This article was written by Maxime Baillieux, Year 11
Verstappen once again dominates and wins in Brazil!
The anticipation for the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix started with a unique twist in the qualifying session. A 15-minute delay due to debris cleanup heightened the drama. With a looming 60% chance of rain, the delay's impact on the track conditions added an extra layer of uncertainty. Finally, as Q1 began, Piastri led the charge with a competitive lap time. However, Verstappen's frustration over car issues foreshadowed a challenging session.
The closing moments saw intense battles, with Russell narrowly escaping elimination. In a surprising turn, both Alpine and McLaren drivers showcased their competitiveness. The session concluded with eliminations: Tsunoda, Ricciardo, Bottas, Sargeant, and Zhou bowed out.
Q2 continued the spectacle as Verstappen asserted his dominance with a blistering lap. Norris and Piastri also made significant statements. Hamilton's skillful save showcased the fine line between control and chaos. The session concluded with Gasly, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Magnussen, and Albon falling short, adding more twists to the qualifying narrative.
The climax of qualifying unfolded with the battle for pole position. Verstappen's complaints about Perez's dirty air set the stage for a tense finale. Leclerc's provisional pole was a surprise, and just as the drama reached its peak, a ferocious storm forced a red flag. Verstappen, despite leading, faced the disappointment of not securing pole due to a penalty. The top five: Verstappen, Leclerc, Stroll, Alonso, and Hamilton.
Sprint Qualifying kicked off under overcast conditions, contrasting with the previous day's downpour. Verstappen set the pace on the Medium tyres, while Sainz and Hamilton quickly challenged. Ocon's crash, triggered by contact with Alonso, brought unexpected drama. As the session ended, Ocon, Stroll, Zhou, Albon, and Sargeant faced elimination.
SQ2 continued the intense battles, with Ferrari securing the front row. Verstappen's spin added a moment of uncertainty, showcasing the delicate balance in F1. Aston Martin's struggles persisted, leading to Stroll and Alonso starting outside the top ten. The session concluded with Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Gasly, Bottas, and Alonso failing to advance.
The final sprint qualifying session brought the last opportunity to lock down grid positions. Verstappen reclaimed the spotlight with a blistering lap. Norris surprised by claiming pole for the Sprint Race. The competition was fierce, setting the stage for an exciting main race.
The Sprint Race at the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix unfolded with strategic battles and brilliant manoeuvres, adding another layer of excitement to the weekend. Verstappen, starting in a strong position, quickly asserted his dominance by taking the lead in Turn 1. However, the real spectacle was happening behind him.
Russell, showcasing his prowess, swiftly moved into third place by the end of the first lap, displaying impressive racecraft. The battle for the podium intensified as Perez, aiming for redemption, fell behind and was overtaken by Hamilton on lap 3. The fight between Lewis and Perez became not just a battle for positions but a crucial skirmish for championship points.
As the top three—Verstappen, Russell, and Hamilton—began to build a substantial gap from the rest of the field, the focus shifted to the midfield battles. Norris, keen on maintaining his championship standing, engaged in a fierce duel with Perez, highlighting the intense competition even outside the podium positions.
The strategic choices of the teams added an element of unpredictability. Some opted for early stops, while others chose to extend their stints, setting the stage for diverse strategies and potential late-race surges.
On lap 5, Norris executed a brilliant move to overtake Russell again, showcasing McLaren's competitiveness. Meanwhile, Tsunoda reported concerns about Leclerc's movements under braking, adding an element of controversy to the mid-pack battles.
Alonso, eager to make up for lost ground, executed a daring move on Hulkenberg for P12 on lap 7. Albon's observation about oil being spat out from Bottas' car added a layer of uncertainty to the midfield dynamics.
Russell and Perez engaged in a captivating exchange, swapping positions multiple times between laps 8 and 10. Russell's strategic placement through turns 1, 2, and 3 showcased not only his skill but also the limitations of the Mercedes in terms of top speed.
Perez eventually reclaimed P3 on lap 10, pulling away and signalling his intent to rejoin the championship battle. The midfield battles continued, with drivers jockeying for position and taking advantage of DRS zones to make overtakes.
The latter part of the Sprint Race saw more position changes, with drivers like Ricciardo and Sainz making their moves. The battles between teammates, such as Alonso and Gasly on lap 15, added another layer of drama.
Verstappen eventually secured the win, showcasing his mastery in challenging conditions. Ricciardo, unfortunately, missed out on a point by a heartbreaking 0.197 seconds, highlighting the fierce competition even in the lower points positions.
The main race day at Interlagos brought with it a myriad of storylines and unexpected twists. Lando Norris led the field for the first 27 laps, showcasing McLaren's strength. The championship duel between Verstappen and Hamilton played out with each passing lap, and the Ferraris struggled to match the pace of the frontrunners.
Verstappen's strategic brilliance came to the forefront as he switched to hard tyres for the middle stint, catching up to Norris, who struggled on ageing mediums. The Dutchman executed a flawless overtake, taking the lead and solidifying his position as a championship contender.
However, the real drama unfolded further down the grid. Fernando Alonso, hindered by floor damage, found himself entangled in battles, while Hamilton closed in on Verstappen, creating a sense of anticipation for a potential late-race showdown.
Technical infractions, specifically related to the excessively worn floor of Hamilton and Leclerc's cars, led to their disqualification, altering the expected outcome. Verstappen, despite facing jeers from the crowd, clinched his 50th professional win, and Logan Sargeant made history as the first American driver to win points in Formula One since 1993.
The Brazilian Grand Prix concluded with unexpected podium celebrations, controversy, and a reshuffling of the championship standings, leaving fans eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the thrilling 2023 Formula 1 season.