Verstappen bids to boost lead in Brazil as sprint race returns

By Sports Desk November 10, 2021

Max Verstappen is bidding to boost his advantage on a race weekend at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix that could prove crucial in helping him close in on a first Formula One world title.

Consecutive victories in the United States and Mexico have seen Verstappen grow his lead over seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton to 19 points with just four races remaining.

The result this week at Interlagos, where 29 points are up for grabs as the third and final sprint race of the season takes place on Saturday ahead of the main event on Sunday, could therefore have a seismic impact.

A third straight win would equal the best run in Verstappen's impressive young career but most importantly put him in prime position for the biggest prize of all, which would deny Hamilton the chance to surpass Michael Schumacher and claim an all-time record eighth title.

Red Bull were clearly the faster car in Mexico as previous form proved an accurate guide to that race. They have also fared well of late in Brazil, with the Dutchman winning the last time a race was held at Interlagos in 2019 after a second-placed finish the year before.

The 19-point lead is the second-biggest gap between Verstappen and Hamilton this season. Only in Austria was it larger (32) in a year when it has been tough to separate the pair.

Red Bull have also closed to within one point of Mercedes in the constructors' championship, the smallest gap between two teams at this stage of any season in the 21st century.

Christian Horner's team have had both drivers on the podium in three straight races, their best run in the hybrid era, and repeating the feat here would put them closer to claiming both crowns, ending a historic spell of Mercedes dominance.

However, Hamilton will have plenty to say about that – he has 17 career wins in the Americas (seven in Canada, six in the USA, two in Brazil and two in Mexico). One more would give him the record in that category which he currently shares with Schumacher.

LAST TIME OUT

Verstappen roared to victory in Mexico, moving from third on the grid to the lead by the first corner.

Valtteri Bottas – who had started in pole position – dropped down to last after being hit from behind in a frantic start and could not recover to finish in the points, though he did claim the fastest lap to deny Verstappen an additional point.

Verstappen was rarely troubled after his fine start, claiming a 19th career win and ninth of the season by more than 16 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who held on for second in a battle with home favourite Sergio Perez, a result Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said should be seen like a win given the pace difference between the two cars.

Pierre Gasly took fourth to make it three drivers connected to Red Bull in the first four places, with the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz rounding out the top six.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN BRAZIL

While the gap is expected to be closer at Interlagos than it was in Mexico City, Verstappen goes into the race weekend as favourite given Red Bull's strong momentum.

However, he has not fared well in the two previous race weekends when the sprint format took place and is yet to claim a point in the main race under those circumstances.

He did claim pole – and five valuable championship points – when he won the sprint at Silverstone and came second at Monza to Bottas, who served a penalty, only to retire from each race after collisions with Hamilton.

Hamilton will be up for a scrap again as he desperately bids to remain in contention and Wolff insisted this week it is all still to play for, given the Briton impressively limited the damage with second place in Mexico, one of Mercedes' worst tracks.

Wolff added: "We are going to Brazil – that was not much better for us than Mexico in the past but at least we believe that we can have a solid car there, more close to Red Bull than what we had.

"None of us is ever going to have the mentality of this is going away from us. There is four races to go, four wins to take, four DNFs to suffer, and we will just continue fighting.

"We know that we have a great team. When you look at the mathematical probability then I would rather be 19 points ahead than behind, but it is what it is."

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Front row vital – Fifteen of the past 16 winners in Brazil have come from the first row of the grid (eight from pole). Kimi Raikkonen was the last winner to come from further back, doing so in 2007 when he emerged triumphant from third to clinch the drivers' title.

Unwelcome records – If he finishes second, Bottas will surpass Rubens Barrichello as the driver who has the most runner-up finishes in F1 (30) without being a world champion. He is already the driver who has the most career poles (19) without winning a world title.

Fast Fernando – Alpine star Alonso is the driver who has gained the most positions across both of the sprint races held so far in 2021 (six).

Lando luck – Since he retired in Hungary, Lando Norris – who turns 22 this weekend – has finished in the top five just once in seven F1 races (when he came second in Monza). He had been in the top five in nine of the previous 10 events before this poor run.

Fond memories – Eleven years ago on race day, Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) became the youngest driver to win the F1 world championship in Abu Dhabi at 23 years, four months and 11 days old.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 312.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 293.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 185
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 165
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 150

Constructors

1. Mercedes 478.5
2. Red Bull 477.5
3. Ferrari 268.5
4. McLaren 255
5. Alpine 106

Related items

  • Mercedes chief Allison 'cautiously optimistic' ahead of Silverstone Mercedes chief Allison 'cautiously optimistic' ahead of Silverstone

    Mercedes are "cautiously optimistic" of competing at Silverstone with a car that, according to their chief technical officer, is "definitely on the mend".

    It has been a difficult Formula One season for Mercedes, who sit third in the constructors' standings, 116 points off pace-setters Red Bull.

