Behind the unattainable Max Verstappen, already assured of the title of Formula 1 world champion, his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez will have to hold off Lewis Hamilton this weekend in Brazil to maintain his second place in the championship.
The world crown acquired almost a month ago by the now triple Dutch world champion, behind, everything still remains to be done to recover the title of vice-champion. Three rounds from the end of the season, six drivers can still claim this status - the first of which we find Pérez and Hamilton (Mercedes) who are only 20 points apart in the championship (240 points for the Mexican against 220 for the Briton). ).
On the Interlagos track, in São Paulo, up to 34 points (compared to 26 usually) will be to be gleaned, thanks to the sixth and final sprint of the season run on Saturday.
“We need to have a good weekend in Brazil and I have confidence in our ability to obtain good results,” reassures Pérez who, last weekend, had experienced a nightmarish Sunday at home in Mexico.
Victim of a collision with Charles Leclerc's Ferrari at the very start of the Grand Prix, the Mexican had to retire, helplessly witnessing his teammate's 16th victory (in 19 GPs) but above all the Hamilton podium, second behind the ogre Verstappen . “I have experienced very sad moments in my career (..) and (this one) is certainly the saddest because of the final result,” lamented Pérez.
For now, the battle between the two drivers is turning to the advantage of the seven-time British world champion: over the last five rounds, Hamilton has scored 56 points - compared to only 21 for Pérez, whose last podium dates back to the beginning of September, at the Italian GP. Faced with the difficulties, increasingly insistent rumors in recent weeks have even reported a possible departure of the Mexican from Red Bull at the end of the season, a year before the end of his contract.
“Sergio signed an agreement with us for next year and our goal is for him to be in the car in 2024,” said Christian Horner, boss of the Austrian team, last weekend. “We want to see him finish second in the championship, and achieve what we have never done before – a double,” he also said.
In addition to Pérez and Hamilton, the Spaniards Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin), both 57 lengths behind the Mexican, can still become vice-champions.
The Briton Lando Norris (McLaren, - 71 points) and the reigning Monegasque vice-champion Charles Leclerc, only 7th for the moment 74 points behind Pérez, are still mathematically in the race but with 86 points remaining to be distributed, their chances are thin.
Among the constructors, if Red Bull is already assured of being world champion this season - with a string of race victories thanks to a sovereign Verstappen on the track - behind, the battle also continues for the places of honor.
Mercedes, currently second in the championship, will try this weekend to take a serious option to secure the title of vice-champion. The German team is also the last to have won on the Brazilian circuit, thanks to the first victory in F1 of its other British driver George Russell last year.
But watch out for Ferrari, third and only 22 points behind Mercedes. If the two SF-23s were “remarkable in qualifying” during the last two meetings, recalls its boss Frédéric Vasseur, “in the race, it became clear that we were still vulnerable to attacks,” admitted the Frenchman.
“What we miss the most is the pace in the race,” explains Leclerc. “But since Zandvoort (where the Dutch GP was held at the end of August, editor's note), we have made progress, I am convinced that we can close the gap in the future.”
McLaren, 4th overall, could well be at the forefront again. Particularly competitive since this summer, the English team will have the mission above all to widen the gap with Aston Martin, 5th and in difficulty after a cannonball start to the season.
The stakes are high since the final classification determines the share of revenue generated by F1 paid to the teams according to an elementary principle: the better they are classified, the higher their bonuses.