Emotion Takes Over as Championship Nears its End
It is intriguing how emotion has started to invade the championship just as the title of champion has already been decided. After a monotonous start to the season, where Verstappen’s dominant performances were rather uneventful, the battle for the runners-up has injected excitement into the Grand Prix. While Verstappen’s leads continue to be comfortable and the television cameras shift their focus away from him during the races, as watching a leader overtaking the laggards can be quite dull, today the world’s attention is fixed on what Czech Perez and Lewis Hamilton can achieve in the drivers’ runners-up position, as well as what Ferrari and Mercedes are aiming for in the constructors’ championship.
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At Interlagos, expectations were higher for Lewis and lower for Checo, but once again, the sport made it clear that there is no logic in motorsport. Hamilton had a disastrous race weekend, while the Mexican driver remembered how to fight. The Briton ended up being relegated in both the sprint and the main race, allowing Pérez to extend his lead from 20 points in the drivers’ championship to 32. This is a comfortable margin considering that there are only 52 points left to be contested in the final two races: Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi. In this regard, Checo only needs to score 21 points to become mathematically unreachable for Lewis. With this scenario unfolding and the déjà vu of the 2022 runners-up battle, the question of whether Verstappen will collude with the team to assist the Mexican driver has resurfaced. The answer is uncertain. Christian Horner, head of the Red Bull team, stated, “The chances of Max helping Checo in this battle range from 0 to 1%. Max is focused on his own performance and breaking all possible records. Nevertheless, based on what we saw in Brazil, it is evident that Checo should not require any favors from anyone to come out on top.”
While Checo aims to surpass Lewis in the championship, Max is determined to surpass him in the history books of the sport. If Verstappen manages to secure pole position in the Las Vegas Grand Prix qualifying session, he will equal Lewis’ record for the most poles in a single season (12). If he also repeats this feat in Abu Dhabi, he will surpass the British driver’s record. It is worth noting that with his victory in Brazil, Max has already broken Alberto Ascari’s 1952 record of winning 75% of the races held in a season (6 out of 8). Even if Max were to lose the remaining two races, his winning percentage would still be 77%, surpassing a historical record that has stood since the inception of Formula 1. Furthermore, this season, Max has also shattered the records for the most points in a season (524), most podium finishes (19), most laps led (922), and most races leading the championship (39, starting from the Spanish GP victory in 2022). Fully aware of this remarkable historical moment, Max is determined not to give any advantage as he strives to extend his records and set new ones.
Who’s most likely to… do the best Elvis impression?!
Vegas-themed fun and games with the drivers as we build up to a momentous week 🎰 #LasVegasGP #F1 @F1LasVegas
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 10, 2023
In Brazil, the performance of the Mercedes team was worryingly lackluster. After consistently finishing on the podium in previous races, they appeared slow, heavy, and clumsy at Interlagos. Lewis declared, “The track conditions in Brazil were not favorable. As a result, we opted for a higher wing, which caused significant drag on the straights. We lost a considerable amount of time on the straights and struggled in the corners. It was a nightmare.” Toto Wolff, the team manager of Mercedes, described it as the “most frustrating weekend since being in the sport.” Clearly, the car took a step back in Brazil compared to its previous performances. The silver arrow, however, is expected to regain its sharpness as Wolff claims to have identified the car’s issues and aims to address them before the final two races.
With Mercedes’ anticipated resurgence, the team hopes to counteract Ferrari’s progress. The Italian team currently sits in third place, 20 points behind the leading team, and had it not been for Leclerc’s early retirement in Brazil, they could have been much closer. With 88 points still up for grabs, the championship battle remains open for both teams. Will Ferrari be able to catch up? Everything will depend on the consistency of their drivers, particularly Leclerc. The Monegasque driver has had an inconsistent season, with four retirements, one disqualification, four podium finishes, and no victories. These results are rather mediocre for someone expected to be Ferrari’s lead driver. The destiny of the championship will be determined in the final two races. The story of the 2023 season still has two more thrilling chapters to unfold. Who could have predicted that the excitement would reach its peak at the end?
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