Team-Mate Wars: Brazil

Date published: November 16 2016

In F1, the first person you have to beat is your team-mate. Andrew Davies’ Team-Mate Wars returns.

Star of the Race: Lewis Hamilton (for precision)
Overtaking Move of the Race: Lap 32: Max Verstappen was mesmerizing in Brazil, but the move that really counted was passing Nico Rosberg for P2 around the outside at Turn 3. The move was so deft Rosberg didn’t even realise where he was being overtaken.

Mercedes
Race: Hamilton
Season: Lewis Hamilton 12 – Nico Rosberg 8

In the most atrocious conditions that F1 has raced in this year Lewis Hamilton was flawless. On average he was about 0.6 a lap quicker than Nico Rosberg, and that included Rosberg being coached by the Mercedes pitwall on where to change up and how to minimize wheel spin (and presumably some of that information came from observing what Lewis was doing).

Nico Rosberg has never won in the wet and the race at Interlagos exposed the gulf in expertise between the team-mates.

Watching back at home couldn’t have been easy for Vivian, as there were two moments when Nico could have been out on the spot; one where he spun coming up the hill and could have done a Grosjean, and the other when Max came past on the outside at Turn 3. That was so nearly a collision. What’s more, had he made contact with Max he could have seen a penalty extended to Abu Dhabi.

What Christian Horner has to do before the next race is to ring up Keke Rosberg and say “Listen, about your boy…”

Ferrari
Race: Vettel
Season: Vettel 12 – Raikkonen 8

It was interesting that in the late stages of the race, the two multiple World Champions, Vettel and Alonso were moving up through the field. Vettel may have spun his car, barged Alonso off and then got barged off in turn by Maxy boy, but he was making progress.

He was outqualified by Raikkonen again, but Kimi had a poor race start and then lost it in a straight line, much to the chagrin of the watching ‘Slash’ (or was it Dawn French in a wig, it’s so hard to tell).

Red Bull
Race: Verstappen
Season: Ricciardo 9 – Verstappen 7

It may have taken a lot of time and patience to get there, but those watching the race live at Interlagos will no doubt appreciate that this will come to be known as an all-time classic. The day when Max proved beyond doubt that he is in the same league as Hamilton and Alonso, and probably already above Vettel, Raikkonen and Ricciardo.

For Daniel Ricciardo,the heir apparent in the Red Bull team, it will be a hard swallow, because Max waltzed past him driving the same equipment. And then he made short work of all the cars in front as though he were driving a car from a superior formula. A lot of the commentators were comparing it to Senna in the rain at Monaco, but it was more like Senna in the wet at Donington where he just drove round everybody.

Obviously he was let down by Red Bull strategy and the Ubimet satellite that presumably predicted it was about to get drier when he followed Daniel onto Intermediates, but it was interesting watching the lap times. When Daniel Ricciardo was setting PB laps on the Inters, (the reason they swapped Max as well) those lap times were no more than a tenth or two better than what Lewis was doing on the full wets.

The move to Inters was a very big gamble because if it really did get markedly quicker, then Interlagos is such a short lap that Hamilton would have been in for Inters straight away and neutralised any small inroad into his lead. They’d already got Max into P2 which was a big result, surely it would have been better to keep what they’d got and not put both drivers onto a risky strategy…?

Unless Christian Horner was so pissed off about Toto Wolf’s pre-race phone call to Jos Verstappen that he was determined to bring about something spectacular.

Williams
Race: Bottas
Season: Bottas 13 – Massa 7

Felipe qualified behind Valtteri when it was dry, so it was very unlikely that he was going to get past him in the wet. In the end Felipe crashed out from what was one if his worst ever Brazilian GP performances. Bottas, like Vettel and Alonso, was moving forward at the end. If only we’d had less Safety Car laps and more racing laps…

McLaren
Race: Alonso
Season: Button 7 – Alonso 12

Button’s problems started on Saturday with a car that seemed to have transformed itself since Friday practice and he couldn’t even get into Q2. In the race, those problems persisted and you have to believe him when he said, “Guys I haven’t forgotten how to drive in the wet!” One year at Interlagos he and Nico Hulkenberg were having their own race at the front.

