2018 Brazilian GP Review – By Bob Constanduros
I warned you in my preview that the Brazilian Grand Prix can throw up all kinds of different scenarios and I think you’ll agree that Sunday’s race did just that. It’s pretty rare these days that we lose a potential race winner because of the actions of a backmarker – still less one who is trying to unlap himself – but that’s what happened on Sunday, of course.
So Lewis Hamilton picked up another victory, he was there to profit from someone else’s error as he has been several times this year, and who could deny him that result? His win and Valtteri Bottas’s rather disappointing fifth place brought him his team’s World Constructors’ championship, another magnificent result from this hard-fought season. But after 71 laps of this relatively short circuit, the leading four were covered by just 5.193s with no safety cars, and you can’t ask for much more than that.
It was one of those relatively unpredictable weekends which Brazil has a habit of producing. For much of the weekend we were subjected to what is known as garoa, which is moisture in the air, almost a Scotch mist but not quite as dense. It is annoying; will the weather please make up its mind? Does it want to rain or doesn’t it? The answer is garoa and Sao Paulo specialises in it.
It’s usually not wet enough for intermediates even, certainly not wets although Sao Paulo is quite capable of producing soaking downpours. Instead, the track temperature was relatively low, with much higher temperatures expected on Sunday which is what we got. And we also had a good crowd that day, surprising, perhaps, given that there is no Brazilian Grand Prix driver. Encouraging, even.
So we had some interesting tyre strategy; who could make their supersoft – the softest available – tyres last longest? How would Ferrari’s soft tyre strategy work? Would Mercedes suffer blistering as Ferrari had done? Would Red Bull’s lack of new soft tyres hurt them? And how much did anyone know about the mediums?
As it happened, Red Bull was the class of the field, Mercedes and Ferrari less so and Hamilton, in particular, suffering an engine problem. And then came the moment of the race: Esteban Ocon, on newer Pirellis, attempting to unlap himself from Max Verstappen.
The significant word here is ‘unlap’ of course. Anyone who is a lap down has to keep out of the way, however quick he may be. Even if he was quicker than the leader, Ocon had to respect Max’s position. It wasn’t vital that he unlap himself there and then, he should have time to wait and do it when it was totally safe.
And regrettably, Max could also have avoided being taken out, however much he was in the right. If he wanted to win the race, then he didn’t want to tangle with anyone, he needed to play as safe as he could. But he took what he felt was his line and however many penalties might have gone to Ocon, they were never going to give Max back his lead. Hold your line if you like, but who has the most to lose? Max lost races early season and here he was losing another. It was a situation that was salvageable but the man himself, regrettably, chose not to go that way.
And it got worse, of course. Maybe Max had realised that he was also to blame for losing this race and it was his own frustration, but there was a little bit of anger management required here and it wasn’t available. There is form in the Verstappen family, of course, but that’s no excuse. Can it be forgiven in the heat of the moment? Should it be? That’s maybe why the FIA chose a relatively lenient punishment of a couple of days of public service.
Of course, we’d seen similar the day before when Sebastian Vettel transgressed at a weigh-in during qualifying. Here, again, is a driver whose sometimes suffers a lack of anger management, who allows his emotions to get the better of him. A fine was the result of the stewards’ inquiry which was going to hurt no one. Sebastian basically got away with it but was there a better penalty? It was maybe not the best example for youngsters but perhaps the FIA needs to have a look at its own procedures.
There were several other notable points about the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend. Brendon Hartley’s performance, beating his more fancied – to put it in horse race parlance – teammate and the same situation at Sauber where Marcus Ericsson started a career-best sixth, ahead of the year’s sensation Charles Leclerc. The fact that both drivers seem to be consigned to the F1 scrap heap – along with the aforementioned Ocon – sums up an unfortunate current F1 situation. Stoffel Vandoorne was finally able to beat his teammate as well. Meanwhile Lance Stroll seems to have lost all interest in trying to impress and is just waiting to start again in Daddy’s latest acquisition.
There was little interest in Liberty’s latest signing, a future Vietnamese Grand Prix. I can’t say that many of my colleagues were very concerned. Someone even posted a list of past Vietnamese Grand Prix stars. One friend, who had better remain nameless as he’s a bit close to the FIA, pointed out that this was the penultimate Brazilian Grand Prix and elsewhere, it has been noted that things are quite quiet on the Silverstone front. The thought of getting close to 25 Grands Prix – which so occupied some people’s minds over the weekend – seems a little remote.
And so the season heads to a close, with just the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to go. This is a more predictable end to the season and will also see the final rounds of the F2 and GP3 series. The greatest predicament is whether to pack my wet weather gear or not? But we will be saying goodbye to quite a few personalities there – and hopefully welcoming back one Niki Lauda to the paddock. It was fitting that Mercedes paid such tribute to their chairman in securing their remarkable fifth Constructors’ title. Let’s hope we can all congratulate him in person.