It was a turbulent week-end indeed in Sao Paulo for Charles Leclerc… even though it started off quite well in terms of his result in Qualifying. Notwithstanding wind and rain induced chaos, the Monegasque driver carefully maneuvered his car to second place, as winds battered the track late in qualifying and his Ferrari started to lose grip.
That was one of, if not the strangest sessions of his career, Leclerc had revealed to the media …. especially the last run, with the rain coming, the wind changed completely and there was no rain around at first but the grip changed completely.
Verstappen prevailed again and took P1 with ominous, dark clouds encircling the track and rain threatening. Verstappen, despite the winds, set the Q3 pace with a 1min 10.727sec time, in front of Leclerc and Stroll. They completed their laps just as the heavens opened and the session was red-flagged and was not restarted.
Ferrari’s Engineering Challenges
And then what more can happen to our Monegasque ace Charles Leclerc. If there is a jinx with his Ferrari car let’s get it out of the way this season!
This time after securing second on the grid he never made it to claim his spot at the start. Truth is stranger than fiction.
Charles failed to even see the start lights for the 2023 Sao Paulo Grand Prix, after spinning off at Turn 7 on the formation lap.
Although initially it looked like Leclerc might have had a crash (how could that be in the formation lap?!) he was heard almost instantaneously on the radio lamenting his rotten luck after suffering a possible hydraulic or engine failure. Whatever that failure was, it catapulted him sideways into the wall.
Gone in a flash was his hard-earned P2 spot on the grid among the other 19 drivers who took the start.
Only for them chaos was not far away when a crash between Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg and Alex Albon saw the race red-flagged on the first lap.
Eventually Max Verstappen won this chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix after Daniel Ricciardo narrowly avoided being hit in the head by a flying tyre on the first lap… with Lando Norris second and struggling Lewis Hamilton finishing down in eighth.
Alonzo beat Perez for third podium place after a thrilling duel at the end of the race.
Perez will still be happy because he extended his lead over Lewis Hamilton in the fight for second in the drivers’ championship from 20 to 32 points.
The sprint was introduced in 2020, with the intent of livening up a race weekend, offering more competitive entertaining sessions. It’s about 100kms or 30 minutes of racing compared to three times that distance for the real Grand Prix race. It has split opinion among the drivers. Verstappen appears to hate the concept.
But it’s important because points are up for grabs … sufficient for Verstappen even to clinch this year’s Drivers Championship title in Qatar. Indeed the top eight drivers score points, with the driver who finishes P1 receiving eight points.
So Charles did not come away from Brazil empty-handed because before his calamity on the run-up to the grid in the real race he had already won points in the Sprint. In fact, Scuderia Ferrari picked up a total of five points in Brazil in the final Sprint of the season thanks to a fifth place finish for Charles Leclerc which earned four of the 5 points. Eighth position with Carlos Sainz garnered them one more point.
In future the Sprint format, which really is there to entertain fans, may change. Ideas include:
- making the sprint part of the weekend entirely divorced from the championship. A sprint cup perhaps with its own points toward its own cash prize put up by a title sponsor as incentive for real competition. A potential $1m sum has already been reported.
- This plus reverse grids putting the leaders in the Championship perhaps at the back of the grid. More entertainment!