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F1 Race Preview: Brazilian Grand Prix

F1 Race Preview: Brazilian Grand Prix

The 19th round of the 2021 F1 season takes place at Interlagos this weekend with the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. Can't wait for the action to get started? Read on to inform your predictions ahead of the big race with expert insight from Jennie Gow.

Mexico City Grand Prix: A look back

The atmosphere at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was truly electrifying as Mexican Sergio Perez pressurised Lewis Hamilton lap after lap as he chased down a potential second-place finish at the Mexico City Grand Prix. In the end, it wasn’t to be for ‘Checo’ who had to settle for third but that didn’t stop the fans who'd packed into the circuit celebrating their home hero as if he had won the race. It was the first time a Mexican had ever stood on the podium at his home race in F1 and his fellow countrymen could not contain their joy.

His teammate Max Verstappen was utterly dominant in the race. After taking the lead at turn one on the opening lap, he never looked back. He extends his lead at the top of the table to 19 points with four races to go and the Tequila is probably still flowing in Mexico City! It was a fabulous fiesta for Formula One.

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Brazilian Grand Prix 2021

Now it’s on to one of the most iconic tracks on the F1 calendar – the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Interlagos. The track is the spiritual home of Ayrton Senna and a place where the sport is adored so much that in the old days, fans used to climb the high walls and fences that surround the Sao Paulo-based circuit just to try and get a glimpse of the action.

It’s been two years since we last went to Brazil with F1 and it should be another cracker of a weekend – the racing should be a little more thrilling than last time out in Mexico, where the overtaking opportunities were few and far between which meant the race didn't quite get going and ended up becoming a little monotonous. However, in Sao Paulo the weather is always unpredictable so that could become a factor in the outcome of the race this weekend. Not only that; this race in Brazil is the final sprint qualifying race of the season and those have given us some great action this year!

Previous sprint qualifying races at Silverstone and Monza caused massive ructions in the championship battle and I think it would be a brave person to suggest our title rivals can get through the race without some sort of incident. At Silverstone, it was deemed that Hamilton was to blame for running Verstappen off the track. In Monza, it was Verstappen who was the man to be penalised after the two came together and ended their race rather unceremoniously, with his Red Bull straddled over the top of Hamilton’s Mercedes.

So what will happen this time out? For some reason, the sprint race heightens emotions and adrenaline and I see no reason for that not happening again around the stunning Sao Paulo-based circuit.

The track

It may be one of the shortest tracks on the Formula One calendar (fourth shortest behind Mexico and Monaco), but the 4.3km Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace circuit presents a number of challenges to teams. It combines a long, sweeping start/finish straight with a tricky in-field section so choosing the right setup compromise is paramount. The altitude (800m) leaves the power units feeling breathless and the bumps and undulations keep the drivers on their toes.

Red Bull typically do well in Brazil and it was Verstappen who claimed his first pole position at the circuit last time out in 2019. He went on to win the race, with former teammate Pierre Gasly finishing second for sister team Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri). There were tears for many under the podium on what was a very emotional day for Gasly after he became the youngest Frenchman to step on a Formula 1 podium. It proves the Honda power unit – which powers both teams – is good at the circuit and Mercedes will have their work cut out trying to outfox the Milton Keynes-based team who are now just one point behind them in the Constructors’ Championship.

A look at the Drivers' Championship standings

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The Championship

There are a maximum of 107 points still available in the Drivers’ Championship so even though Verstappen leads by 19 points, it’s not over yet. With the added bonus of three points available for the winner of the sprint qualifying race on Saturday, it feels like there is a lot at stake this weekend.

There have been 37 races at Interlagos and 16 (43.24%) of them have been won from pole. This season, eight of the 18 races (44.44%) have been won from pole (Hamilton would like that stat!) but on both sprint qualifying race weekends this year, the grand prix was won by the driver who started second on the grid. In fact, if you start on the front row this year, you have a 72% chance of winning the race − with only five wins coming from anywhere else on the grid.

It’s hard to look past Verstappen for the win this time out as he looks to get a race win sized gap between himself and Lewis Hamilton (he is aiming to extend his 19-point lead by at least six points this weekend to get to the magic 25-point margin). If he can do that, he would have one hand on the title but as we’ve seen, until the last race the form book had gone missing! If Hamilton and Verstappen do clash and fail to finish the race then I would back Perez to grab the spoils, as he is on fine form at the moment with three podium finishes in a row.

Ferrari find form

Ferrari managed to collect a big haul of points last time out to change their 3.5 deficit into a 13.5 lead in the race for third. McLaren have now taken all the engine penalties we are expecting them to take this season so it should be a straight fight between the two teams until the end of the season. There is a bundle of cash on offer to the team who finish in third – so it really counts when looking at next season. Ferrari have a slight edge at the moment but it really does seem too close to call.

Meanwhile, in the battle for fifth, Alpine and AlphaTauri go into the final four races equal on points. It would be almost criminal if the Italian team (with the car they have this season) can’t grab fourth place from Alpine but let’s see what Fernando Alonso can do about that. If AT really want to challenge, they need Yuki Tsunoda to play his part and finish his debut season well.

Final thoughts

It is hard to look past Verstappen winning in Brazil and also winning the Drivers’ Championship. If he were to do this, it seems to me that Red Bull would also be able to take the Constructors’ Championship away from Mercedes for the first time in the hybrid era. It’s a heady thought for the folk from Milton Keynes – they know what it feels like to be champions but let’s see how this current crop can handle the pressure. A lot has changed since their last win in 2013 with Vettel and when it comes down to the last few races of an intense season, just one small mistake can cost you an awful lot.

I just hope that both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships continue to be thrilling battles that go down to the wire and is won on track in a way that everyone can be proud of.

Stay up to date with the 2021 F1 season by reading Jennie Gow’s weekly race preview before analysing the latest Pinnacle F1 odds for each race!

*Odds subject to change

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