Formula 1 | The tops, the flops and the questions after the Brazilian Grand Prix

After each Grand Prix, invites you to find the « tops » and « flops » identified by the editorial staff. Who deserves to be applauded? Who, on the contrary, should be criticized? Finally, what are the question marks or ambiguities that should be followed with interest during the next Grands Prix? Find out below!

The Tops.

Top # 1: Sir Lewis Hamilton: one of his best F1 weekends (and that’s saying a lot)

« You weren’t the pilot of the day, you were the pilot of the weekend ». This is how Felipe Massa, the second local hero at Interlagos, defined the weekend of the first, Lewis Hamilton. And indeed, what a dizzying, astounding, staggering weekend that Lewis Hamilton will have achieved. This is surely one of his finest in his career. On Friday first, with a supercharged Mercedes, but an illegal DRS, Lewis Hamilton achieved the best time in Q3, 438 thousandths ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull: without disqualification, that would have been the biggest gap of the year and in the dry; and that we do not say that this difference came from the illegal DRS, Christian Horner himself having recognized that the effect of the new engine played more.

In sprint qualifying, therefore starting last because of this disqualification, Lewis Hamilton showed his mental strength and resilience, and a formidable ease to overtake smoothly, to climb 15 places in 24 laps. A real achievement. Let no one come either to say that this Mercedes is struggling in the peloton: it is rather Bottas. In short, these sprint qualifiers made it possible to restore moral vigor to Mercedes, to re-weld Lewis mentally, whereas he had seemed a little dejected after Mexico, almost defeatist.

The next day, in the race, the masterful mano a mano delivered between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen kept everyone in suspense. The pace of the Mercedes was much higher, but again, Lewis Hamilton had to overtake 9 cars without making a mistake, without overheating his tires (with 50 degrees on the track), and without failing. What he did, even finding « Strange » the low degradation of its Pirelli.

« It was one of the best drives I have ever seen in Formula 1, absolutely brilliant » summed up after the race Damon Hill, to the delight of his admirer Lewis Hamilton. ‘And still we rise’ summed up Lewis after the sprint qualifying. How far will it go?

Top n ° 2: Ferraris in (third) force

Since the new Ferrari power unit has arrived, it is clear that the Reds have once again become the 3rd force on the field, except when Pierre Gasly works miracles, fighting above the potential of his AlphaTauri. In sprint qualifying already, the strategic bet of the Scuderia, to start Carlos Sainz in soft and Charles Leclerc in mediums, paid off as the Spaniard finished 3rd on Saturday, scoring a small bonus point in passing. In the race, it was Charles Leclerc who got off to a much better start, while Carlos Sainz, despite himself no doubt, put a McLaren offside, that of Lando Norris. Subsequently on Sunday, the Ferraris were in a kind of no man’s land, far in front of the middle of the grid, far behind Sergio Pérez.

It is symptomatic that Ferraris were the last cars not to be taken for a spin by Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. It may sound disappointing, but it is actually a clear improvement over a few races yet, not to mention 2020. Here is Ferrari 31.5 points ahead of McLaren and we do not see what could dislodge the Scuderia from 3rd place.

Top n ° 3: Gasly remains the life insurance of AlphaTauri

Pierre Gasly has only one thing to really be ashamed of during this weekend: his start in the sprint qualifying. As in Monza, the AlphaTauri driver almost lost everything but this time fortunately, he « only » lost three places instead of spoiling everything at the start of the race.

For the rest, what can I say? Gasly did Gasly. In Q3 he signed a new top 5 (4th after Lewis Hamilton’s penalty), a tenth ahead of the two Ferraris who seem to be intrinsically faster. In the race, after a still hesitant start, the Frenchman returned to his place, that is to say in front of the entire middle of the grid, but certainly behind Ferrari. 7th in the event, Pierre Gasly allows his team to remain tied for Alpine points in the constructors’ standings: he has scored 92 units on his own against 112 for Alpine. In short, a Gasly is almost worth two Alpine!

