A flying 13kg tire carcass narrowly missed Daniel Ricciardo’s head during a chaotic first lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix won by Max Verstappen.
On a day when Mercedes’ tensions were almost as evident as their appalling lack of pace, the race was suspended after the collision that ended the participation of both Williams’ Alex Albon and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and on opening the 200 meter approach to the corner.
Albon, who started thirteenth, received a boost from Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas. Albon then tapped Magnussen.
The left rear tire of Abon’s blue-colored car came loose and flew further back towards Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri. He missed the Australian by a few centimeters and hit his rear wing instead.
Hülkenberg’s car was largely unscathed, although the tire bounced worryingly close to his left before working its way towards Ricciardo.
Max Verstappen (photo) held off an early attack from Lando Norris and won the Brazilian Grand Prix again
Norris challenged the world champion at the start of the race, but after that it was easy for Verstappen
Daniel Ricciardo narrowly avoided being hit in the head by a flying tire on the first lap of the race
Ricciardo turned frantically to the left in response to the incoming stray rubber. “I tried to miss it, but the tire was in the air and hit my rear wing,” he said over the radio.
The red flag was waved and Ricciardo, his car repaired, was ready for the restart. Verstappen, from pole, had the clinical lead throughout with Lando Norris second and Fernando Alonso third.
But what a sad mess for Mercedes – as bad a day as any in their two years of serial non-performance.
At the end of Saturday’s sprint of just 24 laps, George Russell was 26 seconds behind and Lewis 35. This is light years in a sport of thousandths. And the real affair over 71 laps was even worse because it was a longer suffering.
Hamilton finished eight, one minute and three seconds behind. Russell stopped with rising oil temperature while running 11th – engine failure, plain and simple.
Even Pierre Gasly’s Alpine beat them. And Hamilton would probably have been one place further back had Charles Leclerc not gone off on the formation lap with a suspected hydraulic failure (Ferrari is also a basket case).
But the malaise at Mercedes runs deep. This weekend’s setback comes after the much-vaunted new floor was introduced in Austin a fortnight ago. That took Hamilton to a seemingly impressive second place before it turned out that the underside of his machine was illegal.
Fernando Alonso finished third, holding off Sergio Perez in what was a photo finish on the line
Mercedes struggled for pace throughout and slid down the peloton before George Russell was forced to retire
Since coming into compliance it has never worked so well.
The two Mercedes drivers sat like rats in sacks as the race progressed. Russell felt like he was being held up by Hamilton. “Do we work together or do we just do our own race?” he asked.
Then: “Do you want me to have to give up race or position?”
And after being passed by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, he added sarcastically: ‘I didn’t go on the radio because I thought it was quite clear about the pace. I just sat there, behind the tires.’
That was code for being stuck behind Hamilton, who was overtaken by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Gasly on an afternoon as embarrassing as anything in his long career.
The fact was that Russell did not have a major pace advantage over Hamilton, evidenced by the fact that he was unable to pass him with DRS midway through the race when they dueled. But he did have a slight advantage.
A collision between Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen resulted in a red flag after just two laps
Lewis Hamilton finished ninth, with both Mercedes drivers complaining on the team radios about the strategy and the car
Would Mercedes ever have asked Hamilton to let him pass? No chance. He’s their number one, and Russell is undoubtedly starting to realize this, even if it hasn’t sunk in as quickly as it might have.
The feeling of disorder was everywhere. “We should have gone to the hard tyres, man,” Hamilton complained. And following AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, who had yet to retire, he said, “I’m in his DRS and I still can’t catch him.”
This on a circuit where he was feted beforehand. The seven-time world champion is an honorary citizen of Brazil and waved the national flag as he drove around the track during the pre-race rituals. Every time his face appeared on the big screens, he was cheered to the rafters.
But the mood at Mercedes is very different after the race. A judicial investigation will follow. This was a terrible day for them. The worst in the team’s history.