This season of Formula 1 has been absolutely unbelievable. We had another race that will mark itself in the history books! The 2021 Brazilian GP saw one of the best performances I have ever seen from a driver in Formula 1. Before we get into that, people have called this race the 2021 Brazil GP and the 2021 São Paulo GP as well. The official name for the race is ‘Formula 1 Heineken 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix’. The name of the race changed from the Brazilian Grand Prix to the Sao Paulo GP from this year onwards. The local authorities in Sao Paulo are even more involved in the race, so the name was changed. This was also a push to promote Sao Paulo all over the world and to show that Sao Paulo has and will continue to host the Formula 1 race.
On to the actual racing now, Lewis Hamilton was on another level in Brazil this year. He had some big setbacks for the Sprint race and the main race. But Lewis made it look like he was racing in an F1 car, and all of the other drivers were in F2 cars! It was one of Hamilton’s most hard-earned race wins. I’ll get into the details of the masterful win later. I will also analyse Verstappen’s staunch defence and the stewards’ decision not to investigate it. But above all, this race proved that the championship battle isn’t over yet and that it will go down to the wire. Red Bull didn’t have the best weekend. They are now 11 points behind Mercedes in the constructors’ standings, while Max Verstappen’s WDC lead has gone down to 14 points.
The 2021 Brazilian GP didn’t just feature battles for the lead – there was plenty of action further down the field as well. Many drivers in the midfield were making overtakes down into Turn 1. But since the track tightens into Turn 2, some of these overtakes didn’t end well. Keeping it clean when going side-by-side through the Senna S is not an easy task. There were multiple incidents where contact was made at the Senna S.
The first incident was on Lap 4 between Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll. Both Tsunoda and Stroll overtook Antonio Giovinazzi, and on Lap 4, Tsunoda was trying to overtake Stroll for P12. Down into Turn 1, Tsunoda had DRS, and Stroll left a pretty wide gap into Turn 1. Tsunoda earlier this season that he will go for that late-braking overtake if there’s space to do so. And down into Turn 1, Stroll left plenty of space for Yuki to go down the inside. Tsunoda was the only driver on the softs, so his car had extra grip in the early laps.
But the thing is, when Tsunoda went for the gap, he didn’t realise that the gap was going to disappear. Stroll was entitled to take the regular racing line because he was always ahead of Tsunoda, but when Tsunoda made the divebomb, he was hitting the corner at the same place and the same time as Stroll was, which is why they made contact. Tsunoda lost his front wing and a lot of debris due to the contact. Stroll lost debris too, and debris kept falling off of his car until he had to retire on Lap 46. The incident caused a Safety Car, and Stroll losing debris later caused a Virtual Safety Car.
The stewards awarded Tsunoda a 10-second time penalty. I feel that’s a little too harsh, and that Stroll should’ve avoided that incident. Tsunoda was as far on the kerb as he possibly could be. But still, Tsunoda is definitely to blame for the incident, and in my opinion, a 5-second time penalty would’ve been more fitting for him, considering he lost his front wing in the incident. Tsunoda wasn’t the only driver losing car parts through the Senna S. Mick Schumacher, who is also in his rookie year of Formula 1, lost his front wing while battling with Kimi Raikkonen.
On Lap 11, Schumacher was defending from Raikkonen down into Turn 1. Raikkonen was on the outside, which turned into the inside line for Turn 1, so Schumacher wanted to try and get a run through Turns 2 & 3to get back past Raikkonen down the next straight. They made contact through T1, but it was very minor. But as they got on the throttle for Turn 2, Schumacher got a snap of oversteer. Kimi Raikkonen’s rear-left tire was in line with Schumacher’s front wing. That’s why Schumacher’s front wing broke from the contact he made with the Alfa Romeo because of the oversteer. The debris from the contact resulted in a Virtual Safety Car, after barely a lap of racing after the Safety Car.
Now, we’re going to get to the analysis of Hamilton’s performance in Brazil. It was simply mind-blowing to see a comeback of that scale at such a crucial stage of the championship. After that, we’re going to look at the controversial battles between Hamilton and Verstappen. When Verstappen put up a really extreme defence on Lap 48 definitely generated a lot of debates. And lastly, Ferrari had another really strong race, and this has really helped them in their battle with McLaren for P3 in the constructors’ championship. Let’s get into the 2021 Brazilian GP Race Review!
Hamilton’s *INSANE* Performance At The 2021 Brazilian GP
Hamilton took the world by storm at the 2021 Brazilian GP. His performance throughout the weekend proved that there’s a reason that he’s a world champion. After a technical infringement was found on Hamilton’s car, Hamilton had to start Saturday’s sprint race dead last, since he was disqualified from qualifying. This was a massive setback for Mercedes, considering how Hamilton was supposed to start the sprint race in 1st. The Sao Paulo GP was the 4th-last race of the season, and the last 5 races are always the most important in a championship battle.
