Formula One returns to Sao Paulo this weekend as the teams take to the track for the 19th race of 2021. A double podium for Red Bull last week leaves them only one point behind Mercedes in the constructors championship. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen has extended his lead at the top of the drivers championship to 19 points, but, the title is all but yet decided as everything could still change in the space of a single weekend.
Verstappen absolutely dominated last week’s Mexican Grand Prix. Despite starting in third on the grid, the Dutchman had an excellent start to pass both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at the first corner. The speed of the Red Bull was too much to handle for the other drivers, meaning that Verstappen finished the race with ease. Sergio Perez also had a weekend to remember after becoming the first Mexican to both lead and get on the podium at a home Grand Prix. If both drivers can carry their form over from Mexico to Brazil, they will simply be unmatchable this weekend.
Both Mercedes drivers appeared to struggle throughout the race last week. Despite having an excellent day in qualifying and getting pole position, nothing went right for Bottas during the race. The Finn made contact with a McLaren at the first corner of the first lap, sending him to the back of the grid. He then finished the race outside of the points in 15th whilst Hamilton got a podium position after crossing the line behind Verstappen. The seven-time world champion admitted during the race that his rival was “too fast” and that the car did not have the power to keep up. The Mercedes car will have to find a way to match the pace of the Bulls if they want to remain in good contention for the championship, however, both drivers struggled last time out in Brazil, with Bottas failing to finish the race and Hamilton crossing the line in seventh.
Ferarri had a solid race in Mexico, with Charles Leclerc finishing in fifth and Carlos Sainz in sixth. Last time out in Brazil Sainz had an unforgettable race after he started at the back of the grid but came through and fought his way up to third. The Italian team are due a podium after being incredibly consistent with their results in the last few race weekends, and the partnership between Leclerc and Sainz looks like it is only getting stronger.
McLaren did not have a great weekend in Mexico after only gaining a single point. Lando Norris started the race from 18th after taking on a new power unit, but managed to move through the grid and finish in 10th. Daniel Ricciardo had a fantastic start to the race, challenging the Red Bulls and both Mercedes cars for the podium positions. However, after making contact with Bottas on the opening lap he was forced into the pits and fell to the back. The British team will be aiming for a change in fortune this weekend and will be eyeing up the podium positions in a bid to keep up with Ferrari.
Pierre Gasly had a fantastic drive for Alpha Tauri last week, finishing in fourth. The Frenchman has been praised for his consistency this year with regular points finishes. In 2019 he finished the Brazilian Grand Prix in second place after an excellent race so will be looking to achieve a similar result this weekend. Yuki Tsunoda certainly did not have luck on his side last week after crashing out of the race on the opening lap due to contact on the first corner. He was also unfairly blamed by Christian Horner for Red Bull’s poor performance in qualifying. Like his teammate, Tsunoda has been very consistent this year and will look to prove his doubters wrong as he takes to the track in Sao Paulo for the first time as an F1 driver.
Neither Sebastian Vettel nor Lance Stroll finished the race in the last Brazilian Grand Prix, with Vettel having to retire due to a puncture following a collision and Stroll having to stop due to suspension issues. The two Aston Martin drivers should be aiming for a points finish this weekend, especially Vettel, who has had plenty of experience with this track and also has the most overtakes out of all of the drivers this year.
The 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix marked an incredibly successful weekend for Alfa Romeo, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing the race in fourth and Antonio Giovinazzi in fifth. Raikkonen earned four points for his team last weekend, with Giovinazzi just missing out on the points. The team will be looking to boost their points this week, but given their recent form both drivers will be expected to finish in the middle of the pack.
Alpine driver Fernando Alonso has never won a Brazilian Grand Prix in his Formula One career. The last time he raced in Sao Paulo he crossed the line in 17th so will definitely be looking to improve on that result. Meanwhile, his teammate Esteban Ocon has never had a memorable result in Brazil either. It is likely that both drivers will finish in the low points positions.
George Russell only has four races left in a Williams car and will be wanting to impress his future team principle Toto Wolff. The Brit has impressed this year when it comes to qualifying, but has failed to match the standards when it comes to race day. Nicholas Latifi has regularly failed to break into the top 10 in 2021 and has regularly found himself falling towards the back of the grid. It would be surprising if Williams gain any points this weekend, as the car fails to match that of their rivals.
Haas are the only team still to gain single point this year. Both Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will be racing for the first time in Brazil as F1 drivers, so will find it difficult once again. It will be very unlikely for the team to get their first points this week, especially with the stakes being so high for many of the other teams.
This week also marks another F1 sprint event, where the drivers will face a 100km straight sprint to the finish line with no mandatory pit-stops. Verstappen took the victory in the first ever sprint event at Silverstone, with Bottas taking the second in Monza. Ricciardo shone in the last sprint event at the Italian Grand Prix, coming third in the sprint before going on to win the race, so the “Honey Badger” will certainly be one to watch this weekend.
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