The flops

Flop n ° 1: New saw-tooth weekend for Lance Stroll…

Lance Stroll was very annoyed after qualifying on Friday at Interlagos and for good reason, the Aston Martin F1 driver suffered a further elimination in Q1, while his teammate Sebastian Vettel flirted with Q3. There was no miracle for the Canadian in sprint qualifying either, even though he climbed two places to 14th position. And inevitably, starting in the soft underbelly of the peloton, bad news can always arrive: Lance Stroll did not escape it with a contact with Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese was held responsible for the collision by the FIA, receiving a 10-second penalty – quite severe. As Lance Stroll judged the maneuver « Desperate », the AlphaTauri pilot judged the sanction « Ridiculous ». It’s fair game. Subsequently, of course, Lance Stroll’s damaged flat bottom did not allow for an effective race: « It only got worse, I first lost 25 points of support, then it was 45 and the parts of my car fell one after the other and I was only going back in the hierarchy ». This was of course abandonment.

But beyond the collision, Lance Stroll may have, in a way, looked for this situation with a third big miss in a row in qualifying. Next year, when Aston Martin F1 has a better car, the costs will have to be stopped.

Flop n ° 2: McLaren: strongly that it ends!

We can’t wait for the end for McLaren! In the last three races, the English team have scored only 16 points, against 55 for Ferrari. The observation is harsh, severe, but perhaps also fair for the Oranges. While Ferrari accumulates the big points, 18 or 19, by dominating the peloton, McLaren can not even beat AlphaTauri, Alpine or Aston Martin F1 on a regular basis at times. Whose fault is it ? In the circumstances of the races of course: abandonment due to an engine problem for Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris clash with Carlos Sainz… Beyond this observation, the team lost however in pure performance, finding itself behind Ferrari as in Q3.

Ultimately, even if this season may appear satisfactory for McLaren (with an average gap reduced against the clock on the top teams, and of course the double of Monza), this second half of the season also reveals the structural limits of the team. : with a lack of resources due to the Covid, McLaren remains a team that cannot necessarily compete on equal terms with Ferrari. Strongly Audi?

Flop n ° 3: The chronic inconstancy of the FIA

Once again the FIA ​​is talking about a certain inconstancy in its decisions. If there is nothing to say about the violation of the technical regulations on the rear wing of Lewis Hamilton, very solidly supported, the management of the track limits and the « let them race » is still debated. Why not even have opened an investigation into the maneuver of Max Verstappen against Lewis Hamilton at turn 4? Michael Masi, the race director of the FIA, assured after the race that the stewards had nevertheless taken the time to examine, from all angles, with all the videos, the incident … before acknowledging that the FIA ​​did not had no access to Max Verstappen’s on-board cameras. Beyond this hallucinatory admission, Masi’s justification (who admittedly does not make the decisions) is also astounding. His intervention is very hazy when he is reminded that at the Red Bull Ring, both Sergio Pérez and Lando Norris had been penalized with a five-second penalty for similar movements.  » I do not agree. You have to look at the pictures and as I have said several times before, you judge the incident for what it is and you study the whole situation. Let’s not forget that we have the ‘let them race’ principle, and looking at the angles available, this philosophy has been adopted ” added Masi, without answering the substance. Mercedes’ announcement to ask to review this non-investigation, according to Article 14.1.1 of the International Sporting Code, sounds like a snub.

The other inconstancy, which has gone a little more unnoticed, is that concerning seat belts. Lewis Hamilton was therefore called after the race for having loosened his belts during the lap of honor, to wave the Brazilian flag. The regulations exist and the penalty, even small, of the order of 5,000 dollars, was necessary. However why is Lewis Hamilton sanctioned when others like Charles Leclerc were guilty of this offense previously? Was it because he was the winner and because the Brazilian flag made his lap of honor more visible? Above all, why did you say absolutely nothing to George Russell when the Williams driver himself admitted that he had loosened his seat belts slightly at the last Grand Prix in Mexico, to reconnect his drinking system? In short, is it not time to appoint a small but permanent college of commissioners, to put an end to a culpable inconstancy which could, if not be dangerous, at least harmful to a formidable fight for the title…?

We want to see…

5 penalty places for a change of heat engine, is that enough?

Lewis Hamilton did not move up 20 places during the weekend after the sprint qualifying disqualification, but 25, as he told Toto Wolff after the race. This is true since the Mercedes driver also received a penalty of 5 places for changing the thermal engine.

This nevertheless raises questions. For any first change of heat engine beyond the limit, a driver receives 10 penalty places on the grid; but for any additional heat engine, the penalty is halved. Why this division? This is all the more problematic as we have seen that the advantage of having a new engine was worth more than 5 places, especially in the sprint qualifying weekend. To think about: in the future, shouldn’t the FIA ​​simply line up the penalties on 10 places?

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