Brazilian Grand Prix driver ratings – Plus my pick for driver of the day
And it's not Max Verstappen OR Lewis Hamilton...
The 2018 Formula 1 season is very nearly at an end and both drivers' and constructors' championships have now been decided, but that didn't stop some feisty racing in the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend.
As you will now by now, this season I've been assessing the drivers after each race. There might only be one winner of the Grand Prix but for the drivers your biggest opposition is your team-mate so there are actually ten winners and ten losers!
I always look forward to the Brazilian Grand Prix held as it is on a tough, old school circuit. Not too long, with every type of corner and a straight that gives plenty of opportunities to overtake on either side into the Senna ‘S’ – and, if you exceed track limits, it will bite!
While all the talk after the race was about the ‘Max Attack’, if the young Dutchman had simply let Ocon go he would have cruised to a well-deserved win and my drive of the day.
Unfortunately he didn’t, so the award goes to a never-say-die drive from the Kimster.
MY DRIVER OF THE DAY: KIMI RAIKKONEN 10/10
The most frustrating thing about Raikkonen’s final year at Ferrari has been his lack of qualifying pace that quickly got him stuck in the Vettel support role. Again at Interlagos he was second best Ferrari by a tenth of a second - which is actually quite a lot around this short circuit – but come the race he was in a feisty mood from the word go.
Reclaiming fourth from Verstappen on the opening lap by going around the outside of him into Turn Four and passing Vettel when he ran wide at the same corner four laps later. He couldn’t do much about Verstappen but wore Bottas down and drove fast enough to keep a charging Ricciardo at bay.
By contrast, for some reason, Vettel was simply off the pace all day and slumped back to a lacklustre sixth.
Obviously Lewis had another pretty perfect drive, but he’ll know he was a beaten man on the day and he’ll be concerned about his Mercedes once again being harder on tyres than the opposition. So much so that Herr Wolff was heard complaining about the ‘pathetic lobbying’ of others to get tyres changed – he doesn’t like it when he doesn’t get what he wants!
Teammate Bottas had another fairly anonymous weekend and, if he doesn’t want a win ‘gifted’ back to him, I can’t see him getting a win at all this year.
If Honda really do have more power than Renault – and the Toro Rossos weren’t all that quick on the long uphill straight of Interlagos – Max Verstappen is going to cruise to the 2019 title.
The last few races have seen him driving superbly in a car that’s obviously kinder on its tyres than the opposition’s and that small change in his attitude after Monaco has reaped rewards.
As for his on-track clash with Ocon just ask yourself what you think would have happened if he was in the Force India and Ocon in the Red Bull…
Teammate Ricciardo proved Max isn’t completely untouchable as he qualified a scant 0.002secs behind him but had to fight back from his five-place penalty for replacing a turbo damaged by an overenthusiastic marshal and was closing in on a podium place by the end.
While one Sauber driver heads upwards to Ferrari, the other looks downwards towards Indycar, but Charles Leclerc was more than happy to see Marcus Ericsson gain his best ever qualifying result to line up one place ahead of him, sixth on the grid as the Monegasque failed to nail a decent lap in Q3.
Sadly for the luckless Swede, Romain Grosjean got between them into the first corner and three into one didn’t go. As ever, interlocking wheels meant floor damage and Ericsson’s Sauber became undriveable forcing him into early retirement. One rule I’d love to see for 2021 is no floors sticking outside the bodywork above! Through all this Leclerc sailed to an unchallenged Class B win to further enhance his reputation.
Somehow Haas bounced back from being last in Class B in Mexico to almost the front as they continue to yo-yo up and down the field.
The fact that the top four in class all had Ferrari horsepower behind them for the long uphill drag out of Junção probably helped but it was good to see them back in the fight.
Grosjean did the best job in both qualifying and the race but Magnussen was only one and a half seconds behind at the end as the pair both had solid drives to eighth and ninth. Indeed, without the damage incurred with his clash with Ericsson, Romain may well have been able to challenge Leclerc.
Brendon Hartley bounced back from a depressing weekend in Mexico to drive a fine race in Brazil as he still clings on to the hope that his contract for next year will still be honoured.
Unfortunately he made yet another of his small errors in qualifying and it’s these little things that count. Locking-up on his best lap meant he missed Q2 by 0.016secs while teammate Gasly was 0.234secs faster and heading for Q3 and ninth on the grid.
However, choosing to be the only one to start on the hardest (Medium) tyre turned out to be a good choice for the Kiwi and, while he fought back to an impressive eleventh at the end, his French friend tumbled backwards to finish thirteenth having had to start on Supersofts and finish on Mediums.
What with Ericsson’s qualifying and Hartley’s race it was an even better weekend for those looking to lose their seats next year as Stoffel Vandoorne had another solid outing for McLaren.
Perhaps smarting from being 0.439secs behind Norris in P1, Stoffel bounced back to be only 0.2secs behind Alonso in qualifying – even if that is still a lot at Interlagos.
In the race however, the Belgian, having started last, worked his way steadily forwards passing both Williams and even his illustrious teammate as Alonso’s gamble to pit early failed to work, stymied by a slow stop, blistering tyres and, to add insult to injury, a penalty for failing to heed to blue flags!
Unfortunately Stoffel had the same penalty which dropped him behind the recovering Ocon to be classified 15th, but he was only one and a half seconds behind Gasly on the road.
The Pink Panthers haven’t had much to shout about lately and the only time anyone really noticed them in Brazil was when one of them tried to unlap himself…
Equally matched all weekend, with Perez outpacing Ocon for a change, they qualified 12th and 13th, just 0.029secs apart.
Unfortunately the Frenchman had to start five places further back with a new gearbox installed and they would probably have finished an anonymous 10th and 11th instead of 10th and a centre stage 14th!
While most of the year has seen the two Williams amongst the most closely matched teammates on the grid, Sergey Sirotkin was the definite winner in Brazil. 0.142secs faster in qualifying and even managing to get into Q2.
The Russian couldn’t keep the pace in the race but still ended the day in front of Fernando Alonso and a full eighteen seconds ahead of his last placed Canadian pal.
While looking good in Mexico, Renault didn’t in Brazil. Nico Hulkenberg started the weekend badly, demonstrating what should happen if you abuse track limits by taking a short hike across the grass and into a barrier.
He at least bounced back to get into Q2 – which Carlos Sainz didn’t – but failed to get the changing conditions right and could only manage 14th with just the Williams and McLarens behind him.
Carlos jumped in front at the start and the pair engaged in a tight side-by-side affair boxed in behind Perez on the second lap.
The Spaniard gave his soon-to-be-ex teammate a swerve on the way to Junção and they briefly touched before Sainz locked a brake letting Hulkenberg through before getting back past on the following straight!
With that excitement over they remained in formation until Nico retired with an overheating engine and Carlos soldiered on to finish a pretty depressing 12th, and the last of Hartley’s conquests.
So, the FINAL TABLE looks like this:
10/10 – Raikkonen
9/10 – Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc
8/10 – Ricciardo, Grosjean, Hartley, Vandoorne
7/10 – Magnussen, Perez, Sirotkin
6/10 – Sainz, Gasly
5/10 – Vettel, Ocon, Alonso, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Ericsson
4/10 – Bottas