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today is Dec 05, 2021

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Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Sao Paulo grand prix weekend. Here’s why.

Stars

Lewis Hamilton

  • Excluded from Friday qualifying after a technical infringement on the DRS flap, leading to a pit lane start in the Sprint to go along with a five-place grid drop in the ‘feature’ race for a power unit element change
  • Turned in a blistering drive to fifth in the Sprint to secure tenth on the grid for the main race
  • In the grand prix, stormed from tenth to sixth on the opening lap, and was in fourth place after just three laps of racing – setting up a sensational, albeit quite brief, early duel for second place with Sergio Perez
  • Went to the hard compound tyres after pitting on lap 27 and drew within striking distance of his championship rival Verstappen
  • Was able to close within DRS range in just a handful of laps, despite getting hards instead of the mediums he wanted
  • Recovered from contentious skirmish on lap 48 to take the lead on lap 59, overwhelming Verstappen with his straight line speed and pace on the second set of hard tyres to win

Kimi Raikkonen

Having started in the pits, Raikkonen finished 12th
  • Out-qualified Giovinazzi for the third time since the summer break, by a healthy margin of almost three-quarters of a second in Q2
  • Dropped to 18th in the Sprint after a first-corner collision with Giovinazzi, triggering the decision to make changes to the car and take a pit lane start for the grand prix
  • Used an unconventional two-stop strategy during the race – medium first stint, hard second stint, and medium final stint
  • Bothered, but not damaged, after early collision with Schumacher; gained eight places after the first two stints to move up to 12th – just a few seconds away from cracking the points

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Strugglers

Yuki Tsunoda

Early tangle with Stroll meant no points for Tsunoda
  • Out of Q2 for the first time in three grands prix, dropped from 11th to 15th in the sprint qualifying race
  • Had the chance to gain ground early as the only driver to start on soft tyres, but ran into Lance Stroll at turn one in a hasty attempt to make up places as quickly as possible
  • Maintained that his overtake was fine and that Stroll was not looking in his mirrors – but the stewards deemed him ‘wholly at fault’ for the collision
  • His two penalty points were the only points scored after finishing a minute behind Gasly in 15th

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And the rest

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen, Start, Interlagos, 2021 The Red Bull drivers mugged Bottas at the start
  • Qualified less than a tenth behind Verstappen for a front row start in the sprint qualifying race – and led every lap after a great start off the line
  • From the pole in the grand prix, his starting prowess wasn’t quite there – conceding to Verstappen in the first corner, then Perez after turn four after a mistake in the Senna ‘S’
  • Had the benefit of a ‘free’ pit stop under the second VSC, jumping back ahead of Perez with a fresh set of hard compound tyres
  • Was assured of third place after Perez pitted for a fastest lap attempt

Max Verstappen

  • Second behind Hamilton in qualifying secured pole for F1’s third sprint qualifying race of the season
  • Lost out on the start of the sprint qualifying race on medium compound tyres, but eventually recovered to secure second on the grid
  • Got away with a poor initial launch in the first few hundred metres to take the lead in the opening lap, and maintain the lead over the entirety of his first 28-lap stint on the medium tyres
  • Responded to Mercedes undercutting Hamilton by pitting the next lap, retaining his net lead; then demonstrated superior pace in the middle sector on hard tyres, enough to negate Mercedes and Hamilton’s top speed advantage in sectors one and three
  • Not willing to risk Hamilton catching and passing him on track, Red Bull brought him in on lap 41 for another set of hards, which he conserved early in his stint
  • Pushed Hamilton off the track on lap 48, moved twice to try and defend his position after Hamilton caught up again – but eventually had no defence for Hamilton with DRS on the back straight
  • Fell away from Hamilton thereafter, but still maintains a 14-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship with three races remaining

