As part of Rach F1's new series, renowned F1 social media editor MsportXtra an dissects the Brazilian GP, giving his take on all leading matters.
1) What do you make of the two crashes in the opening lap?
a) Grosjean and Ocon
Answer: Racing incident on lap 1. With cold tyres, Grosjean was defending the inside line but as you could see on the onboard camera, his rear stepped out and he had to correct the slide, which meant he came into contact with Ocon who wanted to try and pass Grosjean on the outside. That Grosjean got a 10 second time penalty and 2 penalty points on his license is beyond me.
b) Ricciardo, Magnussen, Vandoorne
Answer: Similar to what happened with Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen in Singapore, this was also a case of 3 cars going into a turn where there was room for 2 cars. Magnussen defended the inside line and tried to drive Vandoorne to the outside to get the better line for the next turn. As Kevin said, he didn't see Ricciardo on the other side of Vandoorne which meant Stoffel got squeezed between the 2 and that was it. Same as in Singapore, it was correct to call this a first lap racing incident.
2) Do you feel Bottas has to slightly up his game next year?
Answer: When Bottas started the season, he had to learn the car, the team and everything that goes along with it. I was expecting him to grow during the season and so he did. After the summer break however, it seemed as if his learning curve dropped. He has made some mistakes here and there but most important, where others have upped their game, Bottas didn't and that has affected his confidence in himself. He became too careful in certain situations. For next year, the W09 should be more build towards Bottas as this years car would've been more tailored towards Rosberg. Hopefully he will step up and improve where needed so he can also be a candidate for victories or else he would be quickly known as a "number 2" driver.
3) What do you make of Hamilton's recovery drive? Do you think the lock-up at Senna S cost him a podium?
Answer: It depends on how you look at the "recovery drive". First of all, it was an amazing achievement to go from pitlane start to P4. However, there were some important factors playing a roll in that. First, when the safety car came out, it effectively turned into a "normal" start because he was already on the tail of the last car so with the restart he got a few backmarkers real quick. Then he had to dispose some Renault powered cars which were all turned down as we learned before the race due to reliability issues so that wasn't too hard to do. The Mercedes powered cars were a bit more difficult but Lewis was on a great strategy which meant he could push a bit more than the others. He also had to pass the Honda powered car of Alonso and with the long straights, we all saw how easy that turned out to be.
Besides this, Lewis his car was fitted with all kinds of new material after he crashed during qualifying which meant he could turn everything up when needed. This year, the Ferrari's and Mercedes's are on a pretty even playing field, especially on the aero side and it strikes me to see that, as soon as a Mercedes car is not in front, they struggle in "dirty air" but even more when they get behind other 'top-runners' like Ferrari and Red Bull. That said, it was still an achievement and I don't think his lock-up cost him a podium because Kimi could pull away everytime so would've stayed in front until the finish.
4) Were you impressed by Massa's pace all weekend? How would you rate his defensive skills against Alonso?
Answer: In all honesty, yes. He showed potential from day 1 and like most drivers say, in front of your home crowd, it always gives them a little extra. His whole weekend was stable and clean without too many issues. His race was made after the restart when he managed to get passed Alonso. From there on, he stayed "best of the rest" behind the Ferrari's, Mercedes' and Red Bulls. The last few laps you could see he started to struggle with his tyres when he almost lost the car through some corners but his Mercedes power helped him to stay in front of Alonso. During the final lap I even thought for a minute that Perez would battle the 2 and all would go south really fast but luckily that didn't happen. It was a well deserved P7 and in the process, he showed why he is still in F1. There was a lot of experience in his race and I for 1 will miss the little fella next year.
5) Do you think Sainz Jr's performance at Renault is bringing down Hulkenberg's stock further down? Why is not Hulkenberg no longer performing up to his potential?
Answer: I think the answer isn't with the drivers but more with Renault itself. In my opinion, the Renault engine has been turned down in the last few races which causes both Sainz and Hulkenberg to look like they are pretty even while I personally think it is more that Hulkenberg can't perform on his level. I think that, would the engine be turned up like the first half of the season, Hulkenberg would've been a few steps in front of Sainz. Hopefully Renault will perform better at Abu Dhabi where the altitude isn't playing a roll in the performance of the engine. If they have some new parts left that they could fit, it could be a great final race of 2017.
6) Any thoughts on the intra-team rivalry at Sauber?
Answer: Sauber turned into an invisible team pretty fast after 6 to 8 races. Their 2016 Ferrari engine without any updates/upgrades doesn't help of course but those 2 drivers are really in a league of their own and not in a good way. They have to take opportunities when others have issues or else they just don't have a chance. Between the 2 drivers, with what they have got to work with, they have evened themselves out throughout the season. In the first half, it looked like Wehrlein had the upperhand but now that we are reaching the end of the season, the tables have turned and it is Ericsson who steps up. We don't know of course if this has anything to do with the uncertainty of next years contracts but I guess not knowing if you have a seat for next year, doesn't really boost your confidence and in effect can influence your performance, whether you want to or not.
7) Do you feel Ricciardo's comeback drive showed why Red Bull should keep him - and treat equally to Verstappen?
Answer: YES. Although Hamilton got praised all over, I feel it was Ricciardo who had done a better job because without a power advantage and many many many new bits on his car, he had to really race for it and did the talking on track by overtaking left and right on cars that should've been faster at times. He finished 6th behind Verstappen but with a 20 second gap to Massa in 7th so that was pretty remarkable. I think the Ricciardo-Verstappen pairing is 1 of the strongest on the grid and he should keep a seat with Red Bull who, unlike during the Vettel-Webber era, now do treat their drivers equal since the 2 drivers got together. They both learn from each other and push each other to a higher level and that is the most rewarding thing for a team to have and learn from to make the car better. Red Bull has shown they can improve the car and I for one am looking forward to a better 2018 with more power (and high pitched noise)