Alonso was up to P7 in the early stages and then threw it away with a spin. Although he clawed his way back he knew he shouldn’t be finishing behind Carlos Sainz – 5th or 6th was possible until Car 14 started revolving. There’s a great shot of him indulging in wheel-to-wheel bargery with Valtteri Bottas on his way through, and it was that kind of afternoon where the rain made wheel-to-wheel action almost inevitable and gave the stewards an impossible job to sort everything out. It would have been like asking them to sort out a mass brawl in a pub car park.

Force India
Race: Perez
Season: Perez 9 – Hulkenberg 11

Hulkenberg has been the master of Interlagos in the damp before now, which puts Perez’ race result into perspective. Checo so nearly got a podium. It would have been the crowning glory of a season for Force India where they have almost certainly bagged 4th in the Constructors’ Championship. With the extra money that will bring, they can buy their own Chandon champagne.

Toro Rosso
Race: Sainz
Season: Sainz 13 – Kvyat 3

When they were together at Toro Rosso, Max and Carlos were close, but even though Carlos put in an impressive shift at Interlagos, it was clear that Helmut made the right decision to take Max to the senior team.

However , when it comes to comparisons with his current team-mate, Carlos is knocking him out of the park. The only caveat that needs to be added for Interlagos is the damage sustained to Daniil’s car when a Renault came thumping into the side of it. When downforce is at a premium to stop aquaplaning, the last thing you want is modified aero.

Haas
Race: Gutierrez
Season: Gutierrez 7 – Grosjean 13

Oi, Guenther, leave Esteban alone he’s smaller than you, you great big inappropriately-moustachioed bully. Esteban had already bagged his team-mate points by getting his car to the grid in one piece.
More moaning from Grosjean about the state of his Haas and the lack of confidence he has with the brakes., but it didn’t stop him putting in a stellar performance on Saturday. On Sunday when he stroked his Haas into the barriers he said he went from hero to zero. No, he went to many degrees below zero.

Renault
Race: Magnussen
Season: Palmer 9 – Magnussen 11

Kevin kept it on the island, and Jolyon didn’t. Although given the complete lack of visibility, Palmer’s accident was something he could have done little about. The merciful thing is that Kimi’s car came to rest well off the racing line and we didn’t have an incident like in Spa 1998. Even so, Kvyat slowed to avoid it (as you would) and clunk.

Magnussen had his own version of Raikkonen at Abu Dhabi (for Lotus).
Engineer: “Talk to us about the conditions, Kev.”
Kevin: “Leave me alone for a bit.”

Manor
Race: Ocon
Season: Wehrlein 4 – Ocon 3

Ocon had a fantastic race, Wehrlein just a good one. At one stage they were both in the points but Esteban demonstrated exactly why he has been moved up to Force India.

Sauber
Race: Nasr
Season: Nasr 8 – Ericsson 11

It must have been difficult for Felipe Nasr driving those last few laps, holding onto that 9th place that was so vital for Sauber – 10th wouldn’t do – all the while realising that the second he got into the pits he was going to get smothered by Monisha Kaltenborn. He held his nerve.

Marcus Ericsson had the kind of Grandmaster Flash moment that even junior karters get warned about. This is the pinnacle of motorsport. Or in Marcus’s case, the pinnacle of sponsorship.

Haas of the Race
After a string of mediocre performances hampered by Haas’s ongoing brake problem, Romain’s reputation was on the slide, so P7 on the grid was a handy reminder of his ability. Jean Alesi’s skills were always described as ‘mercurial’ and Romain could come into the same category. Although a better description is haphazard,

Media watch
Jack Nicholls, BBC R5: “Fernando has found a rock and put it under the back wheel as a chock to stop it rolling back. He’s a clever man.”

Jack (son of Eddie Jodan) Nicholls, BBC R5: “Lewis Hamilton has either all the pressure or no pressure at all this weekend.”

Jack Nicholls, BBC R5 filling time during one of the breaks with Nico news: “He ate a banana in the first stoppage and now he’s gone for a second banana. He’s gone for a two-banana strategy.”

Jack Nicholls, BBC R5: “If you’re Nico Rosberg you don’t want to do anything risky or gambly.”

Andrew Davies