    While new boy George Russell has performed well and sits fourth in the Drivers' Championship with 111 points – 64 behind leader Max Verstappen – seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is down in sixth.

    Hamilton has struggled to adapt to Mercedes' new car and often been unable to hide his frustration with the vehicle's performance, though he did manage a third-place finish in Montreal last time out.

    Third is the best Mercedes have achieved in any race in 2022, with Russell achieving it in Spain, Azerbaijan and Australia, and Hamilton clinching the final podium place in Bahrain as well as Canada.

    Ahead of the British Grand Prix, Mercedes' CTO James Allison believes the team are finding a way to be competitive following two successive podium finishes.

    He told Sky Sports: "Everyone in our factory doesn't dare say it, but we're cautiously optimistic of having a more competitive weekend than some of those we've had of late.

    "I think some of the characteristics of this circuit will suit the car. We don't have a car capable of winning from the front yet. But I think as long as we can get the car tamed through Maggots Becketts and around the faster of the corners, then I think we have a decent chance of a competitive showing, and maybe if the Red Bulls stumble, who knows, but I'm hopeful of a better weekend."

    When it was put to him that victory at Silverstone would be an emotional one, Allison quipped: "Absolutely, well I'd cry!

    "It'd be a fantastic thing. I've just got my fingers crossed that we'll have a creditable showing with a car that is definitely on the mend."

  • Sedin brothers, Luongo and Alfredsson headline Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2022 Sedin brothers, Luongo and Alfredsson headline Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2022

    Twin brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin, along with former Vancouver Canucks team-mate Roberto Luongo and long-time Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, headline the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2022. 

    Finish women's hockey great Riikka Sallinen and Herb Carnegie, a black hockey pioneer, were also selected Monday to be inducted in November. 

    Daniel and Henrik played all 17 of their NHL seasons together for the Canucks after being selected second and third overall in the 1999 NHL draft. 

    Henrick finished his career with 1,070 points and won the 2009-10 league scoring title and the Hart Trophy as league MVP that season, while Daniel ended with 1,041 points and won the NHL scoring title in 2010-11 with 104 points. 

    Henrik routinely set up his brother, finishing his career with 830 assists (27th all time) while Daniel was the beneficiary of Henrik's passes, tallying 393 goals. 

    The brothers each won an Olympic gold medal for Sweden at the 2006 Games and helped lead the Canucks to 11 playoffs trips and a berth in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. 

    While the Sedins fuelled the offense for those Canucks teams, Luongo protected the net, serving as Vancouver's goaltender from 2006-07 until he was traded to the Florida Panthers on in March 2014.

    Over a 19-season career from 1999-2000 to 2018-19, Luongo ranks second among all goalies with 1,044 games played while his 489 wins are fourth most. 

    A three-time finalist for the Vezina Trophy, Luongo ranks ninth all time with 77 career shutouts and was also the goalie on the Canada team that won the 2010 Olympic gold medal. 

    Alfredsson, who also won an Olympic gold as a team-mate of the Sedins on the 2006 Sweden team, spent 17 of his 18 NHL seasons with the Senators. 

    The winner of the 1995-96 Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, Alfredsson finished his career with 444 goals (tied for 64th all time) and 1,157 points (55th most in NHL history). 

    Sallinen, the first woman not born in North America to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, won bronze medals for Finland at the 1998 and 2018 Olympics, while Carnegie, who died in 2012 at the age of 92, is widely considered the best black hockey player to never play in the NHL. 

  • Mariners trade for Carlos Santana after Ty France injury Mariners trade for Carlos Santana after Ty France injury

    The Seattle Mariners acquired veteran slugger Carlos Santana from the Kansas City Royals for a pair of pitchers on Monday, helping to fill the void at first base in the wake of Ty France's injury.

    The 36-year-old Santana is in the midst of a third straight sub-par season, batting .216 with four home runs and 21 RBIs in 52 games, but has shown significant improvements at the plate in the past three weeks.

    After slashing .157/.291./.244 with seven extra-base hits in his first 37 games, Santana has compiled a .367/.492./.592 slash line with two home runs, five doubles and 11 RBIs in 15 contests since June 7.

    An All-Star in 2019 with the Cleveland franchise, Santana's 263 career home runs are the seventh-most by a first baseman since his 2010 rookie season.

    Santana will take over at first for France, who suffered a Grade 2 flexor strain in his left forearm on Thursday and is sidelined indefinitely. 

    France was enjoying a stellar season before his injury, batting .316 with 10 home runs while leading Seattle with 45 RBIs.

    The Mariners, who own baseball's longest active playoff drought at 20 seasons, begin play on Monday in fourth place in the AL East, seven games out of the league's second wild card spot.

    As part of the trade, Seattle sent right-hander Wyatt Mills and minor league righty William Fleming to Kansas City, with the Mariners also receiving cash considerations.

    Santana, who was first traded to the Mariners in 2018 but returned for a second stint in Cleveland 10 days later, is in the final year of a two-year, $17.5million contract.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.