Max Verstappen will aim to drive home his massive advantage over Sergio Perez at Brazilian Grand Prix
The champion will want biggest possible points gap.
With Ferrari having sensationally locked out the front row in Mexico last weekend, and Lewis Hamilton scoring his best points of the season, it seems Red Bull’s rivals are making gains as the season nears its conclusion.
Max has only won in Brazil once, in 2019. In each of his previous championship-winning years he was beaten by Mercedes. Hamilton, who has clinched victory at Interlagos three times, gave Verstappen a schooling in 2021 when he won the race from tenth on the grid, triumphing despite some dirty defending from the Dutchman.
Last year, George Russell took his first, and so far only, grand-prix spoils. A rattled Verstappen could only muster sixth and ignored team orders to let team-mate Sergio Perez through.
Perez’s championship runner-up hopes will once again be a storyline: Verstappen’s refusal to yield last year meant, to date, Red Bull Racing has never finished one-two in the drivers’ standings despite seven driver’s titles and six constructors’.
Right now, there are 20 points between the Mexican and third-placed Hamilton. There are three rounds to go, 34 points to play for this weekend alone. This is the fifth and last week of 2023 to feature a sprint race on Saturday. Last year’s sprint was also won by Russell, while Verstappen was fourth.
It seems unlikely Max will help ‘Checo’ this time either, even if he can. He will see the biggest gap possible in points between himself and his team-mate (currently clocking in at 251 – more than double) as another achievement to add to a record-breaking year.
‘Last year we didn’t have a great weekend here,’ concedes Verstappen. ‘We definitely need to try and do better. There’s a lot of high [tyre] degredation here, low-speed corners, it’s difficult to set up the car. I don’t think our car is amazing in the low-speed corners.’
Verstappen also suggested yesterday he does not mind who races alongside him at Red Bull next year, amid reports Daniel Ricciardo will replace Perez.
He said: ‘I find it a bit unfair to sit here and say who I would prefer. If it’s Checo next year, we have a good working relationship. If it is Daniel, we’ll have fun. F1 is a tough sport.’
As for Mercedes repeating their 2022 success, team boss Toto Wolff has sounded a note of caution. ‘We can see with all the teams that there is a certain correlation of last year’s performance and this year but there is not enough data to make that solid assumption, so I don’t know,’ he said.
Alonso’s had enough of the rumours
Speculation about Fernando Alonso making the switch from Aston Martin to Red Bull is unfounded, says the Spaniard.
‘It is just rumours, normal paddock rumours, from people who are just trying to make fun of it and gain some followers,’ said Alonso, and he is not impressed. ‘I’m not into that game. I think it’s not funny.’
Aged 42, the 2005 and 2006 world champion has rarely seen his stock higher than this season, in which he has extracted the absolute maximum from his car, resulting in seven podiums including three at the first three races.
His last strong result was in Zandvoort, where he was second, but Aston Martin have lost ground in the six races since, with Alonso failing to finish in Austin and Mexico City. His concern is talk of a team switch – which would be the seventh of his F1 career – could prompt some to question his loyalty.
‘Of course, that is the thing they are making (out),’ he added. ‘We are not as competitive as we want. No one is happy with the current form. But at the same time, I said a few races ago this team was 250 people two years ago.
‘Now we are in this transition to be hopefully a contender for the future, with 800 people, a new factory. Seven podiums this year, 200 points more than last year. This has been a super season for us.’