Sao Paulo Grand Prix: 5 Things to Know Going Into the Race

The Sao Paulo Grand Prix, formerly known as the Brazilian Grand Prix, is the third round of the last triple-header of the 2021 Formula 1 season. The F1 circus returns to the Interlagos circuit for the first time since 2019. With championship battles remaining close, each team will be looking to maximize points and leave the Americas in a strong position heading into the last part of the season.

A single point separates Mercedes GP and Red Bull Racing. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have 19 points between them, and a strong showing from Ferrari in Mexico means that they have passed McLaren for third place in the constructors’ championship. 

Everyone will expect an epic battle on the track, and these are the stories taking center stage at Brazil’s Grand Prix weekend.

Brazil is a must-win race for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes GP

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks on in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico on November 06, 2021 | Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Red Bull’s superstar, Max Verstappen, has won the last two races and will be gunning for three in a row. He now has a 19 point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship with three races to go after Brazil. If Hamilton is going to win championship number eight, he needs to stop Verstappen’s momentum and swing the advantage back to himself for the final rounds. 

The same applies to Mercedes GP in the teams’ battle for the title. Red Bull has outscored the German manufacturer in the last three races and heads into the weekend a single point behind. Mercedes will not want to lose the lead in the constructors’ championship and have stated that they will throw everything they have at the fight with Red Bull.

After the Sao Paulo GP, there are still 107 points up for grabs, so regardless of the winner, the title fight will be far from over. However, Hamilton and Mercedes will want to stop the momentum Verstappen and Red Bull have built. If they can’t, breaking Verstappen’s grip on the championship might be a tall task.

Will the final sprint race of the season cause more drama?

Lewis Hamilton gets out of his car following a collision with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix on September 12, 2021 | ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/Getty Images

The 2021 Formula 1 season has featured three sprint races, a format change meant to shake up qualifying and add a bit of excitement to race weekends. Sau Paulo will feature the final sprint race of the season with extra points available to the top three finishers.

The first sprint race at Silverstone saw a clash between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, with the Briton colliding with the Dutchman, ending his race.

In the second sprint race, at Monza, Verstappen collided with Hamilton in a spectacular crash that could have been much worse had it not been for the Halo system saving Hamilton from serious injury.

Both Hamilton and Verstappen will want to avoid further clashes. With every point critical to the title race, there is no room for errors or contact. They’ve both expressed a willingness to prevent another crash, but anything can happen when the lights go out and the adrenaline kicks in.

Pierre Gasly is at the top of his game. Can he return to the podium in Brazil?

Pierre Gasly of France and Scuderia AlphaTauri looks on in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil on November 11, 2021 | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Brazil has been good to Gasly. In 2019, the Frenchman claimed his first podium finish in Formula 1, finishing second to Max Verstappen. 

That finish seems to have unlocked something within Gasly, as he’s been impressive in the AlfaTauri racecar ever since. At the last round, in Mexico, he finished fourth behind two Red Bulls and the Mercedes of Hamilton. He’s had the measure of his teammate Yuki Tsunoda all season, and he appears to be on the rise. 

The AlfaTauri F1 Team is level in points with Alpine, and another strong result from Gasly could see them overtake his rivals and move his team into fifth in the standings. 

Gasly’s driving has been top-notch since securing his first podium, and the expectation is that he will be strong at the circuit that seems to favor Honda-powered cars. 

Ferrari is looking to pull further ahead of McLaren in the standings

Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc races during the third practice session on November 6, 2021, ahead of the Formula One Mexico Grand Prix | ALFREDO ESTRELLA/Getty Images

The iconic Italian team had a solid weekend in Mexico, with their cars finishing in fifth and sixth position. That allowed them to pass McLaren in the standings moving up to third in the championship. 

Charles LeClerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. are the pictures of consistency. With McLaren’s performance advantage dropping off in the past few races, this could be another weekend that could benefit Ferrari.

Ferrari expects the final three races of the season to favor the strengths of the McLaren racecar, so finishing strong in Sao Paulo, and building a points lead, will be critical. The Maranello-based team is starting to look like a contender again, and ending the season in third place will build their confidence heading into the 2022 season.

Daniel Ricciardo will be looking to redeem himself after the collision with Valtteri Bottas in Mexico

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren F1 looks on in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico on November 04, 2021 | Hector Vivas/Getty Images

In an action-packed first lap in Mexico, the Australian managed to lock up under braking and collide with Valtteri Bottas, sending both of them to the rear of the field before clearing the first corner. 

Ricciardo has said that he is starting to feel more comfortable with the McLaren, and he’s had a run of solid results since the summer break. His teammate, Lando Norris, remains the quicker driver, but four top-five finishes, including his win at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, have rebuilt his confidence. 

The mistake in Mexico cost him and McLaren several championship points, and Ricciardo will want to redeem himself by finishing ahead of the two Ferraris. 

Ricciardo is driving like he is more in tune with the car, which should concern his rivals. The eight-time Grand Prix winner is always spectacular to watch when he can drive with confidence and expect him to be charging hard when the lights go out.

Brazil has a long history of providing exciting racing and spectacular championship battles, and this year should be no different. In one of the closest and fiercest title battles in recent history, the 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix is shaping up to be one of the best races of the year.

Related: Mexico City Grand Prix: 5 Things to Know Going Into the Race