Yesterday afternoon, the penultimate round of the 2019 race season took place at Interlagos, which has been hosting the Brazilian Grand Prix at the re-named Autódromo José Carlos Pace, since 1990, when Alain Prost won his 40th career race.
This time is was Max Verstappen who put his Red Bull on pole and ran a faultless race to take a well-deserved victory and his third win of the season.
Commenting after the race, Verstappen said: “It’s an incredible feeling right now and to win today was a huge Team effort. It was a crazy race with a lot of action and fighting but luckily we always had the pace to counter back and overtake Mercedes in every scenario. It wasn’t easy out there but the Team made all the right calls, especially at the end to pit for the soft tyres during the Safety Car which gave us the win today. As a Team you always try and make everything perfect, I focus on my job and the Team also try to do a perfect job in the pits and on the strategy and clearly today it worked out pretty perfectly. It’s a great victory, after last year of course, but more for the way the race unfolded and how we all had to work together. Today and the whole weekend the car and Honda power unit have been working really well and we have made a step so thank you to everyone for that. It is of course a massive shame that Alex could not be on the podium with me as it would have been an even better result for the Team but it’s great for Pierre to be up here and for Toro Rosso and Honda.”
However, all the action of the Brazilian Grand Prix was happening behind Verstappen. Lewis Hamilton, who qualified third threw away a podium position with a rather optimistic overtaking move on Red Bull’s Alex Albon for second place on the penultimate lap of the race and was subsequently handed a five-second penalty, dropping him from third to seventh in the final standings.
A statement from the stewards read: “Car 23 (Albon) was on his normal race line. Car 44 (Hamilton) attempted to pass on the inside but was unable to get far enough inside to accomplish the overtake and by the time he realized there would not be sufficient room he was unable to back out of the situation and the collision followed. The Stewards determined that Car 44 predominantly at fault for the collision with Car 23 at Turn 10 and therefore ordered a five-second penalty.”
Hamilton said after the race that: “It was a great race, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was hopefully fun for people to watch, although the result is upsetting. I never want to collide with anyone, it was really unfortunate with Alex. Naturally I take it on me, it was my fault, I was coming from behind. He was doing a great job, so apologies to him. I gave it absolutely everything and more today, I was pushing so hard in every lap just to keep up with Max in front of me. We really didn’t have a lot of pace today and I think we were probably going faster than we should have gone. Congratulations to Red Bull, they did the better job today and deserved the win. They were extremely quick today; I was basically a sitting duck on the straights. There’s one more race to go in this season, so we will be pushing for a better result in Abu Dhabi.”
Valtteri Bottas unfortunately suffered an engine failure, forcing him to retire from the race on lap 52, making it Mercedes’ first mechanical retirement since Austria 2018, which is quite remarkable. He did however take away a point for fastest lap of the race, perhaps little consolation for not finishing.
Although Sebastian Vettel qualified second, Ferrari ended up leaving the Brazilian Grand Prix with no points whatsoever, following a collision between Vettel and teammate Leclerc, forcing both drivers to retire from the race, particularly galling, as they had both been front runners right up to that point.
Sebastian Vettel summed up the race by saying: “The summary of the day is that we did not finish a race in which we could have got a good result. It’s a shame about the collision between us, especially for the team as a whole, given that both cars were in the points and considering how much work everyone puts in, both at the track and back in Maranello.
From my point of view, the race was going well, even if I think that Max (Verstappen) was uncatchable today. Now we must just focus on the final race of the season where will try and bring home the best possible result.”
The final stages of the Brazilian Grand Prix saw some unexpected drivers get onto the podium, with Pierre Gasly finishing the race in a superb second, his first podium finish, and Carlos Sainz, who started the race at the back of the pack in 20th being promoted to third thanks the Hamilton’s penalty, and also getting his first ever podium in Formula 1, and by doing so giving McLaren its first podium finish since the Australian Grand Prix in 2014!
Sainz finished ahead of the two Alfa Romeo drivers of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, with Daniel Ricciardo taking sixth in his Renault. Hamilton was classified seventh following his penalty, while Lando Norris took eighth in the second McLaren. Racing Point’s Sergio Perez came away with some valuable points and the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat took the final point.
The Haas F1 Team fared somewhat better at the Brazilian Grand Prix with Romain Grosjean finishing just outside the points in 11th and Kevin Magnussen in 13th.
Romain Grosjean commented: “First of all, I’m very happy for Pierre (Gasly), it’s good to see him on the podium. I’m very happy for him. I was the last Frenchman on the podium four years ago. As for us today, we just didn’t get any luck. We were doing the race of our life; we were hanging on in there in P7 with a car that doesn’t deserve that. We were doing an amazing job and then the safety car fell at exactly the wrong time for us. The tires at the restart were just tired from a long stint. We knew we could go to the end, but then Sainz pushed me wide at the restart into turn two. I’m not very happy about that. We pushed the car to the limit today, it just wasn’t our time.”
The final round of the championship takes place at the Yas Marina Circuit with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 1st December 2019.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool, McLaren and Haas F1 Team