Just when it seemed like Lewis Hamilton’s pursuit of a record eighth Formula 1 World Championship was fading faster than one of his discarded engines, comes a race like the Sao Paulo Grand Prix where the Mercedes driver demonstrates why he is one of the greatest ever.
Disappearing in qualifying due to a technical infraction and losing five grid positions in Sunday’s race to the internal combustion engine swap, Hamilton overtook the odds by gaining 15 places during Saturday’s sprint and nine in the grand prix to take the checkered flag in Brazil for his 101st career victory.
The only thing hotter on the track was Hamilton, who wasted little time at the start to catch up on the field. Sunday’s race is more like a marathon than a sprint (pun intended) and Hamilton could have easily taken his time picking up the field one by one. However, you don’t want to lose too much ground stuck in traffic. Hamilton leapt forward from lap 10 to lap six on lap one, then chased the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.
Team-mate Valterri Bottas, who started from pole but lost two places to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in the first lap, obeyed Mercedes’ orders to slow down and allow Hamilton to pass leisurely as the hunting was underway.
A period of safety car and virtual safety car allowed the group to regroup and on lap 18 Hamilton was on the heels of Perez. The two points mixed before Hamilton was able to break away permanently in the next lap.
The most intense moment came on lap 48, when Hamilton tried to make a move on Verstappen, however, the Dutch driver appeared to be forcing himself and his opponent off the course to keep the lead. Although neither car made contact, it was enough for the stewards to investigate and Verstappen escaped without penalty.
This set the stage for laps 58 and 59 with Verstappen moving from side to side to desperately push back Hamilton until he could no longer hold out. Hamilton put pressure on and forced Verstappen to over-defend and lose the line. This opened the door ajar and Hamilton pulled it off the hinges to slip away.
There is no doubt that Hamilton was the driver of the day because he had to fight to earn this win and close the gap in the drivers’ championship. With Verstappen in second place, his lead was reduced to 14 points with three races remaining.
Bottas, who finished third, helped Mercedes maintain their tight grip on the constructors with just two points clear of Red Bull.
– Formula 1 (@ F1) November 14, 2021
Red Bull gets the last laugh
Each point counts at this point in the drivers and constructors standings. With Perez safely in fourth position, Red Bull called him to the pits on the penultimate lap for the soft tires in an attempt to steal the point on the fastest lap from Hamilton.
Mission accomplished. While Hamilton was already waving to the crowd on his victory lap, Perez set the fastest time of one minute, 11.010 seconds to get the bonus point as he crossed the finish line.
It may sound petty but you never know how things will go in the chase for the championship, especially with only two points now separating Red Bull and Mercedes.
– Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) November 14, 2021
Happy birthday, Lando
It will be a birthday that Lando Norris will surely not forget soon. The McLaren driver turned 22 on Saturday (if that makes you feel old, I’m not sorry) and started fifth on the grid.
Norris attempted to overtake Sainz on the outside right at the start but made contact with Ferrari and suffered a puncture as his car limped most of the track back to the pits.
While that took Norris out of contention, it didn’t take him out of the race as he was able to fight valiantly to move up to tenth and last place for points.
AlphaTauri, Alpine remain level
So how did ours do it? driver of interest Pierre Gasly’s fare? Well, the AlphaTauri driver did not get on the podium but managed to finish seventh to get six points.
However, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso finished just behind him in eighth and ninth place respectively, earning six combined points and keeping their team tied with AlphaTauri for fifth place in the constructors’ standings.
Disgraceful mention to Gasly’s teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who made a rookie mistake at the start of the race trying to overtake Aston Martin’s Canadian driver Lance Stroll inside the first corner. Tsunoda quickly ran out of buildings and lost his front wing in the collision, not only forcing him to the pits, but also forcing the safety car out as workers cleared debris. The Japanese driver was sanctioned and finished 15th.
Stroll’s collision with Tsunoda eventually forced him to retire after completing 47 laps. It was the third retirement of the season for the Montreal driver.
Montreal-born and Toronto-raised Nicholas Latifi managed to overtake Williams teammate George Russell in Saturday’s sprint to start 16th on the grid. Latifi also ended up there, albeit thanks to the retirements of Stroll and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
– Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team (@ AstonMartinF1) November 14, 2021
The tour of the Americas has come to an end and is now on its way to the Middle East for the final leg of the season which kicks off with the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix next Sunday at the Losail International Circuit.