Sergio Perez

  • Qualified within a tenth of Verstappen to line up third in the sprint qualifying race, but dropped to fourth and finished 18.6 seconds adrift of his team mate
  • Red Bull deployed him tactically in the first stint of the grand prix, backing the field up behind him to create a larger margin between himself and Verstappen
  • Pitted for hard tyres on lap 29, but lost out on third position after Bottas was able to stop under the second Virtual Safety Car
  • With a healthy margin to fifth place, was brought in for a successful attempt to swipe the fastest lap bonus

Lando Norris

Start, Interlagos, 2021 Norris’ race was ruined before the first corner
  • Narrowly out-qualified Ricciardo for the first time since Turkey, and celebrated his birthday by finishing sixth in the sprint qualifying race
  • Moved up to fifth on the grand prix grid after Hamilton’s penalty, but his race was compromised early after suffering a puncture – the result of a first corner collision with former team mate and friend Sainz
  • Recovered to ninth by the end of the first stint, after pitting to repair damage and to switch onto his first set of hard tyres, and a Safety Car intervention.
  • Held Vettel at bay on the hard tyres in the final stint to keep tenth place for his recovery efforts, and kept McLaren from suffering a scoreless weekend after Ricciardo’s retirement

Daniel Ricciardo

  • Dropped from eighth to tenth in the sprint qualifying race after losing two positions after the start, putting him three rows behind his team mate Norris on Sunday
  • Recovered well enough during the opening stint, getting past Ocon and Vettel for position – and setting up for a one-stop strategy as it looked like he could have been McLaren’s only points scorer at Interlagos
  • Retired from eighth place due to power loss, an untimely first retirement of the season – and a critical blow for McLaren’s fading hopes of finishing third in the constructors’ championship

Lance Stroll

Stroll got ‘Tsunoda’d’
  • Narrowly missed out on a berth in Q2 by 0.065 seconds, his third consecutive Q2 exit; gained one position during the sprint qualifying race in 14th
  • Left in a difficult position with floor damage after being hit by a ‘desperate’ and ‘too optimistic’ Yuki Tsunoda on lap four
  • Continued to shed body parts, causing a second Virtual Safety Car for debris; quietly retired after 47 laps without being a factor for points

Sebastian Vettel

  • Just outside of Q3 yet again in qualifying, but finished tenth in the sprint qualifying race to set up a chance at valuable points for Aston Martin
  • Started on used medium tyres, and ran comfortably inside the top ten – as high as eighth – in his first stint
  • Second Virtual Safety Car worked against him and his chances of finishing in the points, dropping to 11th after stopping to change from used hards to another set of used mediums
  • Reeled in Norris over the final few laps on his medium tyres, but fell just 1.288 seconds short of cracking the top ten

Esteban Ocon

Ocon was the first Alpine driver home after Alonso backed off
  • Denied a Q3 appearance by his team mate, by just 0.052 seconds, but gained a place in the sprint qualifying race and finished ninth behind Gasly
  • Committed to the one-stop strategy for both Alpine drivers, Ocon settled in behind Ricciardo during his first stint
  • Hit the jackpot with a ‘free’ pit stop under the second VSC, which allowed him to cycle back solidly into the top ten; had moved up into eighth place after Ricciardo retired with power loss
  • Had an absorbing tactical fight for position with Gasly, using Alonso to try and maintain DRS to stay ahead even with older, harder compound tyres – before ultimately conceding the position to the AlphaTauri
  • Swapped places with Alonso on the last lap, finishing eighth – his biggest points haul in a race since winning the Hungarian grand prix

Fernando Alonso

  • Broke into Q3 in qualifying but dropped three spots from the start to the finish of the sprint qualifying race
  • Stretched his first stint 35 laps as he committed to a one-stop race, working his way up into sixth place, but lost several places after a slow pit stop
  • Worked his way back up into the points and played a pivotal role in the team battle versus Gasly for seventh place
  • Slowed down by nine seconds to switch places with Ocon on the last lap to secure ninth place for his efforts

