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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 04: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 leads Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL60 Mercedes and the rest of the field into turn one at the start during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 04, 2023 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Sao Paulo F1 Sprint Race Team & Driver Quotes

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 04: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 leads Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL60 Mercedes and the rest of the field into turn one at the start during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 04, 2023 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sao Paulo Sprint Race Team & Driver Quotes (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen romped to an easy victory in the 2023 Sao Paulo Grand Prix Formula 1 Sprint Race, from P2 on the grid he outdragged the pole position starting McLaren of Lando Norris, and that was that as far as the top two steps of the podium is concerned.

Norris gave chase but the McLaren race pace was down on Verstappen’s Red Bull. The gap at the end was four seconds between the pair. Third went to Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.

Mercedes struggled with top speed and grip, but George Russell did well to take P4 albeit 12s down on the winner. Teammate Lewis Hamilton looked set for P5, but he ran out of rubber towards the end which allowed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to take P5.

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The Reds were also not in a sweetspot on Saturday at Interlagos, lacking to the pace setters on just about all fronts. Carlos Sainz took the final point for p8. Leclerc was 28s behind Verstappen at the end of the 24 laps!

Also good news for the RBR Junior team, as Yuki Tsunoda delivered AlphaTauri’s best race result of the season with his P6 finish, getting by Hamilton late in the race. Daniel Ricciardo was ninth in the other AlphaTauri ahead of McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri rounding out the top ten.

Some great racing, with no bent metal was refreshing as drivers were also busy managing tyres, lifting and coasting the name of the game for many in the field, to save the Pirellis while, of course, keeping an eye on no damage ahead of the main event on Sunday.

After the 50th running of the Grand Prix in Brazil, Round 20 of the 2023 F1 World Championship and final Sprint Race Saturday of this campaign, this is what teams and drivers had to say:

Red Bull: It was a very well-executed Sprint Race

Sprint race Red Bull: It was a very well-executed race

P1. Max Verstappen: “The start was key for us: it was good to get the lead into turn one and it was important to keep the first few laps under control. Tyre management is incredibly difficult here because of the high degradation and I really had to look after them right from the beginning of the race. You can’t go flat out as it is a very long stint on the tyres, so you do need to pick your moments. Ultimately, I am happy with how we managed the tyres and we have had some successful Sprint races this year, which is positive. We will all learn a lot from today. Lando was also very close to me for the duration of the race so I expect it will be an even closer result on Sunday.”

P3. Sergio Perez: “It is definitely a good result, but I would have liked to have had a better start and have been in contention for first. We had a terrible start and first lap, losing position to both Mercedes so that meant things were not as we wanted, we had to push hard and I had to make use of my tyres early on, so I ended up paying the price later on in the race. Sunday is the main race, and everyone is going to learn from the Sprint, we expect a very high tyre deg, so everything is going to suffer, the engine, the brakes… It will be all about looking after the tyres, it will be a long race with a lot of competition but the race pace of the car should be good and the podium is my target.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal: “It was a very well-executed race today. Max got a great start, allowing him to make that crucial pass into the first corner and then it was an exercise in managing his tyres. It’s a long stint on those soft tyres and he did well with them, enabling him to finish the race as he did. Equally, Checo had a very strong drive. It was good racing, he had great pace, passing those two Mercedes and making his way through the pack; well deserved points for him today. It sets us up well for the GP. Checo will take a lot out of today. He’s starting a bit out of position but he has great pace so we look forward to seeing how it plays out.”

Mercedes: That was not a good Sprint Race for us

Sprint race Mercedes: That was a difficult day

P4. George Russell: “I had a good first lap but after that, it was a struggle. We expected the tyre degradation to be less than it turned out to be. We certainly didn’t expect to be outright quickest, but we were surprised by the pace delta to those ahead. That all came down to the tyres. Sometimes we seem to be able to get them to work, other times we struggle. It’s a shame but we clearly got it wrong today where others didn’t. We need to rectify that.”

The track will be a little bit cooler on Sunday which may swing things more into our favour. We will obviously learn things from today too and make some changes. It’s likely to be at least a two-stop race, but I’m not as optimistic heading into the Grand Prix as I was this morning.

