way to overcome two Mercedes to reach the chequered flag first.

“At the moment, they look unbeatable,” Verstappen conceded.

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Qualifying times in full

Position Number Driver Team Q1 time Q2 time (vs Q1) Q3 time (vs Q2)
1 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’13.954 1’11.410 (-2.544s) 1’11.674 (+0.264s)
2 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’13.625 1’10.881 (-2.744s) 1’11.877 (+0.996s)
3 63 George Russell Mercedes 1’14.427 1’11.318 (-3.109s) 1’12.059 (+0.741s)
4 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’13.106 1’11.377 (-1.729s) 1’12.263 (+0.886s)
5 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’14.680 1’10.890 (-3.790s) 1’12.357 (+1.467s)
6 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’14.663 1’11.587 (-3.076s) 1’12.425 (+0.838s)
7 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1’13.542 1’11.394 (-2.148s) 1’12.504 (+1.110s)
8 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’13.403 1’11.539 (-1.864s) 1’12.611 (+1.072s)
9 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1’13.613 1’11.456 (-2.157s) 1’15.601 (+4.145s)
10 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’14.486 1’10.950 (-3.536s)
11 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes 1’14.324 1’11.631 (-2.693s) Missed by 0.044s
12 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1’14.371 1’11.675 (-2.696s) Missed by 0.088s
13 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’13.597 1’11.678 (-1.919s) Missed by 0.091s
14 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1’14.931 1’12.140 (-2.791s) Missed by 0.553s
15 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’14.398 1’12.210 (-2.188s) Missed by 0.623s
16 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1’15.095 Missed by 0.164s
17 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’15.197 Missed by 0.266s
18 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’15.486 Missed by 0.555s
19 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1’16.264 Missed by 1.333s
20 47 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1’16.361 Missed by 1.430s

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Qualifying sector times

Position Number Driver Sector one Sector two Sector three Ultimate lap Deficit to ultimate lap
1 1 Max Verstappen 18.093 (2) 35.772 (2) 16.856 (2) 1’10.721 0.160
2 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr 18.087 (1) 35.787 (3) 17.016 (10) 1’10.890
3 16 Charles Leclerc 18.334 (13) 35.591 (1) 16.978 (8) 1’10.903 0.047
4 63 George Russell 18.194 (4) 36.092 (5) 16.933 (4) 1’11.219 0.099
5 20 Kevin Magnussen 18.131 (3) 36.152 (8) 16.974 (7) 1’11.257 0.153
6 4 Lando Norris 18.208 (5) 36.066 (4) 17.013 (9) 1’11.287 0.090
7 23 Alexander Albon 18.256 (9) 36.316 (11) 16.785 (1) 1’11.357 0.274
8 14 Fernando Alonso 18.224 (8) 36.136 (7) 17.034 (11) 1’11.394
9 11 Sergio Perez 18.222 (7) 36.255 (10) 16.938 (5) 1’11.415 0.041
10 44 Lewis Hamilton 18.304 (12) 36.173 (9) 16.957 (6) 1’11.434 0.105
11 31 Esteban Ocon 18.265 (10) 36.1 (6) 17.093 (13) 1’11.458 0.129
12 5 Sebastian Vettel 18.212 (6) 36.318 (12) 17.083 (12) 1’11.613 0.065
13 10 Pierre Gasly 18.281 (11) 36.505 (14) 16.863 (3) 1’11.649 0.026
14 18 Lance Stroll 18.353 (14) 36.45 (13) 17.213 (15) 1’12.016 0.194
15 3 Daniel Ricciardo 18.388 (15) 36.607 (15) 17.145 (14) 1’12.140
16 6 Nicholas Latifi 18.915 (16) 38.45 (17) 17.73 (17) 1’15.095
17 24 Zhou Guanyu 19.43 (20) 38.004 (16) 17.763 (18) 1’15.197
18 77 Valtteri Bottas 19.029 (17) 38.574 (18) 17.883 (19) 1’15.486
19 47 Mick Schumacher 19.272 (18) 38.906 (19) 18.055 (20) 1’16.233 0.128
20 22 Yuki Tsunoda 19.316 (19) 39.221 (20) 17.727 (16) 1’16.264

