Race Weekend Central

F1 Midweek: The Scrambled Order at Top, Finally

Welcome to another edition of the Formula 1 midweek.  The NASCAR season may have seen their final checkered flags but F1 has one more race to go, and if it goes anything like this past weekend’s race at Interlagos, Brazil, we can all enjoy a little more great theatre.  

The Brazilian GP did not start as a race that held a massive amount of thrilling entertainment. Instead, it looked like a typical battle between the frontrunners and one where strategy would be the key element, marked by pit stops and tyres.  Aside from Daniel Ricciardo bouncing into Kevin Magnussen, there was little evidence to believe anything truly fascinating would occur. And yet, when you check the final boxscore, something obviously happened.  

1 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA 71 1:33:14.678 25
2 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 71 +6.077s 18
3 55 Carlos Sainz MCLAREN RENAULT 71 +8.896s 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 71 +9.452s 12
5 99 Antonio Giovinazzi ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 71 +10.201s 10
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RENAULT 71 +10.541s 8


Aside from Max Verstappen winning the race, the rest of the results sure looks like someone pulled names from a hat  And that’s a wonderful thing. Too often the results seem scripted from slightly rearranging the top five qualifiers and that’s that.  Every now and then a lucky player might crash into a spot higher than fifth but that’s far too unusual.  

Yet, look at those listed after Verstappen.  

Pierre GaslyCarlos Sainz. Kimi RaikkonenAntonio Giovinazzi. That’s wild.  Aside from Raikkonen, those are the best results ever for the other three.  That’s both delightful and depressing.  To see these drivers populate the top of the scoresheet is wonderful because it is rare and it is not like they are untalented – they just rarely have the car to get there.  The depressing element comes from the rarity of this kind of race. It happened in a bubble and there’s no reason to anticipate that something so screwy like this will ever happen again. Sad face emoji.

Gasly scoring second is good for him, good for Toro Rosso (or whatever they’ll be called next year (ed. Note: they will be called Scuderia Alpha Tauri) because they’ve outgrown Toro Rosso or something), it’s good for Red Bull and it’s good for the sport.  The underdogs need to know that they do have a chance every so often, that good fortune will find them and the final order isn’t set before they start the race.  

Of course, the Brazilian GP may just have been one of those weird events, chaos theory come to life and therefore this kind of event won’t’ happen with any kind of frequency … but it was fun that it did.  And maybe it highlights that with enough other silly moves by frontrunners that we will indeed see more like this one.  

– The Ferrari team was set to earn respectable results after their strategy had gone away from them.  Sitting with their drivers in fourth and fifth, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc may not win the race but they could enjoy decent finishes that belied how badly their cars had eaten tyres during the event.  

Of course, earning respectable finishes is not what this team is about and in the spirit of their aggressive nature, Vettel and Leclerc decided to go at it like petulant schoolchildren in an effort to, um, well, outdo the other – I guess.  These two drivers are continuing to show that they cannot get along and that they will persist in annoying each other as best as they can.  

They are actually getting pretty good at frustrating the hell out of each other. The four-time champion trying to hold on to his alpha position, the upstart doing everything he can to upstage the veteran.  Hollywood makes movies based on set-ups like this one. The only problem is that any sense of a happy ending does not look to be in place for these two.

Mattia Binotto, the team principal, has offered a unique perspective, claiming that having such talented drivers and to be faced with the challenge of managing them is a “luxury”.  He even claimed that after Sunday’s race that the team was “lucky” because now the team can assess what they need to do for 2020. All of that sounds like coachspeak and ignores the fact that Binotto has not managed the two at all. If all parties involved do not have a come to Jesus moment during the offseason, nothing will change.  

– What a rare cock-up Lewis Hamilton performed this past weekend.  While fighting for the third spot with two laps to go, Hamilton punted Alex Albon – who was in place for his first podium finish of his career – as the two raced wheel-to-wheel.  That Hamilton had fresher tyres and would have likely passed Albon cleanly later made the move even more disappointing.  

Hamilton was trying to recover from a poorly-timed second pit stop and regain his place at the front.  Having already clinched his sixth title, he was playing with what could be called house money, so going for any move, no matter how risky, was open to him.  But his drive into Albon just looked careless. That his timed penalty dropped him to seventh from third, felt more than warranted, but that is of little consolation to Albon who finished in 14th.  


Next Race

The Formula 1 season comes to a close on Dec. 1 when the drivers turn their final laps in the desert for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.  That’s Thanksgiving weekend in the US, which allows the race to be a lovely backdrop to the holiday.  

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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