P7. Lewis Hamilton: “That was not an enjoyable race. We made a good start and managed to gain a position on Sergio Perez. After that though, we really struggled with the balance. We had a lot of understeer, then snap oversteer, and I was fighting the car from very early on. By the closing stages, I had run out of grip on the tyres, and I can only assume that we got the setup wrong. We will need to find a way to make some changes for Sunday. I suspect it will be a long afternoon if we aren’t able to make improvements. I will of course be fighting as hard as I can, and trying to manage the tyres a bit better than we were able to today.”

Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO: “That was a difficult day. We pushed very hard at the beginning of the race, and we suffered from that in the later stages. The car was not balanced optimally, with the rear end not strong enough to live with the front. You’re having to drive the car on a knife’s edge but it’s almost impossible to do so. Both drivers were trying to hold on to the pace, but we didn’t give them a car to do that today. They were both subsequently sliding around a lot more than they would want and that killed the tyres. We need to go away this evening and work through what we can do to improve it. There are no easy fixes, but we will do everything that we can.”

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director: “That was not a good race for us today. We likely pushed a bit too hard early on and it took a few laps to realise that we simply didn’t have the pace to race for a top three position. That hurt the tyres and caused us to suffer from high levels of tyre degradation in the closing stages.
We know that we’ve got what we’ve got in terms of the setup and that there are only a few tools to play with to make improvements. We therefore know that making a big step in performance is out of the question.
However, there are a few things we can use to balance the car and there’s clearly a bit to learn about how we use the tyres across the stint.

Ferrari: We decided to partially sacrifice today’s race

Sprint race Ferrari: We decided to partially sacrifice today’s race

Team Report: “Scuderia Ferrari picked up five points in the final Sprint of the season, thanks to a fifth place finish for Charles Leclerc and an eighth with Carlos Sainz. The Monegasque managed to move up two places, pulling off a great pass on Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes, while the Spaniard managed to work his way up to finish in the points.
The race. As from this morning’s Shootout, the team decided to focus mainly on Sunday’s race, at the expense of the Sprint, from the moment Leclerc opted not to use his last set of new Softs in Q3. So both SF-23s lined up on the grid with used Soft tyres with the far from easy aim of making them last to the end. They both got away well, overtaking the AlphaTauris ahead of them, Yuki Tsunoda in Charles’ case and Daniel Ricciardo for Carlos. For a while after that, it was a case of managing the car-tyre package given the very high track temperature (54 degrees at the start). Sainz had the more difficult afternoon, having to fight tooth and nail, while enjoying spectacular battles with Ricciardo and Oscar Piastri. Charles had a slightly easier time of it and in the closing laps that and his race management paid off as he was able to get ahead of Hamilton to secure fifth place.”

P5. Charles Leclerc: “We did a good job today and there was not much more on the cards. Not using new tyres for qualifying, preferring to keep them for the GP on Sunday, we knew we would be on the back foot for the Sprint. We did well anyway, finishing in P5 and getting ahead of Lewis (Hamilton), who qualified on a new set of Softs this morning. They are our main competitors for this year so it’s a good sign to be able to fight with them.”

P8. Carlos Sainz: “Today we suffered more than expected in the Sprint. Our main limitation came from having to manage the engine temperatures and the tyres. This implied a lot of lift and coast from very early on in the race, which obviously affected our overall performance. However, I’m confident that it will be better and that we’ll be able to push the car and the tyres more to recover some positions.”

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal: “We decided to partially sacrifice today’s race, with a view to being in better shape for the Grand Prix, so we will have to wait and see if we have played our cards right. We didn’t use new tyres in this morning’s qualifying, so Charles will have one set of new Softs, Carlos will have one that’s just done two laps and they will both have two sets of new Mediums. Therefore, I’d say that today overall, we got the best result we could have done, bringing home important points and that was mainly down to excellent tyre management and Charles’ pass on Lewis (Hamilton) towards the end. The good job this afternoon will be analysed carefully and we will try and be even better prepared for Sunday when we start with Charles on the front row and Carlos all set to race aggressively.”

