6 Winners and 5 Losers from Sao Paulo – Who left Interlagos the happiest in the final Sprint weekend of the season?
Max Verstappen extended his record of most wins in a season to 17 as he romped home for a comfortable victory at Interlagos. But while there was joy for the Dutchman, there was frustration for others, not least those caught up in the opening lap melee. We pick five winners and five losers from the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Winner: Max Verstappen
There is just no stopping the Dutchman in 2023. He grabbed the win in Saturday’s Sprint, and then dominated from pole in the Grand Prix to chalk up an incredible 17th win out of the 20 races so far this year.
Having long since wrapped up the title, he’s showing no signs of taking his foot off the gas – much to the dismay of the rest. He nailed the two standing starts in the Grand Prix, and only conceded the lead once during the second pit stop period.
His 52nd career win moved him into fourth and past Alain Prost in the all-time list, and the way he’s driving, you’d be hard-pressed to bet against him recording more victories with two races to go.
Loser: Charles Leclerc
What does Charles Leclerc have to do to get a sliver of luck this season? He had qualified well and was due to start second on the grid, one of the few front runners to have a fresh set of softs to play with. But disaster struck before the race even started, technical issues causing him to spin out on the Formation Lap.
The Monegasque driver cut a disconsolate figure as first he put his head in his hands, before lamenting on the radio as to why he was “so ******* unlucky.” He then sat on the barriers, totally downcast before finally making his way back to the Ferrari garage.
It’s the second time he hasn’t scored in the last three races, to add to his disqualification from Austin. It would be a very, very small consolation that he did at least pick up a few points in the Sprint.
Winner: Lando Norris
Lando Norris has been left a tad frustrated with some small mistakes in qualifying at the last few race weekends, and wasn’t too happy with his starting slot for Sunday’s Grand Prix. But he put that right by grabbing pole for the Sprint, coming home second after acknowledging that he didn’t have the pace to fight Verstappen.
On Sunday, a brilliant start from sixth on the grid launched him up to second, where he was the only driver able to stay within touching distance of the lead Red Bull. It might not be the win he so craves, but a fifth podium in six Grands Prix and another Driver of the Day accolade is still a pretty handy return.
Mercedes performed strongly in Brazil last year, and many favoured them to do likewise, believing this was their best chance of a victory this season. But their pace was non-existent in the Sprint, with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell struggling with tyre wear.
They had hoped to rectify that for the Grand Prix, but suffered the same issues on Sunday. Both drivers found themselves going backwards, with reliability also an issue for George Russell, who retired with ‘high and worsening PU oil temperatures.’
Hamilton eventually came home eighth, after complaining that he couldn’t keep up with Pierre Gasly’s Alpine even with the help of DRS. He joked afterwards that he was looking forward to never driving the W14 again, while Toto Wolff went further, branding the race an “inexcusable performance.”
Winners: Aston Martin
After a late-season slump that saw their speed completely disappear, not to mention reliability concerns rear up, Aston Martin were back on form in Brazil. They abandoned the upgraded floor that caused them so many difficulties in Austin to lock-out the second row of the grid for the Grand Prix.
Both Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll drove superb races to come home third and fifth, but it was the Spaniard’s late, incredible defence against the Red Bull of Sergio Perez that was the highlight of the weekend for the team in green.
Alonso took his first podium since Zandvoort and eighth of the season by a hair’s breadth from the Red Bull, after retaking third place on the very last lap. It was the sort of drive that will be remembered for a long time, and shows that age is no barrier to performance for the veteran world champion.
Loser: Alex Albon
Alex Albon made a great getaway from 13th on the grid, one of the best of anyone he believed at the time. He was on the cusp of the points paying positions, but found himself the innocent bystander as Nico Hulkenberg tagged his rear, sending him careering into the sister Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
He crashed heavily, and as well as a hefty repair bill likely to hit Williams hard so close to the end of the season, there were no points for the team on a day where Albon felt he had the pace for the top 10.
Winner: Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda put some Friday qualifying frustrations to one side by grabbing sixth on the grid for the Sprint and converting that into more points for AlphaTauri. But he did even better on Sunday, climbing back through the field on a day the car obviously had decent pace to secure ninth at the flag.
His five-point haul from the weekend reduces the gap to Williams to just seven-points in the fight for seventh in the constructors’, an incredible turnaround for the team who had been rock bottom of the standings all season until Mexico. And with Daniel Ricciardo also saying his car had great pace, AlphaTauri must feel confident of running Williams pretty close with just two races to go.
Losers: Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo went into the weekend confident of a good result at a track where Valtteri Bottas has done well at in the past. But instead, they recorded their first double DNF of the season on Sunday, as they left with no points for the third race weekend in a row.
The team would only say it was a technical issue that caused the retirements, confirming it was not the same issue on both cars. Having lost so much ground to AlphaTauri in the constructors’ championship, they can ill afford reliability issues this late in the season.
Winner: Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly came home in seventh in Brazil on merit, having fought his way past a raft of cars including the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Admitting that they set the car up for the race and therefore sacrificed some qualifying performance, it was a gamble that paid off for the team with both drivers finishing in the points.
For Gasly, it was his second top-seven finish in the last three races, and he comfortably leads his team mate with two races to go. While Alpine might not have started the season where they wanted, they are certainly ending it on a strong note.
Taking your team mate out is the cardinal sin in the world of F1, and that’s what happened to Haas in Brazil. While both drivers were blameless in what the stewards called a racing incident, it was still a disastrous start on a day where points were possible.
Kevin Magnussen’s battered VF-23 was out of the race immediately, and while Nico Hulkenberg did manage to continue, he lacked the pace to fight his way into the points. And with the spectre of their tyre wear issues returning too, the American team leave Brazil with plenty to worry about.