In the Sprint race, Hamilton got a lightning start and overtook both of the Haas and Williams cars. But for the rest of the race, he was making an overtake every 2 or 3 laps. Sometimes, he made an overtake the lap after he had just made one! The only times where it took 4 or 5 laps to make an overtake was when he was trying to overtake the McLaren cars. It was clear he was the fastest driver out there. And while his car is pretty OP, you can’t go from P20 to P5 in 24 laps without some serious skill.
While that comeback was one of the best comebacks that we’ve seen in the last couple of years, Hamilton wasn’t done yet. Since Mercedes replaced an engine component in his car, he had a 5-place grid penalty for the race, meaning he would start the Sao Paulo GP in P10. Unlike the Sprint race, Hamilton didn’t get a killer start to the race. However, his start was good enough for him to pull alongside Esteban Ocon down into Turn 1. Hamilton used the inside line to secure P9 (which became P8 because of Norris’s puncture) and was now chasing after Sebastian Vettel for P7.
On Lap 1, Pierre Gasly ran wide at the exit of Turn 4, which allowed Vettel to get past him. It also allowed Hamilton to get a run on him through T5 and for Hamilton to dash around the outside of the AlphaTauri into Turn 6. Later in that lap, Hamilton overtook his 2018 title rival for P6. On Lap 3, Hamilton overtook Sainz for P5 while going through the Senna S, and the Mercedes overtook Leclerc for P4 on that very same lap. On Lap 5, Mercedes gave Bottas the team orders to let Hamilton by into Turn 1. In the space of 5 laps, Hamilton went from P10 to the podium.
He was now just behind the Red Bull 1-2. The Red Bull drivers started in P2 and P4, but they both got past Bottas on Lap 1. This comeback story gets even more shocking, because, by Lap 18, Hamilton was overtaking Perez around the outside of Turn 1! However, Perez added more spice to the battle by using DRS to re-overtake Hamilton down into Turn 4. Lewis did the exact same thing into Turn 1 on Lap 19, but this time, Perez couldn’t get the run through Turn 3 that he needed if he wanted to re-overtake Hamilton.
It’s safe to say that Hamilton displayed some insane skill and confidence at the 2021 Brazilian GP. He made it look easy out there, but there was still one hurdle left. Mercedes and Hamilton wanted the win, and they knew they had the potential to get it. But Max Verstappen tried his hardest to not let that happen, especially because he was fighting for a championship…
The Controversial Battling Between The Title Rivals
This race review would always be incomplete without my analysis of Verstappen’s vigorous defending at the 2021 Brazilian GP. It took Hamilton a long, long time to actually catch up to Verstappen. By the time Hamilton got DRS, it was Lap 47 of 71. There was still a fairly long way to go in the race, but it had been 28 laps since Hamilton overtook Perez. Hamilton nailed his racing line through the Senna S to set himself up for a good run down the 2nd straight. He had DRS as well, so Verstappen was in serious danger of losing out. Hamilton went for the move around the outside into Turn 4, and that’s when Verstappen did his controversial defending.
Verstappen tried to force Hamilton off the track, but ended up going off the track himself as well. Verstappen retained the lead of the race, and Hamilton tried to pass Verstappen on Lap 58 as well. It was only on Lap 59 that Hamilton finally overtook Verstappen down into Turn 4. When Hamilton finally overtook Verstappen, the latest Toto Wolff meme was born (pictured on the left).
Surprisingly, the race stewards confirmed that there was no investigation necessary for Verstappen running him and Hamilton off the track. And the FIA confirmed this at around Lap 54, which was only 6 laps after the incident actually happened. It was clear that I was not the only person who was surprised by this decision. When a driver runs another driver off the track, they usually receive a penalty for it. In this case, Hamilton didn’t lose a lot of time, and unlike a lot of other incidents like this, the driver getting pushed off didn’t run onto gravel or grass.
But in my opinion, and in the opinion of others, this isn’t a reason for Verstappen not to be penalised. The FIA often say that the stewards make decisions based on the action that is made, not the consequences of any actions. Going onto gravel or grass should be a consequence of the action. The action that Verstappen did was extremely aggressive, and the fact that the two cars didn’t go on any gravel or grass when they went off-track shouldn’t influence the strewards’ decisions, unless the stewards and the FIA clarify that the penalties will be more harsher or more lenient depending on where the drive is pushed onto.
‘Let them race’ is something that many F1 fans have asked for. It’s something that the FIA are trying to fulfill. Some say that F1 has become too strict nowadays and that drivers can’t push and race freely because they’ll get penalised for it. But I feel the ‘Let them race’ notion went a little too far in this situation. Yes, making him give the position on track and ending the fight for the lead is something that nobody wanted to do. But at least investigating it and/or awarding a penalty is the least the FIA should have done.
Michael Masi, who is the race director, is in charge of giving an investigation to the stewards. It’s possible that Verstappen could’ve received a penalty for going off the track and gaining an advantage. So in my opinion, Masi should’ve let the stewards take a look at it. Another concerning part of this incident is that somehow, the FIA didn’t have Verstappen’s onboard cameras’ footage at that time. That is very surprising, because the FIA should have access to onboard cameras at all times, especially at such a crucial moment. In conclusion, with or without the onboard, the stewards should’ve at least investigated the incident, because the FIA need to be consistent with their stewarding.