AlphaTauri: Both drivers showed a competitive pace during the Sprint Race

AlphaTauri: Both drivers showed a competitive pace during the race

P6. Yuki Tsunoda: “First of all, a big congrats to the team! Yesterday wasn’t our day, but together, we made a big comeback today. Qualifying P16 yesterday for the Grand Prix and P6 today for the Sprint race shows a big step in the right direction. The car was fun to drive, but we have to understand why there was such a difference between yesterday and today. There were a couple of places where I could improve my driving, and I think the last lap in SQ3 was my best lap so far, which allowed me to start in a good position for the Sprint race. We maximised our opportunity, finishing P6, which is the highest position so far this season. With a couple more laps, I might’ve been able to fight for P5 with Leclerc ahead of us. I’m happy with my race craft today, and the pace the car had, especially in the race, was strong. Daniel also had good pace, so it was a big team effort. Well done to the team because, without their hard work, I wouldn’t have been in that position. Now I’m looking forward to racing again tomorrow. We’re in a good rhythm now, so we’ll build on it and bring even more performance into Sunday. It won’t be easy because we’re starting further back, but we know our car is good, so we’ll overtake as much as possible, with points being possible.”

P9. Daniel Ricciardo: “Today felt a lot better, and what I felt was possible yesterday. Looking back, my qualifying lap yesterday was mostly my fault because I didn’t make it count when it needed to. On the medium tyre, especially in SQ2, it was going really well, and I was very happy with that lap. On the soft compound, I struggled in Turn 1 and 2 again, though not as much as yesterday, and I was a little disappointed with my final lap. As a team, P6 and P8 is a good result for us.
“The Sprint race certainly wasn’t boring. On one hand, it was nice to be in a battle, and I had fun out there, but I’m also really frustrated. As we showed this morning by having both cars in the top 8, we definitely had the pace to score points, so congratulations to Yuki who did. Every time I passed Carlos in Turn 1, he overtook me with the DRS afterwards. I’m also frustrated with myself for leaving the door open to Oscar, who passed me in Turn 8. Strategically, I can perform better moves on Sunday. Some things changed throughout the race, probably also because of the asphalt we have here, but I think I did well by adapting my driving style mid-race. In fact, we gained a lot from Carlos (Sainz) during the last couple of laps. Unfortunately, by the chequered flag, we were still behind by a couple tenths. Looking at the positive, I think it’s exciting to see the forward steps we’ve taken with the car. I also learnt some things during the race, and I’ll keep them in my back pocket for the race on. We’ll watch the replays and figure out how to plan my overtakes better, trying to find a bit more clear air and use that pace.”

Claudio Balestri, Chief Engineer Vehicle Performance: “We set very competitive Shootout lap times with Yuki in P6 and Daniel in P8. This good result put us in a good position to score points in the Sprint race, and in the end, this is exactly what happened. Unfortunately, it was only with one car. We decided to start the Sprint race on a new set of soft compound tyres, compared to other top ten cars, which started on a used soft tyre. Although we lost one position with both cars on Lap 1, both drivers showed a competitive pace during the race, putting pressure on the two Ferraris ahead of them. In the last part of the race, Yuki gained another position by overtaking Hamilton, who was struggling with his tyres. At the end of the Sprint, Yuki ended up in P6 and Daniel in P9, just outside the points, which is a shame. Now we’re looking forward to seeing if we’re able to score points during the Grand Prix. Our starting position isn’t fantastic, but our pace today was strong enough to hope for points.”

Aston Martin: Both cars showed competitive pace

Aston Martin: Both cars showed competitive pace

P11. Fernando Alonso: “It was a fun Sprint today with a lot of wheel-to-wheel racing. Unfortunately, we didn’t score any points after climbing a few positions, but the car felt competitive so that is a good sign for Sunday. We’ve felt more competitive this weekend and it’s going in the right direction. It will be close in the race and we know there are a number of fast cars around us, so let’s see if we can score some big points.”

