Last Sunday’s Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix was a triumph for the struggling Mercedes team, as they finished 1-2. George Russell swept both the wild Saturday sprint qualifying race and Sunday’s Grand Prix. Teammate Lewis Hamilton finished 1.5 seconds back in second.
It was not such a good day for constructors’ champion Red Bull, finishing sixth and seventh amid intra-team conflict. On the last lap the team asked Max Verstappen, who had already clinched the championship, to let teammate Sergio Perez by to retain second in the point standings. Verstappen refused, much to the consternation of the team and especially Perez, who radioed, “It shows who he really is.”
Verstappen’s refusal apparently was in retaliation for Perez’ Monaco qualifying crash which denied Max the pole. It was particularly galling considering the numerous times Perez has helped his teammate, including holding up Hamilton in Abu Dhabi last season, a factor in Verstappen’s championship.
After the race Perez commented further, saying “After all I’ve done for him, it’s a bit disappointing, to be honest.” I doubt that he will be motivated to aid his teammate in the future.
The controversy had an effect on the point standings. Perez would be second in the drivers’ championship by two points had he passed Verstappen, but he is now tied with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc going into the final race of the season. Both are 25 points ahead of third-place Russell, safe as long as they score at least one point this weekend. Hamilton is 25 points behind his teammate but only six points ahead of Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz.
Other close races in the drivers’ championship standings are between Alpine teammates Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso for eighth (86-81), Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo for 11th (36-35), and Haas pilot Kevin Magnussen and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll for 13th (25-23).
The constructors’ championship determines the season-end payout for teams, involving undisclosed but reportedly astronomical amounts of money. If Mercedes performs in Abu Dhabi as they did in Brazil, they have a chance to pick up enough points to overcome Ferrari’s 19-point lead in the standings. McLaren has a similar gap to Alpine for fourth, Aston Martin is only five points behind Alfa Romeo for sixth, and Haas has a slim two-point lead over Alpha Tauri for eighth.
Abu Dhabi is the site of arguably the worst officiating error in the history of Formula 1, resulting in Max Verstappen scoring his first championship but with an asterisk. It also resulted in the firing of the race director and clarifications of the rule book. With Mercedes’ newfound speed, can Hamilton save his season and score his first win of 2022? Will Verstappen and Perez bury the hatchet and play nice? Will Alpine teammates Ocon and the departing Alonso take each other out? We’ll find out Sunday.
In other F1 news, there are reports that Haas has signed Nico Hulkenberg as Kevin Magnussen’s teammate for 2023. Mick Schumacher is out, but rumors have him going to Mercedes as their reserve driver.
Finally, congratulations to the NHRA 2022 champions. It was a good year for the ladies, as Brittany Force took the title in Top Fuel by 62 points over Antron Brown and Erica Enders topped the Pro Stock division, a whopping 242 points ahead of second-place Greg Anderson. Ron Capps squeaked out the Funny Car title by only three points over Robert Hight, and the Pro Stock Motorcycle title went to Matt Smith, besting Joey Gladstone by 82 points.