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Seven things we learned from the Sao Paulo GP

Fernando Alonso turns on the style and Verstappen impersonates Tom Jones…

Sao Paulo GP 2023
  • I'm Fernando Alonso, and this is my masterclass

    I'm Fernando Alonso, and this is my masterclass

    Congratulations, you've seen that slickly produced YouTube ad and you've eagerly signed up to 'Defensive Driving with Fernando Alonso'.

    Lesson one is to simply re-watch the last 20 laps of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, in which 42-year-old Alonso miraculously held off Sergio Perez, despite the Mexican driving a vastly superior car to him and having DRS available throughout.

    How on earth did he do it? Alonso said afterwards that he'd begun playing with his racing lines to make it harder for Perez to follow him, and he tactically deployed his battery on the straights to stop the Red Bull getting a sniff in the big overtaking zones at Turn 1 and Turn 4.

    Perez of course did get past with two laps to go, but somehow Alonso fought back and when his rival made a tiny mistake on the last lap, the two-time world champ pounced to retake the final place on the podium. Cue pandemonium in Aston Martin's garage. What a drive!

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  • Verstappen breaks records... and ear drums

    Verstappen breaks records... and ear drums

    By contrast things were quite serene in Verstappen's cockpit, after he swept into the lead at the start and fended off an early challenge from Lando Norris after the red flag restart.

    From there he did what he normally does and cruised to the chequered flag, claiming many records as he did so: 17 wins in one season breaks the previous best (16 by a Mr Max V last week) and Alberto Ascari's 75 per cent win ratio of 1952 has also fallen to the Dutchman.

    And after crossing the line the team started playing Tom Jones's Green Green Grass of Home over the radio, to which Verstappen obliged with a few lines of his own. Yup, we've reached the DGAF (don’t give a fig) karaoke stage of Red Bull's dominance...

  • Mercedes had a shocker

    Mercedes had a shocker

    Literally miles off it: Lewis Hamilton was more than a minute behind Verstappen at the end of the race, having pushed him all the way at the US GP a fortnight ago. Sheesh.

    It looks like Mercedes was thrown by the sprint format, having only one practice session to nail its setup on Friday. The team got it wrong, and that was the whole weekend screwed.

    Hamilton dropped like a stone in the sprint race on Saturday, even finishing behind AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda after suffering with high tyre deg.

    And unable to make any changes overnight, the same thing happened again in the grand prix. At one stage Alonso radioed in to ask what had happened to Mercedes and his race engineer replied: "They are dying." Ouch.

    Hamilton limped to P8 in what Toto Wolff later described as an "unacceptable" team performance, while George Russell had to retire his car with a cooling issue. No wonder Lewis is counting down the days until he can hand back the W14 for good.

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  • "Why the **** am I so unlucky?!"

    "Why the **** am I so unlucky?!"

    You drive for Ferrari, son.

    It really isn't more complicated than that, is it? Charles Leclerc qualified in P2 for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, but he didn't even make the grid after a mechanical problem sent him spinning into the barriers on the formation lap. Seem to remember Romain Grosjean doing that years ago for Haas...

    Anyway the Monegasque driver was distraught on the radio, offering the above quote before clambering out of the car and having to jog back to the garage with every single TV camera trained on him. Poor chap.

    With Mercedes' woes and Carlos Sainz's P6 finish, the team still ended up gaining on their main rivals in the constructors' championship: just 20 points separate them with two races left. Game on.

  • When Norris is on it, he's ON it

    When Norris is on it, he's ON it

    On Friday it looked for all the money in the world that Lando Norris had a shot at pole position, but when the team didn't get him out early enough with that massive storm approaching in Q3, the best he could do was sixth. Gutted.

    He sure put that right the next day: in the sprint shootout the McLaren driver was back on it, taking sprint race pole with a lap that he, er, didn't actually think was that impressive. Still, P1.

    Sadly Lando lost out to Verstappen at the start of the sprint, but he brought his McLaren home in second place and did the same again on Sunday, leaping ahead of Sainz in the drivers’ championship and hunting down Alonso in fourth.

    The highly rated 23-year-old is on course for his most successful F1 season to date, although that first win is still evading him…

  • We shouldn't forget about Yuki Tsunoda

    We shouldn't forget about Yuki Tsunoda

    After Daniel Ricciardo's heroics in Mexico, all the AlphaTauri-related talk was about whether or not the Aussie could replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull in 2024.

    That left Yuki Tsunoda as something of an afterthought. Not now: the 23-year-old had a brilliant weekend in Brazil, grabbing three precious points in the sprint race and then another two in the grand prix, thus lifting the team above Alfa Romeo in the standings.

    And with two races to go it's not out of the question that it could still overhaul Williams in P7, which would be one heck of an achievement given how slow the car was early on in the season.

    Ricciardo by contrast had a race to forget, picking up damage in the Magnussen-Albon-Hulkenberg shunt at the start and falling a lap down on the field immediately. Shucks.

  • Mother Nature loves F1

    Mother Nature loves F1

    Or rather, Mother Nature loves wreaking havoc with F1. The final session of qualifying on Friday was cut short by the extreme climate in Sao Paulo, when bright sunshine turned into a fully blown storm in the space of a few minutes.

    It forced all of the teams to get their flying laps in as early as possible in Q3, from which Max Verstappen took pole and Aston Martin locked out the second row with Lance Stroll - whose motivation and commitment have been questioned lately - in P3.

    Then the storm clouds rolled in and oh my did they do some damage. The roof was literally torn off one of the grandstands (thankfully, no major injuries were reported) and the top three drivers were forced to rush indoors for their post-quali interviews. Oh the humanity!

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