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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Red Bull’s horns turn inwards

Last weekend on Nov. 13 the 21st race in the 2022 Formula 1 circuit got underway—the Brazilian grand prix! The circuit is located in the Sao Paulo suburb of Interlagos. It is commonly referred to as the circuit of Sao Paulo even though the circuit was renamed “Autodromo José Carlos Pace” in honor of Carlos Pace, a Sao Paulo local who won his only F1 race at the circuit in 1975. Being a race later in the season, the Brazilian grand prix is usually free from drama but the 2022 season has proved to be different from the rest.

Before the Brazilian grand prix can be looked into, there is going to need to be a short recap of what has happened since the last Formula 1 recap in The Brandeis Hoot. Since Formula 1 was last reported on in The Hoot, a new world champion has been crowned. On Oct. 30, Max Verstappen of Red Bull came in first place in the Mexican grand prix; followed by Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in second and Sergio Perez of Red Bull in third. Perez was able to achieve a podium position at his home grand prix and celebrate that his teammate, Verstappen, became the world driver’s champion in Formula 1; Verstappen’s second in his career.

Verstappen’s achievement of the world driver’s championship this season now means that the eyes of the Formula 1 world have all turned from “Will Verstappen win it again?” to “Who is going to come in second?” At the end of the Mexican grand prix the points of the three leaders were as follows: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 416, Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 280 and Charles Leclerc (Ferarri) 275. There was no longer any competition for first place but the fight for second was far from over.

This meant that, going into the Brazilian grand prix, it was incumbent upon Verstappen and the entire Red Bull team to help Sergio Perez as much as possible to increase his lead on Leclerc. Not only would taking second place be a major point of importance for Perez in his career as a Formula 1 driver but it also aids the team’s funding. Teams receive cash prizes from the FIA, the governing body of Formula 1, for their performance in the driver’s championship. In 2015, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won the World Driver’s Championship and the team was able to win $63 million in prizes from that placement alone. So if Red Bull was able to secure both first and second places in the driver’s championship, it would all amount to a massive amount of funds being piped right into their team for engine development and testing.

So bearing all of that in mind, the drivers and Formula 1 world moved south from Mexico to Brazil for the penultimate race of the 2022 season. The drivers all began the lead up to the race as usual with the leading anticipating to begin the Brazilian grand prix in the first few spots after qualifying races. However, Haas (the American owned team) had something to say about that last weekend. 

Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher qualified first and 20th respectively for Saturday’s 24-lap Sprint race—the result of which will then determine the grid for the 71-lap grand prix the following day. For those who do not know, a Sprint race is done as an extra step because while most races go from qualifying to the starting grid of the race, some go from qualifying to a Sprint race which will determine the grid for the grand prix. But Danish driver Kevin Magnussen defied all odds by attaining his first ever and the Haas team’s first ever pole position in a race. The sprint on Saturday concluded and then the starting grid for Sunday was set.

On pole for the grand prix was George Russel of Mercedes, followed by his teammate Lewis Hamilton in the second starting spot. Sitting in third and fourth were the Red Bulls with Verstappen in the third spot and Perez in the fourth. But right behind Perez, in fifth position, looking to overtake him as swiftly as possible, was Charles Leclerc of Ferarri. With only a five-point lead on Leclerc, everyone was watching to see how the two would race against each other and if Charles could hold on in the fight for second or if Perez would shut that dream down with the checkered flag in Brazil.

When the lights went out in Brazil, all bets were off. Drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren, as well as Haas golden boy Kevin Magnussen, all did not finish the race due to crashes or technical issues with their cars. But the real heat came at the very end of the race between Verstappan and Perez. Perez had fresher tires than Verstappen, meaning his car had more speed due to better grip, but the team strategists asked Perez to allow Max to pass him. This team order is not uncommon as Perez is a very defensive driver and Verstappen a very aggressive one. They were trying to see if Verstappen could pass Fernando Alonso, a driver for Alpine, who was in fifth place. But come the last lap Verstappen was never able to; so the team reversed their earlier order and asked Verstappen to give back the position to Perez so that he could gain more points and hold his lead against Leclerc.

Verstappen disobeyed the team orders and did not let Perez through who was eagerly awaiting to take back sixth place which he so kindly gave to Verstappen earlier in the race. Over Verstappen’s radio, when asked why he did not let Perez pass he told his team, “I told you already last summer. You guys don’t ask that again to me. Okay? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”

With those words Verstappen clearly told the team that “he calls the shots around here.” Despite the fact that his inaction in letting Perez through caused him and Leclerc to tie in points for the season. Russell finished in first, his first ever win in a Formula 1 race, Verstappen finished in sixth, Perez in seventh and Leclerc in fourth. Meaning that Leclerc and Perez both sit evenly at 290 points.

It is now up to Red Bull to decide how they go into Abu Dhabi, the final grand prix, as a team. Will they support Verstappen’s endless quest for his own points and glory? Or will they support Perez, the man who has given everything to the team and his teammate Max? For if it was not for Perez, Max would not have any championships to boast about. The final race of the year will be the most decisive for the conhesivness of Red Bull as a team and most importantly for the driver who will come in second place this season.

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