Sao Paulo Takeaways: New winner, new polesitter, controversy

Sao Paulo Takeaways: A new winner, a new polesitter, and controversy

The 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix weekend was far from boring despite both Formula 1 Championships being wrapped up, and delivered a new race winner, a new polesitter, and quite some controversy.

Kevin Magnussen a polesitter, and George Russell an F1 race winner, the first might be a bit outlandish, but the second was bound to happen, and it duly did.

And both results came in a special timing if I’m honest, as it was quite fitting for Magnussen to come after a year away from the sport and hit the ground running, with Haas, in a car he had never driven before, only to top that with pole position before the end of his comeback season.

The same applies for Russell, who after joining Mercedes at the start of 2022, and despite the baptism of fire he had with the team’s W13, kept his head down, delivered results, and took his first ever F1 career win, all on his debut season with the team.

Two really feel-good stories that were counterbalanced by the unsavoury team orders controversy at Red Bull courtesy of Max Verstappen.

We’ll cover all that and some more in our Takeaways from the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

George Russell joins F1’s winners’ circle

Let’s not kid ourselves, George Russell winning a race in F1 was a matter of time, keeping in mind he came painfully close in Bahrain back in 2020 when he stood in for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes but was let down by the team at that time.

After joining Mercedes as a full time driver in 2022, the team let Russell down again with the car they gave him, the W13 that was a far cry from what we have come used to see exiting the factory in Brackley.

I felt for George at the time, as after all that wait at Williams, and as soon as he made it into the top leagues, Mercedes messed up the car, but all respect to him as he kept his head down, and his seven-time F1 Champion teammate Lewis Hamilton honest all season.

Good things come to those who wait, and Russell will at least finish his first season with Mercedes, a polesitter (Hungary) and a race winner after Sao Paulo, and I say at least because we still have Abu Dhabi.

Russell’s drive in the Sprint Race was impressive, his duel with Max Verstappen the highlight, and he kept it together to make the pass and take the win, proving he is not only fast, but a good racer as well.

And that carried on to the race on Sunday, as despite having some helping factors – Charles Leclerc starting fifth, and Verstappen and Hamilton’s incident putting them out of contention – Russell did well to survive two Safety Car periods and a late race attempt from his teammate to take his win.

The only blemish on Russell’s weekend could be his crash in qualifying, but other than that he was faultless, a deserved winner, who will definitely win more in the future.

Magnificent Magnussen

Another great story from Sao Paulo was Kevin Magnussen taking his maiden pole position as an F1 driver, also the first for Haas.

It all reminded us of the famous pole position Nico Hulkenberg – potentially Magnussen’s teammate in 2023 – took at the same circuit back in 2010 also driving a backmarker car, Williams and in mixed weather conditions.

Now some might say the Dane benefitted from the Red Flag brought out by George Russell’s accident which meant, with the rain intensifying, that other drivers couldn’t improve their times.

But that’s irrelevant; when you are qualifying in mixed conditions, the most important thing is to nail that first lap, put in a banker just in case the weather gets worse.

And that’s what K-Mag did, he put a decent banker lap, while Max Verstappen admitted to messing up his and that was that, we had a new polesitter in F1.

Sadly but realistically, the fairytale was over before the Sprint Race was, and while Magnussen pulled off a decent start and lead for some time, he was soon under attack from Verstappen, Russell and the faster cars behind, but did well to take the final point-scoring position.

His race on Sunday ended on lap one with the tap from Daniel Ricciardo, but in the end Magnussen will always have that magnificent memory of taking his first F1 pole position at Interlagos.

Max and Checo

Now on the controversy from Sao Paulo, Max Verstappen being ordered to hand over his sixth position to teammate Sergio Perez who needs every point he can get in his fight with Charles Leclerc for runner up in the Drivers’ Championship.

And Verstappen refused of course, and here we are talking about this story that will most probably stay with us for some time, even into next season as every time the Red Bull teammates as much as rub shoulders together, Sao Paulo 2022 will be brought back and referred to.

I am quite conflicted on how to look at this incident, and while I fully understand why Max did what he did, I hoped that he would’ve given that position back to Checo.

And my reasoning isn’t just to repay the Mexican for his support; after all Red Bull hired Perez to be Verstappen’s wingman, a capable number two driver, so let’s not forget that.

But after such a season of Red Bull dominance, Verstappen should’ve done that for his team as well, to make the mission of securing the runner up in the Drivers’ easier in Abu Dhabi, thus achieving the perfect result; a one two in the Drivers’ Championship as well as the Constructors’.

Red Bull have given Max so much, putting their trust in him ever since they put him in an F1 car when he was 17, and were patient and supportive as he developed into the Champion he became today, so why put himself and his team in such an awkward position?

The last thing Red Bull need now after their cost cap breach saga and the death of their founder Dietrich Mateschitz, is another controversy that puts them in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Verstappen said he had his reasons, but there was nothing to gain from what he did, he wasn’t fighting for a win, there was nothing at stake for him so that would’ve been the best time to take one for the team.

But then you think about things more and realize that it’s not how he is wired, the same applying to all F1 Champions and greats and as such you kind of accept what he did…

Quick Hits

  • Lance Stroll was back at his reckless best with his idiotic block on teammate Sebastian Vettel during the Sprint Race. That kid is going to hurt someone.
    Fernando Alonso got lucky in Austin, but when they are in the same team next year, the Spaniard will not be as nice as the retiring Vettel. But then you remember, he is the boss’ son…
  • Speaking of Alonso, it is interesting to see matters unravel at Alpine between him and Esteban Ocon especially after their clash in the Sprint, which ended up with the amusing radio exchange between the team and the Frenchman during the race ordering him to behave around his teammate.
  • Daniel Ricciardo’s first lap crash with Kevin Magnussen in Sao Paulo proved even more that he should take a break, and Abu Dhabi can’t come soon enough for the Australian.
  • After qualifying last, his teammate on pole, can Mick Schumacher pull off a miracle to convince Haas to keep him? Doubtful.
  • The final word goes for Mercedes and credit for the progress they did since their shaky start to the season, and despite a few flashes of improvement over the course of the season, their performance in Sao Paulo was the most convincing yet.
    To announce their return with a one two was fitting of a team of their caliber, and Abu Dhabi will validate their comeback, as we then look forward to 2023 and see them fighting with Red Bull and Ferrari.