P12. Lance Stroll: “That was a fun race. We didn’t get a break in qualifying this morning, and I feel we started out of position, but then we could overtake a lot of cars this afternoon. The car really felt good today; it felt like I was always able to attack the cars in front. We also learnt quite a lot about the car, balance and the tyres – all things we can take into Sunday’s race, and we’ll start from a much better position. All credit to everybody in the team for working so hard to get the car into this position. Sunday’s race will be long and unpredictable, but I think we can have some fun out there.”

Mike Krack, Team Principal: “Both cars showed competitive pace in this afternoon’s Sprint. The Soft tyre was the obvious choice today and Fernando and Lance did a good job of managing their pace and looking after the tyres. That helped them make some strong overtaking moves in the final phase of the race, which I am sure was very entertaining for the fans. Given our starting positions for the Sprint [P15 and P17], it was always going to be a stretch to recover to the points-paying positions, but today’s mileage will be helpful for optimising our long-run pace ahead of the Grand Prix.”

Williams: The car was difficult to drive

Williams: The car was difficult to drive

P15. Alex Albon: “It was a decent race for us today, despite being at the back. The pace was reasonable but the degradation for most drivers was massive, so it feels quite terrible to drive if I’m honest. It’s a strange one as when you have that much deg, you’d think you’d just go on harder tyres, but the Hard tyres are so bad around here, with the Softs being the only tyre with reasonable grip. I think strategy is going to be quite interesting with it ultimately being dependent on deg, so we’ll see but hopefully we’ll be okay.”

P20. Logan Sargeant: “It’s a Sprint race, so you take what you can. For sure we learnt a few things on direction, but we couldn’t risk the car for Sunday, so it’s just frustrating being stuck in a DRS train. If I had clean air today, I would have had a lot of pace. Alex was able to move forward, which is positive, and I think if I’d have encountered the cars ahead individually, rather than in a DRS train, I would have been able to do the same. We just need to be able to try to find those gaps to work our way forward. It’s not been an easy weekend for us but it looks a bit cooler, which should suit us better, and I think we have pace advantage on quite a few cars ahead in race trim, so we have 71 laps to take advantage of that.”

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance: “The track was very hot for the sprint race and we opted to run each driver on a different compound as part of our preparation for Sunday. Alex was able to move forwards, picking off the slower cars in front before finding free air and setting a good pace. Although the degradation was high and the car was difficult to drive, his stint pace was good relative to the competition. Logan had similar pace but was stuck in a DRS train, which makes overtaking here very difficult. Nonetheless, he collected some useful data and experience that will help us.”

Alpine: We can learn a couple of things ahead of the Grand Prix

ocon alpine sao paulo grand prix sprint race f1

Team Report: BWT Alpine F1 Team finished with Pierre Gasly 13th and Esteban Ocon 14th in the São Paulo Grand Prix Sprint Race across a challenging Saturday for the team.
Esteban was involved in an incident in the Sprint Shootout, which brought significant damage to his A523. Against the clock ahead of the Sprint Race, the team impressively managed to repair the damage, including both the front and rear wings, floor, gearbox and suspension, the left-side bodywork and the steering column on the car to enable Esteban to take the start of the Sprint.
The Frenchman drove a clean race, rising two positions to finish in fourteenth place. Pierre began from thirteenth place, climbing two places on the opening lap, before losing out to both Aston Martins in the latter stage of the race, crossing the line in thirteenth.

P14. Esteban Ocon: “First of all I want to give a big shout out to the entire team in the garage for their heroic work on the car to get it ready in time for the Sprint Race. They had to replace pretty much everything other than the engine and the chassis so a big well done and thank you to them. After the unfortunate incident in the Shootout, we started sixteenth today so we gained a couple of places during what was a tough but straightforward race. We had a couple of good overtakes but perhaps lacked the speed compared to the Astons, who are quick here.”

P13. Pierre Gasly: “There is not much to report from today after starting from thirteenth and finishing in thirteenth. I made a good start, managed to overtake two cars, and then we were in the chasing pack for the lower end of the points. I tried to stay in that group but then it became more difficult towards the end of the race particularly with rear grip and overheating tyres. I had some fun fighting Fernando [Alonso] with some fair racing, just not for the points-scoring positions. We can learn a couple of things ahead of Sunday’s race. It could be an interesting one and we will aim to identify a good strategy to put ourselves in contention to score some points.”