Qualifying speed trap

Position Number Driver Car Engine Model Max kph (mph)
1 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Red Bull RB18 334.5 (207.8)
2 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull RB18 331.3 (205.9)
3 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Red Bull AT03 329.6 (204.8)
4 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes FW44 327.9 (203.7)
5 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault A522 327.5 (203.5)
6 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A522 327.3 (203.4)
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes MCL36 326.8 (203.1)
8 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL36 326.6 (202.9)
9 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes AMR22 325.2 (202.1)
10 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari F1-75 325 (201.9)
11 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes W13 325 (201.9)
12 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari VF-22 324.4 (201.6)
13 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari Ferrari F1-75 322 (200.1)
14 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR22 321.7 (199.9)
15 63 George Russell Mercedes Mercedes W13 320.8 (199.3)
16 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes FW44 308 (191.4)
17 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari VF-22 301.5 (187.3)
18 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari C42 300.9 (187.0)
19 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Red Bull AT03 300.6 (186.8)
20 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari C42 295.2 (183.4)

Over to you

Are Mercedes finally quick enough to claim their first grand prix victory of 2022? What role will Ferrari play in the fight at the front?

Share your views on the Brazilian Grand Prix in the comments.

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2022 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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13 comments on “Will Verstappen’s tyre advantage allow him to defeat “unbeatable” Mercedes?”

  1. Are Mercedes finally quick enough to claim their first grand prix victory of 2022? – I doubt this, but we’ll see.
    What role will Ferrari play in the fight at the front? – Nothing.

    1. Perez on same tires as Lewis had a 0.3s pace deficit.

      Max is better than Perez but Merc looks like the strongest car.

      1. Told you :-)

    2. With Russell taking the sprint win, Mercedes could make a call favoring Hamilton for the race win. eg one win a piece.

  2. I didn’t saw an unbeatable Mercedes yesterday. I wish they will win for the change but never this far RB did the same mistakes twice.

    1. This will be the first time Mercedes start with a clear track ahead of them. If they get good start and don’t waste time fighting each other for position they could drive long on their softs with less degradation, eg just drive clean. The others pressing for position would then use up their tires quicker, which would play into Mercedes’s hands. Up to now either Ferrari or Redbull has dictated the pace from in front. Let’s see if Mercedes can get this right.

  3. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    13th November 2022, 14:01

    Verstappen looked to have picked up damage yesterday as his pace suddenly went nowhere. Will be interesting to see how it plays out today, I’m still fairly confident of a Max win though.

  4. Does anybody know a source where I can see exactly which tyres each driver has left, including the age of each of those tyres?

    1. BLS (@brightlampshade)
      13th November 2022, 14:49

      Not sure of used, but Max has 3 new Mediums and 2 new Softs, compared to the Mercs that have 2xM and 1xS.

    2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      13th November 2022, 16:26

      On the website, Strategy Guide feature.

      1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        13th November 2022, 16:26

        @leblep On the website, Strategy Guide feature.

  5. Hamilton’s practice 2 times on the soft tyre were far better – and over a longer period – than Verstappen’s, which was presumably the real reason for the switch. Mercedes matched/bettered him on medium tyres in the sprint. I don’t see how Verstappen has much real advantage, it should be a Mercedes win finally. However Mercedes and optimal strategy haven’t really been talking to each other much this season…

  6. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    13th November 2022, 16:24

    Have ORBR made a setup mistake that is affecting tyre wear? Based on previous races showing how well the car goes plus how overtaking isn’t such a problem, it might have been an interesting gamble to change the setup and start from the pitlane.

Comments are closed.