source : www.foxsports.com.au
Formula 1’s triple-header concludes this weekend with the São Paulo Grand Prix at Interlagos in Brazil, one of the sport’s most legendary venues.
Although both championships are long behind us, history is still up for grabs this weekend.
But rather than the history that could be etched onto F1’s rolls of honour, this is the battle to retain a place in the Grand Prix story.
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Sergio Pérez arrives in Brazil a man under pressure after a disastrous result at his home race.
Worse still is that his enemies – Daniel Ricciardo, who wants his seat, and Lewis Hamilton, who wants his position in the championship – are coming into good form.
He has the tools to win this weekend’s race, but that’s not the point. From now until the end of the season, his mission is to keep the wolves at bay.
CAN SERGIO PÉREZ RETURN?
Sergio Pérez needs a big result.
He knows. That’s why he went for that ambitious but misplaced lunge around the outside of Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen at his home Grand Prix last weekend, finishing out of the race on the first lap.
Now that Verstappen has won both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, Pérez finds himself alone in the sizzling spotlight of F1.
He has collected less than half of Verstappen’s points and has achieved just one podium finish since the mid-season break. Second place in the Drivers’ Championship is slipping from his grasp, and team boss Christian Horner will only go so far as to say the team has the “intention” to keep him for the final year of his contract in 2024.
He is a man under pressure.
Pérez has said that this seemingly endless decline in form – full of so many false dawns – has more to do with machines than mentality.
He said that ahead of the United States Grand Prix a few weeks ago he had had long discussions with his engineers about resetting his approach to setting up his car, saying he was moving away from his driving style as seen in developed over the course of the year.
Ironically, his performance in Mexico – right up to the first round – was one of his most convincing of the year. He rode at Verstappen’s pace throughout practice, looked competitive in the long-term simulations and qualified just 0.160 seconds behind his teammate. Then he threw it all away on the first turn.
Was it just a home run spike or something more lasting? A comprehensive result this weekend will take some of the burden off him during the break for the final double-header of the season. Another bad weekend and the days before Las Vegas will be dominated by questions about his future.
SHIT TALKING PODCAST: Daniel Ricciardo’s breakthrough weekend for AlphaTauri couldn’t have come at a worse time for Sergio Pérez, who threw his car away on the first lap of his home race. Will this be the moment that convinces Red Bull Racing to take back the Australian, and what would that mean for Red Bull’s wider F1 programme?
WILL DANIEL RICCIARDO CONTINUE TO RISE?
Along with Pérez’s form is the return of Daniel Ricciardo, who threatens to make his comeback in Formula 1 a renaissance.
His result in Mexico City was excellent considering his AlphaTauri machinery. He qualified fourth – just behind Verstappen and ahead of Pérez – and finished seventh, although he could easily have been fifth had the race not been split at half distance by a red flag.
One good race doesn’t make a comeback – let’s not forget that he won in Italy in 2021 without much else to do with McLaren – but it’s not just about the one result.
Both Ricciardo and the team are optimistic that they have gotten real extra performance from the car. Both have found a way to move the upgraded machine towards Ricciardo’s driving style. The fact that they have managed to find such a positive setup direction in the second weekend since the Australian returned to injury is promising.
There’s more to come, with team and driver getting the chance to fine-tune the set-up they only switched to last weekend.
“I feel like we have a lot more confidence in the car and how to set it up,” said Ricciardo. “Having ridden two weekends in a row since my return, I am obviously looking forward to tackling the sprint format at Interlagos.
“It is difficult to estimate how well this track will suit our car. I don’t think I’ve done enough races with it to know what types of tracks are best for us. In Mexico we did better than expected, so that gives confidence for Brazil. I hope we can have another Q3 car from the top 10.”
Ricciardo can’t be expected to challenge for the second row again – although AlphaTauri has improved, the conditions and layout in Mexico undoubtedly played to the car’s strengths – but regularly competing for Q3 and points looks like a possibility to be.
It is obviously good news for Ricciardo’s comeback, but the greater the results he can achieve this season, the more pressure he can put on Pérez, whose seat is his ultimate goal.
