F1 and his last sprint in Brazil, where “‘Checo” will defend himself against Leclerc

The Mexican Sergio Perez (Red Bull) will defend second place in the Formula One World Championship -already resolved mathematically a month ago in favor of his teammate, the Dutchman Max Verstappen– against Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix (Brazil), the penultimate of the year, which takes place this weekend at the Interlagos circuit and in which qualifying will be decided, for the third time this course, through a sprint test.

‘Checo’, who by winning this year in Monaco and Singapore raised his number of victories in the premier class to four, has 280 points, 136 less than Verstappen -who a month ago was proclaimed two-time champion by winning the Suzuka Grand Prix of Japan- and five more than Leclerc; in a World Cup in which Englishman George Russell (Mercedes) is fourth, with 231 units, and still has a mathematical chance of finishing runner-up; although these are very remote.

The last ‘double program’ of a World Cup kicks off in Sao Paulo, which will close a weekend later, at Yas Marina, a circuit that will host the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; and in which, with the constructors’ title also decided in favor of the ‘Checo’ and ‘Mad Max’ team, the main thing that remains at stake is the runner-up. In the case of the team event, it will be decided between Ferrari and Mercedes: at the moment with an advantage of 40 points for the ‘Scuderia’.

The penultimate Grand Prix of the year

The penultimate Grand Prix of the year, which bears the name of the most populous city in Brazil, will be held at the José Carlos Pace Autodrome, a 4,309-meter track with 15 curves – including 10 to the left – which on Sunday is planned to do 71 laps, counterclockwise, to complete a 308.5 kilometer route.

The Brazilian test, in which the intermediate range compound tires will be rolled in the dry – C2 (hard, recognizable by the white stripe), C3 (medium, yellow stripe) and C4 (soft, red) – will be the third and last of the year, after the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, in Imola (Italy), and the Austrian Grand Prix, at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, in which qualifying will be decided through a sprint test ( about a third of the way through Sunday’s race).

This Friday the first free practice and the “pre-qualification” will be held, as usual -with three elimination rounds-, which will order the starting line-up of the sprint test on Saturday, which will be held hours after the second and this last time trial.

The reduced test will not only define the grid for Sunday’s race, but will distribute points among the first eight: the first will add 8, the second, 7; and so on until the eighth, which will add one to your personal account

In a Grand Prix from which the two Spaniards will try to extract as much as possible: the double Asturian world champion Fernando Alonso (Alpine), 32 times victorious in F1, and the Madrid Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), which this year won its first victory in the premier class by winning the British Grand Prix at the mythical Silverstone (England).

Sainz, 28, who this year has eight podium finishes, has just finished fifth in Mexico – where Verstappen broke the record for wins in the same course, raising it to 14; and ‘Checo’ finished third – and is sixth in the World Cup.

with 212 points

With 212 points, four fewer than the seven-time English world champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), who has just been named Citizen of Honor of Brazil.

Sir Lewis was distinguished in a ceremony that took place on Tuesday in the Chamber of Deputies and after which he dedicated “the honor to Ayrton Senna -who won three world championships for Brazil before dying in an accident during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, in Imola-, to his family, his friends and his fans”.

Sainz aspires to finish the World Championship ahead of the eccentric and spectacular champion from Stevenage and should not rule out beating the other Mercedes, Russell’s, who is 19 points ahead of him in the final general standings.

Alonso, 41, who celebrated his two world titles (2005 and 2006, with Renault) precisely on this circuit, is ninth, with 71 units, in a World Cup in which his Alpine left him ‘thrown’ again for the umpteenth time ( the man from Oviedo could easily take double the points he accumulates) in Mexico, two Sundays ago.

The great Asturian driver will run for the nineteenth time on the track where he has never won but where he has added eight of the 98 podiums that he has in the honor division of motorsports; and where he finished three times second.

In Interlagos, Sainz achieved, in 2019 and with a McLaren, the first of his fourteen podiums in F1. Last year, the talented rider from Madrid finished sixth in a race in which Fernando was ninth and ‘Checo’ -who has 25 ‘drawers’ in the premier class-, fourth.

In Brazil, no one has won as many times as the four-time French world champion Alain Prost, who sounded the Marseillaise six times, although he did it five times in Jacarepagua, the Rio de Janeiro circuit: where it was run for the last time in 1989.

Among the active, the most victorious are Hamilton – who last year celebrated his third victory at Interlagos, after those he achieved in 2016 and 2018 – and the four-time German champion Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), who retires in ten days and that he climbed to the top of the podium in Sao Paulo in 2010 and 2013 (with Red Bull) and 2017 (with Ferrari).

Alonso, who if he hadn’t lost those almost 70 points due to the Alpine’s lack of reliability, would be clearly ahead of his teammate, the Frenchman Esteban Ocon -who is 11 points higher than him-, still hopes to be able to overtake him in the final stretch of the championship.

To do this, the Asturian genius hopes to take advantage of the “variable” weather conditions that, according to him, could be found both “in qualifying, in the sprint and in the race”. The spoils of points will be greater in Sao Paulo, where Alpine will have to defend -or even strengthen- fourth place in the Constructors’ World Cup, in which it leads McLaren by seven points (153-146).

Although, with nothing at stake, but given his status as an apex predator, nobody should doubt that Verstappen, winner of the two sprint races held this season, will go out to add to his own record with his fifteenth victory of the season at Interlagos.

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F1 and his last sprint in Brazil, where “‘Checo” will defend himself against Leclerc