Race of the Year: Brazil
Written by Olivia Eyeson, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
With the 2022 Formula One season at a close, some of the DIVEBOMB team will be selecting some of their favourite races of 2022 in the coming weeks, as we start to reflect on yet another thrilling Formula One season. My name is Olivia Eyeson and I am a journalist with DIVEBOMB, my race of the year was the Brazilian GP.
As Formula 1 headed into the Brazilian GP weekend, we had witnessed nine successive Red Bull wins, so expectations for a thrilling race were low. Moreover, the constructors and drivers' championships had been won by Red Bull, after Ferrari failed to make up their point deficit to the Austrian team, making the final races seem less consequent. However, once again, Interlagos impressed. The track has a history of providing unpredictable and exhilarating races, filled with impressive overtaking. In 2010, we saw a rookie Nico Hulkenburg take his Williams to the pole position and in 2019 Pierre Gasly redeemed himself with a podium upon his return to the Toro Rosso team.
Return of K-Mag
After the tumultuous off-season, Haas had to replace Nikita Mazepin, and this saw Kevin Magnussen make an unlikely return to the American team. The team had endured a few rough seasons ridden with issues, for example the Rich Energy Scandal. However, following the era of new regulation commencing, they had made improvements with a few standout performances, the high-point being a fifth-place at the season opener in Bahrain.
In FP1, Magnussen finished an unspectacular 16th place, with Schumacher finishing eighth, indicating that there was potential in the car. Yet, the qualifying that ensued left Magnussen in P7 at the end of Q1 and Q2, though Schumacher exited in Q1. A top 10 result would have been well received by Haas, but when rain threatened, they made the crucial decision to prioritise getting Magnussen to the front of the pit queue. They sent him onto the track on slick tyres, which proved to be successful, unlike Ferrari who opted for intermediates with Charles Leclerc. This allowed Magnussen to get a strong lap in and top the timesheet before the rain fell. Nevertheless, there was still a chance for someone to take the fastest lap away from him, but when George Russell went off into the gravel at Turn Four and brought out a red flag, the session ended. This would see both Haas and Magnussen making history, being the first pole for K-Mag, Haas and a Danish driver.
Unfortunately, he dropped to eighth during the sprint race, albeit taking a crucial point, and was taken out on the first lap of the main Grand Prix by Daniel Ricciardo.
The Double victory for Mercedes
Many were hopeful of Mercedes taking a victory despite their disappointing start to the season, which left them a full second off the pace. Nevertheless, their upgrades in Austin, which saw the Silver Arrows introduce a new floor and wing updates to create a lighter car with more downforce, decreased that margin. The noticeable influx in performance meant that for many, a win was due, especially after their close call in Zandvoort.
A year after his iconic Brazilian GP win, described by Damon Hill as “One of the great drives”, this looked to be Lewis Hamilton’s best chance to continue his streak of winning at least one race every season. During the aforementioned race, the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton progressed from 10th to take the win, after a post-sprint penalty saw him drop down the order. Brazil and Hamilton’s link also traces back to 2008, being the location of his first championship win. After a dramatic finish that saw Timo Glock cautiously driving on slicks on a wet track, on the last lap, the championship was taken from home favourite Felipe Massa. Though this caused bitterness towards Hamilton from the Brazilian crowd, this was soon forgotten as he was recently declared an honorary citizen of Brazil.
Through this, he was able to join his hero Ayrton Senna’s home country. Despite Brazil seemingly being the perfect place for Hamilton to win, it wasn't meant to be, as his teammate took the victory after an amazing team effort from Mercedes.
The sprint was filled with drama, with tempers flaring at Alpine and Aston Martin, the latter resulting in a 10-second penalty for Lance Stroll. Yet, the main action took place when Russell overtook Max Verstappen to head the race. After the 24 laps, he clinched his first win in F1, albeit not in a Grand Prix, and Hamilton turned a disappointing eighth in qualifying to a third place finish. This suggested that Mercedes had a car that could contend for the win in Sunday’s Grand Prix, with Hamilton stating “This is an amazing result for us, to be on the front row is incredible. Hopefully we can work as a team and keep those guys behind. We will have a good fight on our hands tomorrow; a win here would be incredible.”
Two weeks after setting the F1 single-season record for wins (14), Verstappen had an underwhelming race after claiming a five-second penalty for causing contact with Hamilton earlier in the race. After falling down the grid order, he recovered to claim a sixth-place finish. However, Russell finally took a win in his 81st GP start, and thereby claimed fourth in the drivers’ championship. Additionally, he got the fastest lap, meaning he took the maximum points on offer for the weekend, with 34 points to his name, eight for the sprint and 26 for the main race.
Another standout performance came from Charles Leclerc. After an incident on lap seven with Lando Norris (who had been battling food poisoning throughout the weekend), Leclerc was sent into the barriers. However, he completed the rest of the race in style and ended in fourth behind his teammate Carlos Sainz. This allowed them to limit the damage to Mercedes, and gain crucial points in the battle for Second in the Constructors Standings.
Elsewhere, tensions appeared to be rising, with the Alpines making contact and Verstappen refusing team orders to allow Perez to move ahead. The move could have granted Perez the critical points he needed to attempt to secure second place in the standings. Many condemned Max, as Perez had been an accommodating teammate throughout, including Perez himself, who responded on the radio, "It shows who he really is". He later claimed that Verstappen's two championships "were thanks to me."
So this Grand Prix at Interlagos gave us a new pole sitter, race winners and plenty of drama, meaning that it has to be my Race of the Year. We hope to see more fast-paced racing of this kind, moving into the future.