UPDATE: So I’m updating this before I post it because Mercedes petition for a Right To Review to the stewards. And, despite having more evidence and onboard footage, the stewards denied the Right To Review petition. The FIA really doesn’t want anything to do with this incident!
The stewards stated that they decline the Right To Review petition because the new footage and evidence was not significant, which is something that the evidence must be for a Review. The statement read ‘there is nothing in the Footage that fundamentally changes the facts. Nor even, does this show anything that wasn’t considered by the Stewards at the time.’ In my opinion, this isn’t the right decision. But after the Right To Review petition was declined, it looks like this case is closed.
Ferrari On Fire While McLaren Struggle
At the 2021 Brazilian GP, Ferrari continued their streak of strong races. They’ve been consistently been scoring 15-20 points per race since the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix. Even at the Brazil GP, both Ferrari drivers were in the Top 10 for FP1, FP2, and Qualifying. In Quali, they qualified P5 and P6, with Sainz ahead of Leclerc. Sainz finished the Sprint race in P3 after going down the middle of Perez and Gasly at the start to take P3. Sainz started the main race in P3 but after a bad start, he fell to P5, which became P6 after Leclerc overtook him into Turn 4. While the start wasn’t good for Ferrari, they maintained P5 and P6 for the rest of the race. The only time they lost positions was during the first pit window, and both Ferraris gained those places back. Ferrari nailed their consistency throughout the weekend.
McLaren, who are Ferrari’s biggest rival this year, have been struggling with inconsistency and suboptimal performances. But in Brazil, McLaren actually had the chance to do better. But a Ferrari driver and a McLaren driver made contact on Lap 1. And they were Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris. Carlando, one of Formula 1’s greatest romances, may never be the same again. Straight off the race start, Norris got a strong start from P5 on the grid, while Sainz got a bad start from P3. Perez overtook him went the lights went out, and Norris pulled alongside the Ferrari. Norris went to the right side of the track, which meant he went for a really narrow space.
While Sainz tried to squeeze Norris to prevent the overtake, Norris had the overspeed to get past the Ferrari. But when Norris’s rear wheels were going ahead of Sainz’s front wheels, Sainz didn’t give Norris extra space. An F1 car has a wider rear end than the front end, but Norris only had enough space for the front end to make it through. Sainz’s front-right tire hit Norris’s rear-left, which left Norris with a puncture.
To make matters worse, Norris had an entire lap to do with a punctured rear tire. Sainz claimed on the team radio that he couldn’t do anything to avoid the incident. He wasn’t penalised for it, because he was not predominantly to blame for the incident. But I feel he could’ve avoided it, but in the heat of the moment and with so many cars around him, it would’ve been very difficult to avoid contact with the McLaren.
Even though Sainz wasn’t completely to blame for the incident, it definitely ruined Norris’s race. Norris was in dead last because of the puncture. The Safety Car meant that the gap that was between him and the rest of the field came down to nothing so that SC was a miracle for him. A VSC followed after the incident between Raikkonen and Schumacher. But after that, Lando was flying! You see, this is the part where that puncture becomes even more disappointing. Norris had some really strong pace. On Lap 9, he gained 3 positions, and on Lap 10, he gained two more positions, which means he went from P20 to P15. IN TWO LAPS.
Can you imagine if Norris was further up the field with that kind of pace? By Lap 24, some drivers started coming in for their pitstops. It took Norris a little longer to get past Mazepin, and Stroll came into the pits, which left Norris in P13. Norris stayed out of the pits until Lap 37, and he got up to P9 on Lap 36. But when he came out of the pits, he was down in P17. The strategy hadn’t worked out for them at all, but that’s a side-effect of a set of mediums getting wasted due to the puncture on Lap 1.
From there on out, Norris was on fire again. Until Lap 50, he was making overtakes and gaining positions really fast, which placed him in P11. But while Norris was trying to haul his McLaren back into the points, his teammate Daniel Ricciardo retired from the race. Ricciardo was running in the points, and McLaren were pushing to try and get a double points-finish. But Ricciardo had a power loss in his car, so there was no way for him to continue. It was a heartbreaking moment for many. But on Lap 55, after a long and tough race, Norris overtook Sebastian Vettel for P10. He finished the race with that one point in hand.
It was frustrating and disappointing, considering how much potential Norris had to do well in the 2021 Brazilian GP. That pace could’ve earned Norris a really strong position if it wasn’t for that incident on Lap 1. But by salvaging that one point, Norris and McLaren proved that they’re not giving up on beating Ferrari. Who do you think will clinch P3 in the constructors’ championship? Comment down below, and keep in mind that Ferrari are already 31.5 points ahead of McLaren…Stay safe, stay on the lookout for new posts, and enjoy F1ntastic!