Thursday, January 20, 2022

Brazilian GP 2021 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton the Speed King at Interlagos, Max Verstappen in P2

Brazilian GP 2021 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton on Pole for Saturday's Sprint as arch-rival Max Verstappen starts alongside him


Brazilian GP 2021 Qualifying: For an avid F1 fanatic like myself, at times, well, most of the time, the sport’s Sporting Regulations confuse me a lot. Feather added to that illustrious cap is the new Sprint Race/Qualifying format.

I was under the impression that it would be a Friday just like any other Friday – FP1 & FP2 – but little did I know that the schedule was a tad bit different this time around.

After a delay in the freight, the F1 circus quickly unpacked and went out for the conventional Qualifying session in Brazil. Mercedes confirmed earlier in the day that Lewis Hamilton had been given a new ICE, his fifth of the season, so the extra pace was inevitable.

That said, it was still a close fight between Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, with Sergio Perez behind the two and Pierre Gasly shining brightly, albeit silently, as ever. Mind you, the Qualifying session today doesn’t imply anything. The real deal is set to happen tomorrow, with the 24-lap Sprint Race/Qualifying. But how do the drivers line up for the same? I tell you.

Brazilian GP 2021 Qualifying: Mercedes – Lewis – P1 & Valtteri – P3

As soon as the cars went out in FP1, we heard that Lewis has got a brand-new ICE at the back of his W12, meaning he now has much more power than Max Verstappen, something that was evident, too. The Brit will start tomorrow’s sprint in P1, and excluding the result he gets tomorrow, he will also take a five-place grid drop for his 5th ICE of the season.

On Bottas’ side of the garage, it was more or less a straightforward session, until Q3 arrived. The Finn had been trailing Verstappen by a small margin throughout the three sessions, but when it came to the final laps, he set a time just 0.097 seconds slower than Max. To put things into perspective, 0.097 is the difference between him starting on the front row alongside Lewis Hamilton and ahead of Verstappen. Toto won’t be too happy.

Red Bull – Max – P2 & Sergio – P4

Red Bull came to Interlagos with the thought that although it would be quick, it wouldn’t be as quick as the Mercedes because of its straight-line advantage. It was evident, too, as in the middle sector, both the Red Bull drivers were near about on the same pace as the Silver Arrows, but it was a completely different story in S1 & S3.

Max didn’t have a good final run in Q3, and hence he was some four-tenths behind Lewis, but Helmut Marko says that even without the mistake, the gap would’ve been two-tenths. However, Max isn’t “too shocked” to start behind Lewis as he knows that when a new engine is fitted, there is more power for a weekend.

Sergio, on the other hand, had the same fate as Bottas – he couldn’t catch his teammate but was *very* close to the driver ahead of him.

Brazilian GP 2021 Qualifying: Ferrari – Carlos – P6 & Charles – P7

Ferrari had a terrible 2019 race here in Brazil, so it was only going to get better for the Italian squad this year. Or so it seemed. Carlos has been the quicker Ferrari all day, something that could be seen on his lap times, and as such, the Spaniard will line up ahead of his teammate in P6. Charles, at the same time, was quite angry with how the Qualifying turned out to be, at least for himself. He wasn’t happy with the lap and will start from P7. Add fuel to the fire, Pierre Gasly, in an AlphaTauri, bested for the Scuderia men.

McLaren – Norris – P8 & Ricciardo – P9

The team that has been in form recently, seems to have lost its advantage over the others as it struggles to fight with Ferrari for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship. FP1 for both the drivers wasn’t great either as they failed to finish inside the top 10 I think it was. McLaren said they were running a different practice program, so we can only hope for a much stronger Sprint Race tomorrow for them.

AlphaTauri – Gasly – P5 & Tsunoda – P13 / Alpine – Alonso – P10 & Ocon – P11

Both the teams have been in a tightly-contested battle for P5 in the Constructors’ Championship. However, at Alpha, it has been a one-man-show for most of the year as Gasly seems to outperform his machine. Yuki, on the other hand, seems to be still adapting to the car, but he’s not right there with Pierre when the need is at its highest.

As far as the Alpine boys are concerned, Nando is only getting quicker with Esteban Ocon following him home every chance he gets. The team couldn’t as for more.

Aston Martin – Vettel – P12 & Stroll – P16

The last few races and Qualis haven’t been good on Aston, and it genuinely looked like it will all change today, but it wasn’t meant to be. Lance had a good lap in Q1, but when others started to improve, he got kicked out and missed out a spot in Q2 by just 0.065 seconds over Kimi Raikkonen.

Sebastion had a much better session. He progressed through to Q2 easily but didn’t have enough pace to challenge for a spot in Q3. He did try something different on his final attempt, but it didn’t work.

Brazilian GP 2021 Qualifying: Alfa Romeo – Raikkonen – P14 & Giovinazzi – P15

The two Alfa men, racing for the last time in Alfa colours (quite possibly), did give us a lot to cheer about as Kimi went into Q2 with a strong lap, but his attempts were overshadowed by an even stronger lap from Antonio Giovinazzi which saw him jump to P6 at one point, but all the hopes and dreams came crashing down for both the drivers and reality hit hard.

Williams – Latifi – P17 & Russell – P18 / Haas – Schumacher – P19 & Mazepin – P20

The strangest thing happened today when Russell got out-qualified by a Williams teammate for the first time. Don’t know how Latifi managed to do that, but he did and it bodes well for his 2022 chances.

As for the two Haas drivers, Mick was once again ahead of Nikita, but Mazepin was quite angry with himself because, by the looks of it, he had a genuine chance of not being the slowest car for once. The gap too was visibly very less than what it has been previously. Maybe it just isn’t meant to be…

Tune into the Sprint Race/Qualifying folks, we have additional points on offer, some mid-field racing, and especially, the Lewis-Max battle. See you tomorrow!


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