Max Verstappen’s Bad Weekend and 5 Other Things We Learned From Brazil



  • The 2022 F1 championships are decided, but the Sao Paulo Grand Prix still had plenty of fun and drama.
  • Max Verstappen refused to help teammate Sergio Perez despite all the help Perez has provided. 
  • Mercedes picked up its first win of the year and finished 1-2, showing the powerhouse team is back.

The 2022 Formula One driver and constructor championships may already be wrapped up, but there was no shortage of fun and drama during the penultimate weekend of the season at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

From Red Bull’s troubling weekend to the return of Mercedes and shutting down the sprint-race haters, here are the six things we learned from Brazil.

1. Max Verstappen is giving his team a headache they don’t need

It has been a nearly perfect season for Red Bull. After suffering three DNFs in the first three races, they have rebounded with 16 wins combined, between Verstappen (14) and Sergio Perez (2), and have cruised to easy wins in the driver and constructor championships.

But now, the season is threatening to end on a sour note.

In Brazil, both drivers failed to finish in the top five, and Verstappen was given a controversial penalty after a collision with old rival Lewis Hamilton that many thought both drivers were to blame.

More importantly, at the end of the race, Verstappen refused team orders to give up his spot to Perez to help his teammate in the race for second place in the standings.

After the race, Verstappen was heard on the radio saying, “I told you already last summer, you guys don’t ask that again to me.” Perez had his own comment, saying, “It shows who he really is.”

 

Team principal Christian Horner insisted that Verstappen will “fully support” Checo, who is now tied for second with Charles Leclerc, in the season’s final race. But after all the times that Perez has reluctantly sacrificed his performance to help Verstappen, to the point that Horner called Perez “an incredible servant,” it is easy to imagine those days are over, and Verstappen will be on his own next season.

2. Mercedes is back

George Russell picked up his first career win on Sunday in a dominating performance. It was also the team’s first win of the season, after winning the last eight constructor championships.

More importantly, it looks like Mercedes is finally back. Hamilton finished second for the team’s first 1-2 since 2020, and he might have won if not for the early contact with Verstappen.

For much of the season, Red Bull’s biggest rival was Ferrari. However, suddenly Mercedes now has 17 podiums this year, just two behind Ferrari’s 19.

Merc is still 19 points behind Ferrari for P2 in the team standings, so catching the prancing horses this year with one race to go might be too much to ask. But Red Bull’s biggest challenger next year might be their old foe, Mercedes, a team that is not likely to shoot themselves in the foot as often as Ferrari likes to do.

3. Sprint-race haters are going to be quiet this week

Sprint races are here to stay, as the FIA announced it will expand from three to six sprint races in 2023.

Still, not everybody is a fan of the Saturday sprint races that count for points and decide the starting grid for the Sunday main event. The most vocal opponent recently has been Verstappen.

“Honestly, I’m just not a big fan of it,” Verstappen said before the race. “I feel like we don’t really race [during the sprint race]. There are a few points that you get, right, but you also know that you can’t really risk it because the main race is where you really get the points. You don’t do a pitstop, so you just put on the tire, which will last the distance … You don’t really see a lot of overtaking unless there is a car out of position.”

But those haters will be muted this week after Saturday’s sprint race at Interlagos. 

It started with a surprise pole sitter in Kevin Magnussen and continued with plenty of racing action overtakes among the top drivers throughout the race, the very things Verstappen said wouldn’t happen.

4. Kevin Magnussen continues to be the best story of the year

Magnussen and Haas used some excellent timing and a little luck to secure a surprising pole position during qualifying in Brazil. It was the best moment yet in a bright season. 

 

After spending seven years in F1, Magnussen lost his seat at Haas following the 2020 season. He spent the 2021 season racing in the North American IMSA series and was set to do so again this year. He even raced in the 2022 24 Hours of Daytona to start the season.

Magnussen returned to F1 on the eve of the season, replacing Russian driver Nikita Mazepin at Haas following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Magnussen was so ill-prepared for the season that he couldn’t even hold his head up after the first two races because he had not been doing the neck-strengthening exercises required of F1 drivers.

While the weekend ended on a sour note, with Magnussen being forced out of Sunday’s race after being bumped by Daniel Ricciardo on the opening lap, K-Mag finished in the points during the sprint race. It was his ninth time in the points this season — including all three sprint races — for a team that scored none last year.

5. Ferrari continues to step on its own feet

After the season started with so much promise for Ferrari, the team is barely holding on to second place in the constructors’ standings as Mercedes makes a late charge. In addition, Charles Leclerc, who looked ready to win a driver championship early in the season, is now tied for second with Perez with one race to go.

While it was unlikely that Ferrari would’ve been able to hold off Red Bull and Verstappen once they fixed their early season problems, Ferrari has not helped matters with constant questionable strategy decisions.

The latest came during qualifying in Brazil. Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz barely made it out of Q1 when they were forced to wait in the pit because the team was not prepared with the right tires. 

Later, during Q3, the team put Leclerc on the track on intermediate tires as they expected rain. All of the other drivers were on slick tires. The gamble backfired as the track remained dry just long enough for everybody except Leclerc to get a time in on the slick tires. By the time he switched, it was too late, and he had to settle for P10.

 

6. Mick Schumacher’s F1 future is still up in the air

With one race to go in the season, we still don’t know who will be Magnussen’s teammate in 2023.

Haas’ second seat is the last remaining vacancy in F1. We were expecting an announcement from team principal Guenther Steiner before the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with the decision reportedly down to Schumacher and former F1 driver Niko Hulkenberg, but that never came. 

While the team has been highly critical of Schumacher this season, especially because of money he has cost the team with all of his crashes, the delayed decision can only help.

While Sunday’s 13th-place finish was his 10th straight race without points, he did have a strong performance in the sprint race, moving up from 20th to 12th.

 





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