The Autódromo José Carlos Pace (also known as Interlagos) is one of the fan favorites among the circuits in Formula 1. It is a short but dynamic track that doesn’t fail to provide exciting wheel-to-wheel action. Here are five things we learned from the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix.
1. Qualifying went dark. Everyone was on edge throughout qualifying as rain clouds were looming over Interlagos. The question wasn’t whether the rain was going to pour, but when. With four minutes and 19 seconds left in Q3, the red flag was waved due to bad weather, bringing a premature end to the session.
This left Max Verstappen (Red Bull) on pole, followed by Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) on the front row, with Aston Martin drivers Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso in P3 and P4, respectively.
2. There were several retirees. It was only the formation lap when Leclerc suffered a hydraulics issue that caused him to crash out of the race. He wasn’t the only retiree, though, as first-lap contact between Alex Albon (Williams) and Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) caused the Thai driver to hit the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
With Albon and Magnussen gone, the safety car was brought out before the red flag was waved. Later in the race, Alfa Romeo suffered a double did-not-finish (DNF) due to technical issues, and George Russell (Mercedes-AMG) also had to call it quits because of an overheating power unit.
3. Mercedes-AMG was off the pace. The Silver Arrows looked like they were back in form with Lewis Hamilton having finished the previous two races in second place. But that wasn’t the case in Brazil. While Hamilton had a good start—reaching as high as P3—he lost the position and began dropping back until his teammate Russell was behind him.
The younger Mercedes-AMG driver was willing to play the team game, not challenging his teammate for track position. But their overall lack of pace didn’t get them anywhere. In the end, Russell had to retire due to a power-unit issue, while Hamilton finished in P8 behind Pierre Gasly (Alpine).
4. Lando Norris had another good weekend. After qualifying on pole during the Sprint Shootout, Norris (McLaren) lost the lead to Verstappen in the Sprint and finished in P2.
Although he started the race lower on the grid at P6, he was able to get the jump over the cars in front of him when the lights went out, putting himself behind the race leader.
The McLaren driver was no challenge to Verstappen. But he was able to create a sizable gap from the rest of the field and finished comfortably in P2, while also setting the fastest lap of the race.
With all the progress Lando and McLaren have made throughout the season, the driver is now P5 in the standings, three points ahead of Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and only three points behind Alonso.
5. Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez had a close fight. The two veteran drivers seem to have been in a slump for the past few races with neither of them finishing on the podium. But this time, their competitive spirit has returned with Aston Martin in particular having an improved car.
A good launch by Alonso at the race restart, followed by his strategic overtake on Hamilton, allowed the Spaniard to claim third place while Verstappen and Norris flew off in the distance.
Alonso wasn’t alone for long, though, as Perez challenged the two-time world champion after clearing the two ailing Mercedes-AMG drivers as well as Stroll.
The battle was tight lasting for several laps toward the end, and it concluded with a last-mile drag race to the finish line. Only 0.053 second separated the two with Fernando ahead and on the podium.
The next race will be the highly anticipated 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix on November 18 (2pm of November 19, Philippine time).