Finn Valtteri Bottas won the sprint race and will start first in the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix on Sunday, marked by sanctions on his Mercedes teammate and reigning champion, British Lewis Hamilton, which complicate his hopes to revalidate the title.
Bottas led the mini-race at the Interlagos circuit, in Sao Paulo, from the first lap, when he surpassed the leader of the world drivers’ championship, the Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) at the start.
“It was a good start, Max was struggling, but he was close to me,” Bottas said. The Finn, third in the general classification (188 points), got his twentieth pole and the second in a row after Mexico last weekend.
Verstappen started first in the sprint race after Hamilton’s fastest times in qualifying on Friday were declassified due to an irregularity in his car’s movable rear wing (DRS), forcing him to start in the last position.
The Dutchman (314.5 points) finished second and obtained two points, allowing him to extend his lead over Hamilton (293.5) to 21 points in the absence of four Grands Prix, including Sunday’s.
«The start was not the best. I think our rhythm was good, but sometimes here you just can’t get through. Tomorrow we will try, “said Verstappen, 24, who is seeking his first world title in the Big Top.
The Spanish Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari), seventh in the general classification with 131.5 integers, will start in the third position and the Mexican Sergio ‘Checo’ Pérez (Red Bull) in the fourth. The Latin American is fourth in the table with 165 units.
The top-10 of the starting grid is completed by the British Lando Norris (McLaren), followed by the Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), the French Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri-Honda) and Estéban Ocon (Alpine-Renault) and the German Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin).
– Hamilton ups and downs –
Seven times world champion, Hamilton started from box twenty after the sanction imposed this Saturday and went back fifteen spaces, although he will start from tenth place on account of a five-seater penalty imposed for having exceeded the engine change quota of the season .
In an exciting display of speed and command of the wheel, Hamilton demonstrated the good level of the Mercedes on the Saopaulian track, but on Sunday he will have to push himself to the maximum to prevent his main contender from beginning to sentence the championship.
“Excellent work,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told him.
“Copied,” replied the 36-year-old Briton, who has not won a competition from Russia, for three valid ones. This is not over yet.
To increase the tension of the weekend, Verstappen was fined 50,000 euros before the mini-race for touching with his hands, in the ‘pits’, after Friday’s qualifying, the rear wing of his main rival’s car.
“It is a fine a bit hefty, so I hope they have a good meal and a lot of wine,” he ironically.
– Getaway for the title –
Winner of the last two events, in the United States and Mexico, the Red Bull number one can extend his advantage over Hamilton to the symbolic distance of 25 points, the same number of units obtained by a Grand Prix winner.
The gap could be insurmountable in the final stretch of the season, when only Sunday’s stages and those of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates remain.
The Brazilian Grand Prix, canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, was the third and last of the 2021 season with the new qualifying sprint race format.
The 100 kilometer 30 minute (24 laps) competition not only determines the starting grid for the Grand Prix, the main event, but also awards one to three points to the top three.
The show debuted in Britain in July and was followed by Italy in September. For 2022, six sprints are planned in the 23 stages of the calendar.
The race in Interlagos, of 71 laps of 4,309 kilometers, will be held this Sunday. AFP