Sunday, 17 November 2019

Brazil: post-race analysis 2019

The race was quite interesting towards the end. The bet failed, and never looked like coming off, but given how topsy-turvy the last few laps were it easily could’ve. A lot happened, so do forgive me if I get one or two details wrong.

Off the line Vettel was passed by Hamilton, but otherwise it was formation flying. Leclerc began devouring those ahead of him with little effort, and within perhaps a dozen laps was behind Albon.

Hamilton was within a few seconds of Verstappen and pitted first, switching to fresh softs (as did Verstappen). The Dutchman exited the pits behind the Englishman but took no time at all to retake his leading role. There was interesting strategic differentiation, with Vettel and Albon (then 3rd and 5th) on medium tyres, and Bottas and Leclerc (4th and 6th) on the hard.

Ricciardo locked up trying to pass Magnussen and ended up spinning the Dane and buggering his own front wing, necessitating a pit stop and a 5s penalty.

Hamilton never quit bitching about his second (used) set of softs. More surprisingly, Bottas pitted after 11 laps only on the hard tyres. He emerged behind Leclerc and although he appeared clearly faster was unable to get past. Looked a bit like a number two driver today, I’m afraid to say. And then his engine blew up.

The Finn sensibly parked his car right by a marshal’s station, and I was very surprised to see a full safety car deemed necessary. Hamilton was ordered to do the opposite to Verstappen, and stayed out when the Dutchman pitted (NB he, Hamilton, and the rest had already had second stops by this point). Vettel also stayed out but Albon and Leclerc came in for fresh tyres.

At the restart Hamilton was a sitting duck and duly lost the lead in no short order. Behind him, the Ferraris were squabbling. The merest touch caused catastrophic damage to both, leading to a double DNF and mutual recriminations over the radio. Another safety car was called. Mercedes boxed Hamilton for fresh tyres. Verstappen, Albon, and Gasly became the podium position fellows. Would the race resume?

Yes, for two laps.

Hamilton passed Gasly without trouble and then came up against Albon. The Thai left a gap, and Hamilton went for it, but collided, spinning the Thai who ended up out of the points, and letting through Gasly. The young Frenchman fought off a determined Hamilton, the pair ended 2nd and 3rd behind Verstappen.

Amidst all the chaos, the Dutchman was serene and supremely quick. A very well-deserved victory.

Sainz was 4th, another strong result for McLaren, with Norris 8th for double points delight. Speaking of which, Alfa Romeo had Raikkonen and Giovinazzi 5th and 6th, which is very tasty for the team. Ricciardo was 7th, Perez 9th, and Kvyat 10th.

Albon ended up 14th. Bit rough given he was within touching distance of a first podium result, but he’s been confirmed for Red Bull for next season and he performed very well today, so I’m sure he’ll get there. As an aside, I believe Albon was 101 to win before the race, so if I’d backed that each way I would’ve been less than delighted with the eventual outcome.

I think Bottas got fastest lap, which means that point isn’t allocated. Not sure.

Mercedes 710
Ferrari 479
Red Bull 391
McLaren 137
Renault 89
Toro Rosso 83
Racing Point 67
Alfa Romeo 53
Haas 28
Williams 1

The astonishing result was fantastic was Toro Rosso, catapulting them not merely ahead but almost certainly out of reach for Racing Point. It also puts them within potential striking distance of Renault at the next and last race, in a fortnight. Alfa Romeo cannot realistically be caught by Haas, who are consigned to being the second worst team this year. McLaren are best of the rest. Even a Renault 1-2 would not be sufficient to overhaul the gap.

Bit of a surprising result, it’s fair to say. Next race is in Abu Dhabi, in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

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