Verstappen’s insolence overshadows Russell’s Brazil breakthrough

A look back at a dramatic 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Once again, Interlagos delivered an epic Brazilian Grand Prix weekend that had controversy and drama in spades as the best drivers in the world put on a show spectacular in Sao Paulo.

It began on Friday when Kevin Magnussen took a shock pole for Haas in the rain before George Russell outduelled Max Verstappen to win the Sprint and line up first for Sunday’s GP in a front-row lockout for Mercedes.

Temperatures were hot and it’s safe to say some drivers lost their cool during the 71 laps. Let’s unpack some of the main talking points.

George Russell after winning 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix | LAT Images/Mercedes F1 team

Verstappen’s true colours laid bare

There really is no other place to start. Even though Russell took the first win(s) of his Formula 1 career, the headlines were dominated by the behaviour of Verstappen towards his teammate.

With both titles sewn up, the priority for the world champions is to secure their first ever one-two finish in the Drivers’ Championship, with Sergio Perez locked in a tussle with Charles Leclerc. Verstappen clearly did not get that memo.

The Mexican was unfortunate to find himself on the wrong tyre after a late Safety Car and let Verstappen past so he could launch an attack on Fernando Alonso in front. It was done on the proviso that should he fail to make headway, he would let Perez back through to claim the extra points that could prove decisive.

Instead, the Dutchman showed his true colours and they didn’t paint a pretty picture. Asked by his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase why he didn’t return one of many favours he has benefited from, he said: “I told you already last time guys, don’t ask that again to me, OK? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”

He doubled down in the TV pen after the race, adding: “I gave my reasons. I’m not going to say why, but I think they understood – and I’ve explained it to them before so it’s not new to me and not new to them.

“I understand why he is disappointed, but they also have to understand why I did it and I gave them the reasons why.”

It’s rumoured the “reasons” relate to the Monaco Grand Prix where Perez secured pole after crashing in Q3, with allegations abound that he hit the wall on purpose. It seems strange that Verstappen, who dominated the season, would have felt so wronged that he needed to take revenge in such fashion.

Perez, understandably unhappy, gave a damning assessment of his teammate’s actions, saying: “This shows who he really is.

“I have no idea [what his reasons are]. Maybe you should ask him about it. I’ve nothing to say really.

“After all I have done for him, it is a bit disappointing to be honest.”

Russell’s return to form

Russell delivered a masterclass on Sunday to hold off his teammate for his first race win. The Mercedes man nailed the start and was unlucky to see his lead wiped out by a late Safety Car, which left him in a head-to-head battle with Lewis Hamilton to the line.

Rather than crumble under the pressure, Russell was steely, barely putting a wheel out of place to take the chequered flag by 1.5 seconds.

He has been out of form since the summer break but now leads his teammate by 25 points heading into the final race of the season.

“What an amazing feeling,” Russell said. “It has been an emotional rollercoaster this season.

“This was a tough race, I felt in control. Lewis was super-fast and when I saw the Safety Car, I thought this is going to be a really difficult end, he put me under so much pressure. I am speechless.”

2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Saturday – Steve Etherington

Hamilton and Verstappen renew rivalry

The 2022 Brazilian GP was a throwback to the hugely controversial 2021 title battle, as Hamilton and Verstappen came to blows for the first time this season.

At the first Safety Car restart, Verstappen got a good run on the Brit, launching a move around the outside of Turn 1 which became the inside of Turn 2, only for the pair to connect as the gap disappeared.

Verstappen had to pit for a new front wing and Hamilton dropped down to eighth before recovering through the field to clinch second. The Dutchman was assessed a five-second penalty but it’s clear both drivers felt the other was to blame.

“What can I say? You know how it is with Max,” said Hamilton. “I am not concerned.

“I think it is natural when you have success and the numbers on your chest that you become a bit of a target but it’s OK.

“It isn’t anything I haven’t dealt with before.”

It might have been Hamilton‘s last best chance to avoid registering his first winless season in F1 and would have been the favourite in many people’s eyes before lights out.

However, following the incident with his fierce rival on Lap 7, his hopes looked all but extinguished, with Verstappen adamant the clash cost Hamilton victory.

“I went round the outside and I really felt he was not going to leave space, so I just went for it,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.

“He didn’t leave me space so I knew we were going to get together. It cost him the race win. For me, it gave me five seconds.

“It wouldn’t have mattered for my race because we’re just way too slow, but it’s just a shame because I thought we could race quite well together.

“Clearly the intention was not there to race.”

McLaren disaster hands Alpine initiative

Alpine took a massive step towards securing fourth in the Constructors’ Championship as McLaren had a day to forget in Brazil. Daniel Ricciardo crashed out on Lap 1 after tagging Magnussen before Lando Norris retired with a power unit failure.

It was a miserable afternoon for the Woking outfit that was only made worse by the contrasting fortunes of Alpine. Alonso and Esteban Ocon managed to avoid coming to blows to finish sixth and eighth respectively to give the team a 19-point advantage with one round to go.

It’ll take a minor miracle to bridge that gap but stranger things have happened in Abu Dhabi. Where’s Michael Masi when you need him…

Anyone’s guess in Abu Dhabi

With the return to form of Mercedes, we could have a three-way battle for the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which is a tantalising prospect.

It’s quite a power hungry circuit so the W13 isn’t likely to be as quick as it was in Brazil, but they should still be competitive now. Ferrari also look a better proposition following the horror show in Mexico, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who will finish the season on top.

Follow all the action as it happens on Total Motorsport…

Andrew Wright
Andrew Wrighthttps://total-motorsport.com
Sports Journalist for Total-Motorsport.com
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