Charles Leclerc

  • Kept within two-tenths of Sainz in Q3, but dropped a place in the sprint qualifying race as he couldn’t keep the slippery McLaren of Norris at bay
  • Made a great start on the ‘dirty’ side of the track to gain two positions on the opening lap, eventually settled in as the ‘best of the rest’ early on in fifth with Sainz behind him
  • A lonely race of tyre management, running two stints on medium tyres in opposition of the traditional strategy that played out, resulted in a fifth place finish – his best at Interlagos in three attempts

Carlos Sainz Jnr

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2021 Sunday was a disappointment after Sainz’s Saturday drive
  • Out-qualified Leclerc by two-tenths
  • Had a great first lap in the sprint qualifying race, going from fifth to second, before eventually finishing third ahead of Perez who couldn’t find a way around the Ferrari
  • Brushed wheels with Norris on the opening lap, sending the McLaren driver down the order
  • Said wheelspin off the line led to a poor start ‘costing him a top five finish’

Pierre Gasly

  • Beat the Ferraris and McLarens again in qualifying, but from fourth on the grid lost four places in the sprint qualifying race after a poor start
  • Patiently worked his way up the order from the start of the grand prix, overtaking Vettel, and battling for position with the McLarens
  • Relished his tactical on-track battle with the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon, passing both drivers in a space of two laps as the race began to draw to a close
  • Rewarded for his efforts with a seventh place finish, keeping the margin between Alpine

Antonio Giovinazzi

  • Survived an awkward collision in the sprint qualifying race with Raikkonen, who out-qualified him the day before by three-quarters of a second
  • Maintained his 13th position off the line at the start of the race
  • Found it hard to overtake the likes of Russell and Stroll ahead of him as the grand prix unfolded – even on the medium tyres
  • Was never able to get any significant time in clean air as he ran to a 14th place result – nearly half a minute behind Raikkonen

Mick Schumacher

Schumacher tangled with Raikkonen
  • Maintains his unbeaten qualifying record against Mazepin, and finished ahead of him after the race
  • No happy recollections of his father’s battles with Raikkonen, after suffering front wing damage in turn one collision with the Alfa Romeo driver that sent him down the order
  • Nailed to the back of the running order for the rest of the race, finishing 37 seconds behind Mazepin when he felt confident of being able to fight with the Williams duo of Russell and Latifi

Nikita Mazepin

  • A very interesting weekend – to put it mildly – began with a tearful post-qualifying interview after qualifying 20th, brought on by unforced errors and intra-team turmoil that he perhaps was too candid about
  • Finished last in the sprint qualifying race, but moved up a place on the grid after Raikkonen started from pit lane
  • Gained places due to incidents with cars in front of him – including a forceful turn one lunge on his team mate Schumacher – and ran as high as 14th
  • Finished ahead of Schumacher on track for only the third time this season, but was still two laps down and second-to-last place of all classified drivers

George Russell

  • Out-qualified by his team mate in a Williams for the first time in 56 grands prix, but only by 0.056 seconds, and was only a second behind at the end of the sprint qualifying race where he finished 17th
  • Pitted off-sequence for hard tyres during the first Safety Car intervention, then pitted for a second time on lap 41 for another set of hards
  • Described his first two stints as tough, but remarked that the car was ‘the best it had felt all weekend’ in the last stint as he came home in 13th, over 10 seconds ahead of Latifi

Nicholas Latifi

Latifi finally out-qualified Russell but finished behind him
  • After nearly two seasons alongside him, finally out-qualified George Russell in a head-to-head, only missing Q2 by three-tenths – and followed it up by finishing ahead of Russell in the sprint qualifying race
  • Lost time and track position early after being brought in just as the Virtual Safety Car period for the Schumacher/Raikkonen collision had ended, leading to a lonely race
  • Finishing four spots behind Russell in 17th after leading him in qualifying and the sprint qualifying race will seem a little harsh in one of his better weekends since finishing 11th in Italy

Over to you

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