Sao Paulo GP FP2 Report: Alonso Shockingly Leads as Hamilton-Verstappen Struggle Amid DRS Controversy

Published 11/13/2021, 11:01 AM EST
Formula One F1 – Brazilian Grand Prix – Jose Carlos Pace Circuit, Sao Paulo, Brazil – November 13, 2021 Red Bull’s Sergio Perez during practice REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes


Amidst a chaotic 16 hours since Friday’s F1 qualifying, Fernando Alonso pulled off a stunning lap to snatch the lead from Max Verstappen, late in the final practice session at Sao Paulo GP. Behind the duo arrived Valtteri Bottas, over a second slower than the Alpine.

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Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton, whose fate is still in the hands of the FIA, secured a rather disappointing P5 for Mercedes.

How the F1 session unfolded at Sao Paulo GP

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Limelight on Mercedes

Following practice starts at the end of the pit lane, Stroll and Schumacher were the first set of drivers to join the track for their respective runs. However, interestingly, that wasn’t where the prime attention was.

Instead, most of the focus was nesting on Mercedes, with cameramen absolutely engulfing Hamilton’s side of the garage.

Formula One F1 – Brazilian Grand Prix – Jose Carlos Pace Circuit, Sao Paulo, Brazil – November 13, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton before practice REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

The entire paddock was still awaiting a final verdict from the FIA on Hamilton’s DRS infringement and Verstappen’s potential physical contact with the impounded Mercedes W12. And it looked like the announcement could arrive following the end of the session.

Mercedes drivers last to join the grid

20 minutes into the session, 18 drivers managed to post a lap time, with Verstappen leading the pack with a 1:12:102. However, Mercedes remained the only team that chose to stay in the garage for unknown reasons. It was only in the 21st minute that the 7-time world champion finally entered the track followed by his Finnish teammate.

Formula One F1 – Brazilian Grand Prix – Jose Carlos Pace Circuit, Sao Paulo, Brazil – November 13, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton before practice REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

So why wait for so long? Well, Mercedes were most likely waiting for the track to rubber in especially amidst unusually blazing hot weather at Interlagos. Subsequently, Bottas’ race engineer affirmed that most of the drivers were struggling with a lack of rear grip.

Soft tires the right choice for the Sao Paulo GP sprint?

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As mentioned earlier, the track conditions on Saturday looked very unlike Friday, with the sun beating down in Sao Paulo. There were abundant sliding that the drivers had to cope with throughout FP2, which could be quite ruthless on the soft tires on long runs.

Formula One F1 – Brazilian Grand Prix – Jose Carlos Pace Circuit, Sao Paulo, Brazil – November 13, 2021 Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during practice REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Hence, considering the significant tire degradation, there is quite an uncertainty over how long a soft tire can last under these burning conditions. Can it last for 24 laps? Is soft tire the right choice to go in the sprint or are the teams going to play safe and opt for medium tires? Well, the answer is only 4 hours away.

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Overall, yet another busy morning for the teams, considering FP2 is indeed their final shot at getting the setups right before they head into sprint qualifying later in the evening. So, who is going to snatch what could be a crucial pole at Interlagos?

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Rohit Kumar

1456 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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