The pendulum has swung firmly into Max Verstappen’s favour in the first of the triple headers last weekend in Mexico City. The Dutch driver swept past the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas who locked out the front row. The Red Bull driver extended his lead in the drivers’ championship to 19 points with the four races to go.
This weekend the teams head to Brazil for a Grand Prix that was held continuously from 1973 to 2019. Last year, like many races on the calendar the Coronavirus pandemic saw the GP cancelled. It’s back in 2021 and could be a crucial weekend in the title race. Interlagos is located 786 metres above sea level and therefore the high altitude will affect the cars’ performance. Based on Red Bull’s strong race pace last week, they start as favourites in Brazil and should show the rest of the field a clean pair of heels on a 4.39km long track.
The GP is physically tough for the drivers due to the circuit being anti-clockwise where the centrifugal forces in the many hard left turn push the drivers’ necks to the right, instead of left as in the majority of circuits on the F1 calendar. Another challenge is the topography of the area the track is located. The terrain features ups and downs of hilly ground, which makes it harder to drive and demands more power from the car’s engines. This weekend sees the final sprint race qualifying format of the season which means more points are up for grabs. This means that three, two and one points can be earned on Saturday.
Red Bull’s last outing in Sao Paulo saw Verstappen take victory, but there’s one thing this season has taught us is that anything can happen, like we saw in qualifying for the Mexico City GP dominated by Mercedes when all indications pointed towards a Red Bull front-row lockout. All eyes will be on Verstappen and Hamilton as the seven-time world champion will attempt to claw back at the Dutchman’s 19 point lead.
Apart from the top two teams, Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc will be the ones to watch as they look to continue their rich vein of form this season. Gasly has fond memories of Sao Paulo having scored his first podium in the sport when he finished second ahead of Hamilton. The AlphaTauri driver finished fourth in Mexico and has contributed 86 points towards the 106 points tally this year so far. Ferrari’s Leclerc is sixth in the drivers’ standings just 12 points behind McLaren’s Lando Norris and has scored 56 points in his last six races.