As we head into the last month of the 2023 season, we’re gearing up for the third race of the final triple-header. After a dramatic weekend in Mexico, there’s a lot to talk about before we hit the 4.309km (2.677 mile) Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo, which features 15 corners, fast straights and a tight in-field for the drivers to navigate over 71 race laps.
Last year, Red Bull had a tough time at Interlagos due to set-up issues, allowing Mercedes, led by George Russell, to dominate the race, and handing George his first win in F1. This time around, Red Bull aims for a smoother game however, they’re up against some stiff competition from the other teams.
Mercedes has now been a close contender in the last two races, with Lewis Hamilton finishing second after driving sensationally in both COTA and in Mexico. Meanwhile, Ferrari, especially with Charles Leclerc’s consecutive pole positions, has showcased their potential to challenge the front runners.
Although McLaren downplayed their chances due to the characteristics at Interlagos not aligning with their car’s strengths, they’ve been competitive for several races and shouldn’t be underestimated in the battle for the top positions.
Hamilton and Perez are engaged in a compelling battle for the second place spot. While most drivers claim they aren’t fixated on finishing second or third, preferring the championship title, their competitive nature drives them to aim for the highest position possible.
Hamilton’s recent second-place finish in Mexico, combined with Sergio Perez’s retirement, has intensified the fight for the runner-up spot. The gap between the two drivers now stands at just 20 points in favour of Perez, with Hamilton reducing that by 35 points over the past five race weekends. This averages to seven points gained per weekend. If this rate continues until the season’s end, Hamilton would surpass Perez by a mere single point.
Perez, coming from a disappointing home race in Mexico City, faced a weekend that held promise but concluded in heartbreak. He had a close gap in qualifying and a strong start that offered a chance to challenge for the lead, yet an ambitious move from the outside resulted in contact with Charles Leclerc.
Heading to Interlagos, if Perez harnesses his focus and strengths, he could be a strong contender. However, if the disappointing outcome affects his confidence, Hamilton might further narrow the points gap.
The only thing that might be on Hamilton’s mind is the fact that their Chief Technical Officer, Mike Elliot has departed from Mercedes to take a break from F1. With such a crucial role to fill, especially when it comes down to getting ready for the 2024 season, could this be a new and unfortunate set-back for Mercedes?
Daniel Ricciardo showcased a remarkable resurgence in Mexico. Despite participating in only his fourth race of the year due to stints as a reserve and his previous injury, he demonstrated significant confidence. Learning from his experience in Austin, he was eager to implement his lessons at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
His performance was impressive, securing a fourth place in qualifying and finishing seventh in the race, which could have been even better if not for the ill timing of the red flag. This achievement marked Ricciardo’s first points of the season, propelling AlphaTauri up two positions in the constructors’ championship.
The spotlight now shifts to whether this was a one-time success due to the car’s compatibility with the Mexico City circuit or a sign of Ricciardo regaining top form with the Red Bull sister team. Yuki Tsunoda’s potential was somewhat hindered by a grid penalty and contact with Oscar Piastri, which dropped him to the back of the field, only for him to charge up and finish in 12th position.
As we approach Brazil, there’s a focus on Aston Martin and Haas, as both teams are eager to reverse their struggling performances.
Aston Martin, after a strong start to the season, has seen a significant drop in competitiveness. Their recent experiments in Austin didn’t yield the desired results, and in Mexico, they faced a double-DNF. Team Principal Mike Krack emphasises the importance of these car specification tests for future improvements and data gathering. However, he also recognizes the urgency of achieving strong results before the season’s end to lift team morale.
Similarly, Haas faced disappointment with their upgraded package in Austin, which led to slipping to the bottom of the constructors’ standings. Kevin Magnussen’s recent heavy crash added to their woes. Interlagos witnessed Magnussen’s remarkable pole in Friday qualifying for the Sprint last year, aided by rainy conditions in Q3. With wet weather predicted again this weekend, Haas hopes to capitalise on these conditions once more to potentially improve their performance.
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