RACE DEBRIEF

    Lewis Hamilton pulled off one of his best-ever victories in Brazil to cut the championship gulf to 14 points. But did he score highest with our Aramco F1 Power Rankings judges? Read on to find out how they rated the field this week...

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our six-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out across the season to create an overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    Top of the charts, top of the timesheets – apart from in qualifying where a DRS infringement cost him a P1 start for the Sprint – Lewis Hamilton had one of his strongest weekends ever in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. A five-place engine penalty supposedly put him on the back foot going into the race but that was compounded by the aforementioned DSQ. What happened next was a stunning back-to-front charge from the defending champion. Truly a 10 out of 10 performance.

    READ MORE: Mercedes request 'Right of Review' over Lap 48 Hamilton-Verstappen clash in Brazil

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    Max Verstappen has been driving at a consistently high level throughout the season but this weekend his Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner deemed the Mercedes "unraceable". Still, Verstappen put up a typically tough defence that eventually had to be undone via some insurmountable pace from his rival Hamilton. Second place in Brazil, holding off Valtteri Bottas, is undeniably the culmination of some great driving from Verstappen.

    READ MORE: 'Penalty for what?' – Horner says punishing Verstappen for staunch defence would have been ‘unfair’

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    Although he was behind Ferrari team mate Carlo Sainz in qualifying, Charles Leclerc's race pace was solid. A seventh-place finish in the Sprint wasn't ideal but he kept himself in the running for a sizeable haul in the Grand Prix by avoiding Turn 1 contact and passing Sainz early on to stay ahead of the midfield and consolidate Ferrari's lead over McLaren.

    READ MORE: Ferrari pull clear of P3 rivals McLaren, as Sainz and Norris tangle in Brazil

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    Pierre Gasly topped the midfield in qualifying but struggled in the Sprint despite his soft-shod start, with both Ferraris and the McLaren of Lando Norris breezing past before Lewis Hamilton duly demoted the AlphaTauri driver to eighth on Saturday. But he rallied to keep Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel and both Alpines away in a crucial performance for his team, who are equal on points with the latter squad heading to Qatar.

    READ MORE: Aston Martin hit out at 'reckless' Tsunoda for Turn 1 collision that ended Stroll's race

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    Ferrari's Carlos Sainz has now completed 12 race weekends in the points, more than any other driver bar Verstappen. He nursed his soft compounds to a brilliant third in Saturday's Sprint but an unlucky collision with McLaren rival Lando Norris compromised his start to the Grand Prix and left him behind Sergio Perez plus team mate Leclerc. He still managed to finish sixth ahead of the pacey AlphaTauri of Gasly, backing up a double-scoring weekend for the Scuderia.

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    Both Alpine drivers pulled off a difficult one-stop strategy in Brazil, with Esteban Ocon leading his team mate Fernando Alonso by the flag. It wasn't easy out there: Ocon had to pry a place off McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo in the Sprint but kept his nose clean, doing the same in the Grand Prix and showing great teamwork with Alonso to try and offset the tyre advantage of the two-stopping Gasly ahead – but to no avail. Still, Ocon headed a great double-points score for Alpine to keep them level with AlphaTauri.

    READ MORE: Australian F2 racer Oscar Piastri named as Alpine's reserve driver for 2022

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    Valtteri Bottas did exactly the job Mercedes needed from him this weekend, topping the Sprint with a rapid start when Hamilton was demoted to the back of the grid, before letting his team mate by in Sunday's Grand Prix to attack the Red Bulls ahead. Bottas himself benefitted from a pit stop during a Virtual Safety Car on Sunday but switched on the pace to finish third, just three seconds behind Verstappen at the flag.

    Sao Paulo GP Facts & Stats: Hamilton-Bottas match Schumacher-Barrichello win record

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    Sergio Perez did an admirable job this weekend under difficult circumstances. Qualifying saw the Mexican keep pace with Verstappen and threaten Bottas before Sainz swiped P3 off him in the Sprint. In the Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver was unfortunate to be jumped by Bottas, but held off Hamiton with all his might and picked up the fastest lap bonus point at the end.

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    Fernando Alonso made it to Q3 on Friday but was left with medium tyres for the Sprint, which saw him finish 12th on Saturday. On Sunday, he pulled off a one-stop strategy – missing out on the chance to pit during the VSC – and helped tow team mate Ocon in a vain attempt to block Gasly from passing. He let Ocon by at the end of the race and scored two very valuable points for his team.

    F1 NATION: Mercedes engineer Andrew Shovlin helps unpack how Hamilton won the Sao Paulo GP

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    Sebastian Vettel missed out on Q3 on Friday but managed P10 in the Sprint, promoted a place for Hamilton's engine penalty. Aston Martin's hopes were on the four-time champion in the Grand Prix after Stroll was tagged by Tsunoda, but Vettel had an unlucky run with the Virtual Safety Cars. He was closing in on McLaren's Norris for P10 at the end but ran out of laps, putting him 11th.

    MISSING OUT

    Norris, his McLaren team mate Ricciardo, and Williams' George Russell were the three drivers who missed out on the top 10 in this week's Power Rankings. Norris took the final point of the Grand Prix, a consolation for McLaren as Ricciardo retired from the race and out of points contention. Russell finished 13th for Williams.

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    Norris and Ricciardo missed out this time

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    Hamilton is the big beneficiary this week, climbing up to joint-second alongside Norris – while despite making the grade in this week’s Power Rankings, Vettel drops down a place to P10 on our leaderboard, having been joint-ninth last time out.

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