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F1 Race Preview: Sao Paulo Grand Prix

F1 Race Preview: Sao Paulo Grand Prix

It’s the penultimate round of the Formula One World Championship as we head to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the wonderful Interlagos circuit. Our final Sprint race weekend of the year will see Max Verstappen looking for his 15th race win of the season and Mercedes still looking for their first.

Read on to inform your predictions ahead of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix 2022 with expert insight from Jennie Gow.

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The Autódromo José Carlos Pace, better known by F1 fans as Interlagos, is one of the shortest circuits of the year at just 4.309 kilometres. It’s an historic track which runs anti-clockwise and alternates between some quick sections and some medium-speed sequences of corners, such as the famous ‘Senna Esses’.

The race will run for 71 laps (unless anything drastic happens) and despite the short length of the track, there’s normally plenty of overtaking opportunities. Just think of Lewis Hamilton who staged an epic comeback that brought him victory from 10th place on the grid last year.

With the new generation of cars and tyres seemingly enabling cars to run closer than in previous years, we are all set for another thrilling race this year.

Sao Paulo Grand Prix 2022: Who has the form in Interlagos?

There have been 38 races at Interlagos in the F1 World Championships and during that time there have been 24 different race winners. Three of those will take to the grid on Sunday – Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have won three times each and Max Verstappen won in 2019, his first and only win in Brazil.

Seven drivers on the grid have finished on the podium – Fernando Alonso has had a whopping eight podiums but no wins at Interlagos. I’m not expecting him to get his first win this weekend but after having terrible reliability issues this season he, and Alpine, could really do with big points haul this weekend.

Joining Hamilton, Verstappen, Vettel, and Alonso in the list of drivers to have stepped on the podium are Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly, and Carlos Sainz.

Polesitters have finished on the podium 25 times out of 38 and it is worth bearing in the mind that in the last eight races, the driver starting on pole has never failed to finish on the podium. 16 races have been won from pole position but 29 have been won from the front row – a high percentage. However, as mentioned, Lewis Hamilton won the race from 10th on the grid in 2021, so overtaking is definitely possible – and should, hopefully, be even more possible this year.

Nico Hulkenberg started in pole position for Williams back in 2010 but finished eighth in the end. Vettel took pole the following year but could only finish second. Hamilton failed to finish in 2012 when he took pole but since then, the polesitters (Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Hamilton, and Verstappen) have all converted pole to the race win – the exceptions being Bottas in 2017 and 2021 (when he finished second and third respectively).

It seems almost impossible to believe that anyone other than Verstappen will get pole and the race win in both of the two races left this season as he is in such imposing form. However, if either Hamilton, Sainz, George Russell, Sergio Perez, or Charles Leclerc can put in a really special lap, then the chance is there for them in qualifying at least.

Mercedes are improving as the season nears its close and boss Toto Wolff has said his priority is to win a race this season rather than concentrate on the battle for second in the Constructors’ Championship. They didn’t quite maximise their weekend in Mexico and will, I’m sure, look to fight back hard this weekend.

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Sao Paulo Grand Prix weekend preview: Will rain create a mixed-up grid?

Looking at the weather forecast for this weekend, it seems that there is a high chance of rain, some of which may be heavy, on both days of the weekend. If this forecast comes true, expect some potential interruptions to the race in Brazil.

We’ve seen some stunning displays in the wet weather around Interlagos in the past – including from Hamilton and Verstappen in recent years. I would expect both to excel in those conditions again this weekend.

Sao Paulo Grand Prix betting: Can Ferrari fight back to grab the win?

The Maranello-based team have struggled greatly this season with strategy blunders, crashes, reliability issues, and engine problems – they have thrown away so many points that they are in danger of losing second place in the Constuctors’ Championship to Mercedes with just 40 points splitting the two teams.

They will look to try and get processes in order ahead of next season where they will have another attempt to win the title. But both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc need to stop crashing – both have had some high-impact collisions this season and it’s cost them plenty of points.

Leclerc has drifted back to third place in the driver standings, behind Sergio Perez – he’s now five points adrift of the Red Bull driver as they battle for second place. Behind them there’s a little battle for fourth place with Russell, Hamilton, and Sainz all separated by 19 points. Whether any of them actually care where they finish is another matter!

McLaren vs. Alpine: Battle for fourth place is heating up

There are plenty of points up for grabs this weekend with a maximum of eight points available in the Sprint race on Saturday and then the usual 25 on Sunday, plus one more point for fastest lap. It will be key for those teams still fighting for places in the Constructors’ Championship to maximise the opportunity to score big this weekend.

Two teams who’ll be on the hunt for points will be Alpine and McLaren. The battle for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship still rages between them, with Alpine on 153 points and McLaren on 146 points – that’s just seven points separating them with two races to go.

Not only is there millions of dollars on the line, but this is also a battle of pride – with the two teams involved in on-track and off-track battles. Alpine lost their young hotshot driver Oscar Piastri to McLaren and would love to exact a little revenge by taking fourth place.

Alonso is probably Alpine’s best shot at getting points. He has performed so well this year – especially considering he is 41 years old! However, he has been beset with issues across the season.

He had engine issues in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Italy, and Mexico. In Australia, he had other car issues in both qualifying and the race.

That’s not all – Mick Schumacher collided with him in Imola, he had a slow pit stop in Miami, and his car broke down in the Sprint race in Austria. In total, I calculate it at around 40 points that Alonso has dropped this season due to those issues.

If he’d had less issues, Alpine would have a much larger lead over McLaren in their battle. Alpine really need to get on top of their issues if they’re to give Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly a chance next year.

Sao Paulo Grand Prix betting: Could Alfa Romeo be the value underdogs?

Watch out for Alfa Romeo in the final two races of the season. They seem much improved since bringing car upgrades to the US Grand Prix, impressing both on that weekend and in Mexico, and while they haven’t been able to bring home many points (partly due to bad luck), the possibility is there this weekend to grab more points and keep ahead of Aston Martin, Haas, and AlphaTauri – the four teams are locked in a battle for sixth place with just 18 points splitting them all.

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Jennie Gow
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