Alfa Romeo: It was a disappointing day for the team

qualifying Alfa Romeo: It was a disappointing day for the team

Team Report: “Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake endured a frustrating Sprint race at the Brazilian Grand Prix, with Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas spending the majority of their afternoon stuck in a DRS train that left them unable to make any progress in the 24-lap dash.
It was a disappointing day for the team, but one that at least provided some indication to follow before main event, the Brazilian Grand Prix race.

P19: Valtteri Bottas: “It’s been a difficult day in which we didn’t have the pace we expected, especially towards the end of the Sprint, and it was very challenging not to slide around in the corners and overheat the tyres. It seemed our difficulties were very specific to today’s conditions, and I really hope Sunday’s expected cooler temperatures will help us improve. My race was compromised at the start – I tried to make some gains, but got squeezed out at turn two and that cost me all momentum on the straight. We had to roll the dice in the first couple of corners, but it didn’t pay off: afterwards, it was quite a frustrating race, which felt much longer than 24 laps. Still, we don’t drop our head, we will try again: everything can happen in Brazil and we need to give it our all.”

P17. Zhou Guanyu: “We made an improvement in terms of pace compared to yesterday and this morning, and we were a bit closer to our direct competitors – even if not quick enough yet to make the step up we needed. Unfortunately, I got stuck in a DRS train for most of the Sprint, and I was only able to put up a fight and gain a few positions in the closing laps. Looking ahead, there is still all to play for; the weekend has unfortunately been quite tricky for us so far, and starting from the back of the grid is, of course, not ideal. Still, we’ll be looking into the data gathered from the track today, in order to find that extra step of performance and maximise what we can get. We saw in the Sprint that there can be a lot of battles around here, and we are determined to get stuck in during the race.”

Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative: “Every day, in every race, there is something to learn, and today’s lesson was a tough one to take in for the entire team. We must look at the reality around us: our direct competitors are faster than us at the moment, and we haven’t been able to deliver so far this weekend. Both our drivers found themselves stuck in a DRS train for most of the race, and were struggling to either attack or defend. As our main opponents made a further step in the standings, things do seem difficult for us right now. It is not the time to lose confidence, though: from Sunday’s main event, and for the next two races, all of us trackside, our drivers, and the team back at base, we must give all we have to finish our season in the position we deserve.”

Haas: A very disappointing result

Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

Team Report: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg finished Saturday’s 24-lap Sao Paulo Grand Prix Sprint in 16th and 18th place respectively at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace.
Both drivers started the Sprint on a used set of medium tires, going against the trend of others around them. Losing one place each on the opening lap, Magnussen and Hulkenberg were then able to maintain their positions in the midfield during the early phase of the race.
Once cars settled into a rhythm, the VF-23s struggled with tire wear and the pair began falling to the back of the chasing pack. On Lap 15, Hulkenberg overtook his teammate for P16, with the favor being returned six laps later by Magnussen – the move seeing the Dane to the checkered flag. Hulkenberg was overtaken by the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu on the final lap, with the German classifying P18.

P16. Kevin Magnussen: “I think the way we saw this race, being on the same tire as everyone else meant we weren’t going to get into the top eight, and we want points. We took a big risk, I didn’t quite expect everyone else to be on the softs, as only one Williams was also on mediums. We rolled the dice and tried something different to score points. We always learn but there’s nothing we can change on the car now, but at least we got a feeling on the medium tire and a good look at everyone else on the soft.”

P18. Nico Hulkenberg: “I don’t think it would’ve mattered which tire we started on, at the end of the day our performance is too poor. We’re missing downforce compared to the others and we’re always going to pay the price for that. It’s not looking great, we can’t change anything overnight as we’re under parc ferme, so it’s not the best outlook.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “It’s a very disappointing result, starting P11 and P12 and finishing where we finished, it’s not good enough. We have this tire degradation, and it just seems that we can’t get it under control. We need to keep working on it as there’s no way out of this without a lot of effort. It’s going to be another tough day.”