Lando takes sarcastic swipe at Ricciardo | 00:38
CAN MERCEDES FILE TITLE CLAIMS ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE LAST WIN?
It’s almost exactly a year since Mercedes won its last race in Formula 1 – a very long time ago for the previously unstoppable team.
Last year, the São Paulo Grand Prix took place in Singapore, the only race in which Red Bull Racing was bizarrely unable to achieve even a podium result.
George Russell took pole through sprint qualifying and lined up on the front row next to Lewis Hamilton, who was kicked off the road by Max Verstappen on the first lap and started third.
It gave Russell the fresh air he needed to control the race to his first win in what ultimately became a one-two for the recovering Hamilton.
Red Bull Racing’s afternoon was better remembered for the flashpoint between Verstappen and Pérez, with the former refusing to let the latter pass for sixth in his quest for second in the standings.
The Mercedes car was really competitive this time last year, even if it took some unique circumstances to deliver an emphatic result.
Once again this year, the W14 looks set to peak in time for Brazil, with a recent upgrade package seeing Hamilton finish second on the road in Austin and Mexico City – before being disqualified from the former.
“It definitely gives us a lot of confidence,” Hamilton said. “I think the next few races will hopefully be close.”
But while Hamilton would love to break his own victory drought – almost two years old, stretching to the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – the prize of second place in the Drivers’ Championship is much more immediately attainable.
He is only 20 points behind Pérez in the standings. While Hamilton says it wouldn’t change his life – and no one remembers who finishes second in seasons like this – driving for one of Red Bull Racing’s formidable cars would be a feather in the cap and a morale boost for the team. to end.
Mercedes also has a 22-point lead over Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ standings, a position worth millions of dollars.
It’s all very subtly ready for a sprint weekend on a circuit that almost always delivers a twist.
Hamilton fooled by Perez crash | 00:54
CAN ASTON MARTIN BRING THEIR WAY THROUGH THE SERIOUS ACCURACY?
Remember when we talked about Aston Martin having a certain chance of winning this season? It now feels like a very long time ago.
The stunner of the start of the season seems to have achieved its goal.
In the past two weeks, Aston Martin has achieved its worst results of the entire season.
Mexico marked the first time this year that the team failed to score a point, with Fernando Alonso retiring with damage and Lance Stroll limping home in 17th.
A week earlier, Alonso’s perfect Q3 streak was broken when both he and Stroll were eliminated in Q1. Stroll scored points admirably, but Alonso retired with bodywork damage.
It was always likely that Aston Martin would see a decline in competitiveness – even Alonso has admitted that. Although the former roach is quickly scaling up, it will take some time before he can fire on all cylinders as a major team.
But its rapid decline is mildly alarming.
The team made several updates to the car in the second half of the year, including a major overhaul in the United States, but only seemed to become less competitive.
Starting both cars from the pit lane in Austin and Stroll again from his garage in Mexico speaks to a team that cannot understand where it went wrong – although team boss Mike Krack had denied that his team had lost, insisting that it was instead was all about collecting data.
Alonso, however, more bluntly.
“Honestly, we are not fighting for anything,” he said per Motorsport. “In the Constructors’ Championship we are stuck in the position where we are now.
“We will lose a few places in the Drivers’ Championship.
“We will learn, even if we have to start from the pit lane, and you know that is more useful than just spending the weekend.”
The learning is crucial because at a time when both Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari have delivered upgrades that have pushed their cars forward ahead of 2024, Aston Martin is languishing without a springboard into next season.
It’s not just at stake this year.
HOW CAN I WATCH IT?
The 2023 São Paulo Grand Prix can be seen live and commercial-free on Kayo and Fox Sports.
Practice starts at 1.30am (AEDT) on Saturday, with qualifying at 5am.
The sprint shootout is on Sunday from 1am, before the 100km sprint race at 5.30am.
Pre-race coverage starts at 2:30 a.m., with lights out on the São Paulo Grand Prix at 4 a.m.
source : www.foxsports.com.au