Five key storylines to emerge from the Sao Paulo Grand Prix press conference

Sam Cooper
A camera focused on F1 drivers. Sao Paulo, November 2022

A camera focused on F1 drivers with Esteban Ocon in the background. Sao Paulo, November 2022.

With just two races to go, a lot of drivers were looking ahead to next season but there were still plenty of issues to talk about before the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

The Sao Paulo Grand Prix marks the first race of a double header which will bring the curtain down on the 2022 season and while the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships have been sewn up, plenty of teams still have battles ahead of them.

Alpine and McLaren are duking it out for P4 while Ferrari are hoping to put a poor Mexico performance behind them in order to keep Mercedes at bay.

With that in mind, here are five of the storylines to emerge from Thursday’s press conferences:

1. Max Verstappen doubles down on sprint criticism

The reigning World Champion fired some sharp criticism towards the Sprint race, which will be on show on Saturday, this week by saying in his mind it was “not really racing” and he continued that line of thought during Thursday’s presser.

“Honestly, I’m just not a big fan of it because I feel like we don’t really race,” Verstappen said.

“Okay, there are a few points that you get, but you also know that you can’t really risk it because the main race is where you really get the points.

“You don’t do a pitstop, so you just put on the tyre which will last the distance, right?

“With these cars, probably the racing is a little bit better. But overall, you don’t really see a lot of overtaking unless there is a car out of position. So then, yeah, it’s not really that fun for me.”

2. Carlos Sainz believes Mexico poor performance will be a “one-off”

Although it did not end in a driver beached in a wall or an engine on fire, the Mexican Grand Prix was one of the most disappointing races of the season for Ferrari with the team well off the pace.

Charles Leclerc was not optimistic the performance in Mexico would be a one-off but his team-mate Carlos Sainz has been thinking a little more positively.

The Spaniard said it was “quite clear” they did not get things right in Mexico but believed they should be back on song in Brazil.

“We believe Mexico should be a bit of a one-off,” he said. “We’ve never been so far off the pace in the dry all year. So I think it’s quite clear that we didn’t get it right in Mexico.

“It doesn’t matter if it was the engine, the car balance, tyres, whatever, there was clearly something that wasn’t working.

“And now we focus on Brazil and Abu Dhabi, important last two races before the end of the season where we want to get the pace back. We want to get back to fight on the podium with Red Bull and Mercedes.

“I think it’s a very interesting fight up front and keep having smooth weekends where I can learn from the car and prepare for next year.”

3. Pierre Gasly admits possible ban is “a bit embarrassing”

No driver ever wants to miss a race and no more so than missing one through suspension. That is a possibility facing AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly who is just two points away from a mandatory seat on the sidelines.

The Frenchman picked up another two points on his licence after his lunge on Lance Stroll left the Aston Martin with no choice but to go off the track in Mexico, Gasly has admitted the situation is “a bit embarrassing.”

“I’m not going to lie, it’s a very unpleasant situation and quite delicate, and in some ways also a bit embarrassing to be standing in a position where I could be banned for a race after the season that I’ve done,” the soon to be Alpine man said.

“I don’t really feel like I’ve been particularly dangerous over these last 12 months and that would be definitely a harsh penalty.

“But there have been a lot of discussions with the FIA trying to find a solution because, personally, I want to do all the races, I want to finish the season in the best way I can with AlphaTauri, I want to do all the races in 2023 and get the maximum chances to perform for Alpine.”

4. Lewis Hamilton takes a pessimistic look ahead to Brazil

Lewis Hamilton may have become an honorary Brazilian citizen in the week but he is not predicting a happy homecoming and has made his doubts known about the team’s chances.

“I don’t think my engineers feel too confident that the car is going to be spectacular here, because of the altitude and the downforce,” Hamilton told Sky F1.

“But I hope, when the car touches the ground tomorrow, that it’s connected in an unexpected way.”

Hamilton’s concerns were echoed by strategy chief James Vowles who said “I don’t think we will quite enjoy the same level of competitiveness.”

5. Drivers praise 2022 regulations but some want more “variety”

Many of the drivers were asked about their thoughts of the regulations brought in for 2022 which were the biggest sweeping changes seen in decades in the sport.

The goal of these alterations was to make it easier for drivers to race closer behind one another by minimising the amount of dirty air the cars produce and overall, the current crop of F1 drivers were pleased with the result.

“Yeah, definitely the racing improved,” Verstappen said. “Some tracks are a little bit better than others but on some tracks it’s just very difficult to pass anyway, doesn’t matter what car you use. But I think that has been the main target anyway.

“And, of course, there are always things that can be improved further. The ride of the cars, you know, they’re very stiff at the moment and bouncing around a bit. But I think overall the rules have been pretty good.”

One driver who wanted to see more though was Gasly who said that despite the changes, there had not been much “variety” in terms of podiums.

“On the other side, looking at all the podiums this year, and only seeing Lando managed to make it to the podium only once, apart from the top three,” the Frenchman said.

“Personally, I was hoping that we could see a bit more variety in the finishing order, like in the top finishing orders, with maybe more midfield teams getting the chance to fight for podiums.”