Verstappen is back in Brazil

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Red Bull Racing team driver Max Verstappen ahead of the Brazil Grand Prix at Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Red Bull Racing team driver Max Verstappen ahead of the Brazil Grand Prix at Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

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The dominant Max Verstappen enters Interlagos in a rich vein of form – with Mercedes looking to claim their maiden victory of the season, failure could see the team without a race victory in a season for the first time since 2011. 

Verstappen was triumphant in Mexico as he coasted to his fourth victory in the country, with hometown boy Sergio Pérez claiming back-to-back Mexican Grand Prix podiums solidifying a great weekend’s work for Red Bull. 

The Dutchman galloped off into the distance – with only Lewis Hamilton ever breathing down his neck – to finish more than 15 seconds ahead of the seven-time world champion as Verstappen went on to break the record for most victories in a season, which is now 14 wins. 

The 25-year-old finds himself back in Brazil for the penultimate round of this year’s championship as the two-time world champion looks to wrap up an astonishing campaign in style.

READ: Formula 1 champion-elect Verstappen eyes back-to-back wins

It hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Verstappen in the past. He made his name here in 2016 as he burst on to the scene with exceptional, precise wet weather driving, but has since struggled to win a second time. 

He came off second best in 2018 and last year, and tangling with Esteban Ocon in 2018, which saw the two have a heated exchange before he was beaten by a dominant Mercedes with a hint of steward’s controversy in the latter. 

Nevertheless, Verstappen looks to make it two wins in the capital later today. 

For the second race weekend running, Mercedes threatened to take the full 25 points for the first time this season but for a determined Verstappen.

After a positive qualifying, which saw George Russell second and Hamilton third, the Silver Arrows looked to be in the ascendancy. 

READ: Can Hamilton rise to the top on home soil?

It proved to be strategy that let down the Bracknell-based team as they opted to fit one compound harder tyres at every opportunity compared with Red Bull, who had a more conservative approach to the weekend in the hopes that Verstappen struggled to manage his tyres. 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, but the result didn’t paint the whole picture throughout the weekend, as Hamilton was able to match young gun Verstappen until both drivers pitted for fresh rubber. 

Brazil remains a strong track for Mercedes and their W13 car, as team principal Toto Wolff has targeted this venue as their final chance of claiming top spot this year. It would be no surprise to see an “all or nothing” approach from the Mercedes duo today. 

Ferrari have not won a Driver’s Championship since 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen. Despite an encouraging start to the season, they remained very inconsistent, which also saw them fall short of both the 2017 and 2018 titles. 

It didn’t get any better in Mexico, as the team were forced to run their engines at less capacity due to the altitude in Mexico City. Brazil – a track that has different track characteristics – should see them march back to the top, especially in qualifying. 

The battle between the Italian outfit and Mercedes continues to brew in the background as their once-big advantage has been cut down to 40 points with just two races remaining … It’s been an unusual weekend in Brazil due to the Sprint Race being implemented yesterday, creating a more mixed-up grid with qualifying on Friday.

READ: Payback time for Perez on home soil?

Although it means extra points were up for grabs, today remains the main event, all or nothing. It is a format that Verstappen does not like.

He said: 

I think we should just stick to one race. I don’t understand what the problem is with that, because I think we’ve had so many exciting races, so you don’t need to add one third of the race distance.

He continued: “Everyone is super careful anyway, because if you are fighting for third and you have a little touch and you drop back to be last, then your race on Sunday is going to be really tough. So [that means you’re] probably not going to risk it, and that’s not what a race should be about. 

The circuit staged its first grand prix in 1973 and has been a fan favourite since, largely because of the rich heritage of Ayrton Senna in this part of the world.

It features two DRS zones, with the main overtaking opportunity down into turn 1, in front of an early anticipating crowd. The drivers will circulate the track a total of 71 times, with the lap distance being just 4.309km long, and every lap matters.

Ask home-boy Felipe Massa after he lost out on his first and only championship with Ferrari to Hamilton as the Brit passed Timo Glock on the final corner of the final lap. 

Brazil never fails to impress and with a hint of wet weather in the air, all is to play for when five red lights go out in Brazil. 


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