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Brazilian Grand Prix 2023

Winners and Losers from 2023 F1 Brazilian Grand Prix Sprint

The curtain has come down on F1 Sprint for this season with the sixth event in Sao Paulo. A potentially fatal blow was struck while a late-season charge picked up yet more momentum.

The first handful of laps of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix Sprint were interesting at least.

With the majority of the field starting on the Soft tyres, save Haas on Mediums for obvious reasons, the general expectation would be that the red-marked rubber would be able to last the 24-lap distance, but that it would be marginal.

A fine indicator then of what we can expect during the first stint of the race itself, which is one of the biggest sticks with which to beat the Sprint format, among others.

Max Verstappen would win his fourth Sprint from six of the year - not that he cared greatly - to move to 499 points. You'd get pretty slim odds on him not smashing through the 500 point barrier this season...

But before we start our round-up, of Winners and Losers from the Sao Paulo Sprint, something needs to be addressed.

During a previous Winners and Losers piece, one reader comment asked why Verstappen was not included as a winner despite winning the race.

The reason for that is simple, the idea of this analysis is to shine a spotlight on race stories you might have missed or to heap praise, or indeed criticism, on a driver for their performance.

Such has been Verstappen's dominance this year, sometimes, there is not an awful lot to say about the guy who sticks it on pole, disappears up the road and only features for a pit-stop or sarcastic message to his race engineer.

There are only so many ways to heap praise on Verstappen, and so when it is a rather routine win for the Red Bull driver, he might not be included, as we start with the driver of the other RB19.

Winner - Sergio Perez

It is a start, nothing more for Sergio Perez but his climb to third is base from which he can build across the final three races.

He chipped away and eventually got past Lewis Hamilton following the Mercedes' brave move at Turn 4 on the opening lap around the outside before dispatching of George Russell to run third.

Both Verstappen and Lando Norris were already well up the road as Perez wisely settled for third place, six points and a job well done.

It was exactly the type of confidence-building race you'd want, if for example, you'd tried to be the superhero in your home race last time out and win the race at Turn 1 but looked rather desperate and crashed out.

Coupled with Hamilton's P7 and two points, Perez extended his lead to 24 points in the battle for second, a healthy cushion to have.

What did Perez say?

"I had a terrible start and ended up losing a place to George and then another place to Lewis into Turn 4. From then on I was fighting and had to use all of my tyres, then I think I paid the price towards the end."

			© Red Bull Content Pool
	© Red Bull Content Pool

Loser - Daniel Ricciardo

This might be considered sacrilege in some quarters, but the one thing Daniel Ricciardo didn't really do in that outstanding Mexico City weekend was race.

In the Grand Prix, others came past with ease as the AlphaTauri wisely realised he wasn't racing Hamilton for example, but aside from the last couple of laps with George Russell, Ricciardo did not spend any sustained time trying to pass a car ahead. In other words, he was race rusty.

And it showed.

During his battle over P8 - and one point - with Carlos Sainz, the Australian repeatedly tried to send it around the outside of Turn 1, claim the inside for Turn 2 and go on his way.

But as has been evidenced by years of action at Interlagos, all this will achieve is to give the other driver, in this case Sainz, the opportunity for better traction out of Turn 2 thanks to the tighter line for Ricciardo and came roaring past on the run to Turn 4 - and so it played out.

On one occasion, Ricciardo placed the AlphaTauri beautifully for the cut-back on Sainz, but then seemingly imperceptibly floored it and went dancing around the outside.

In itself, it was a great move, but he wasn't thinking two or three corners ahead, only in the here and now. A shame but lesson learnt.

What did Ricciardo say?

"F**k, F**k, F**k, F**k. Sorry guys. Just that f***ing DRS in Turn 2. You pass in [Turn] 1 and then you just get f***ed. It is impossible."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Winner - Yuki Tsunoda

On the flipside of the AlphaTauri drivers is Yuki Tsunoda, whose sixth place and three points has set the team's eyes on catching Williams for seventh in the Constructors', with 27 playing 19 - but that AlphaTauri is fast.

The Singapore upgrade worked well with Tsunoda enjoying a strong, if under the radar campaign when the car was at its worst. Couple that with an energised and hungry Ricciardo, it is making for a potent recipe.

Tsunoda was within seven-tenths of catching Charles Leclerc for fifth, as the duo reeled in the ailing George Russell as Mercedes lunched its tyres.

The team is finally on an upward curve and is finishing strong. It bodes well.

What did Tsunoda say?

"With a couple more laps, I might’ve been able to fight for P5 with Leclerc ahead of us. I’m happy with my race craft today, and the pace the car had, especially in the race, was strong."

Loser - Mercedes

Leading into the weekend, talk had been of Mercedes' recent improvements and how strong the car had been in Mexico and Brazil last season, fuelling hopes of possibly a repeat at Interlagos.

The Sprint disavowed it of that notion. A fast start from both drivers was matched by an equally fast drop in tyre performance as the W14 went on a strict 'Pirelli Soft tyre only' diet.

Hamilton was squirming around on corner exits and was lucky to even finish in the points as Carlos Sainz and Ricciardo carved huge chunks of time out of him on the final lap.

A tough one to swallow, and while second in the Constructors' is still a good result, the fact is the team is arguably as far away as ever from Red Bull with Verstappen barely breaking sweat. That, and the fact that other teams such as McLaren and even AlphaTauri of late have been able to take such giant leaps forward in-season and Mercedes have not should be a worry.

What did Hamilton say?

“The last couple of races we've been getting excited about progressing and it's been really positive to see. We come to another track and this you have the worst degradation that you have had for ages.

"You just don't know what to expect. But there's only a couple more races with this car, so I'm happy.”

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

F1 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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