At the start of the season, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso were the star performers almost every race weekend. The Spaniard was back in Brazil, and masterfully won the battle with Sergio Pérez, while Verstappen controlled the race, once again setting the necessary records. Ho-Pin Tung reviewed the race, with the focus mainly on Verstappen and Alonso.
Tung cannot help but have a lot of respect for the dominance that Verstappen and Red Bull Racing will show in 2023. ‘It is of course an incredible season that he has experienced, and it is almost unbelievable that you can continue to perform at such a level weekend after weekend. Of course, I am not just talking about Verstappen, but actually about the entire team around him,” says Tung at nu.nl. ‘His engineer, his mechanics, you name it. The entire formation at Red Bull really works like a well-oiled machine, weekend after weekend. Even in a complicated weekend like in Brazil, where you once again have a sprint weekend, have to drive on a bumpy track and also have changing conditions on Friday.’
“There is only one constant factor, and that is Verstappen at the front,” the analyst adds about Verstappen. ‘After such a race I also wonder how much faster Verstappen could have actually gone, especially when you consider that this circuit in São Paulo was also a track where you had to constantly manage tires.’ Especially in the sprint race, it became clear that Verstappen has also mastered this aspect well, by recording by far the best lap times at the end of the race.
Lots of records for Verstappen and Red Bull
Most drivers very rarely set a new record, but 52-time winner Verstappen is confronted almost every Grand Prix weekend with a number of new records that he has managed to set to his name. For example, even if Verstappen does not win again this season, he will still achieve the highest winning percentage in a season, which has been held by Alberto Ascari at 75 percent since 1952. “You now mention the winning percentage, but there are even more records that Verstappen and his team have equaled or broken this weekend,” says the 40-year-old driver.
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Tung then starts a list of impressive facts. ‘Red Bull equaled Mercedes by recording nineteen victories in one year; Red Bull broke Mercedes’ 2016 record for most laps led in a single season; Verstappen improved his record of seventeen victories in one year and in the past sixteen races he has only been defeated once.’ In addition, Red Bull also improved Mercedes’ points record from 2016 with 782 points.
Alonso steals the show
The attention then shifts to the beautiful fight for the final podium spot. “Yes, that was really cool,” says Tung about the final battle between Fernando Alonso and Sergio Pérez. ‘It actually looked like Alonso could hold it all pretty well. What I also found very nice is to see that Alonso and Pérez were driving quite different lines in that last corner before entering the straight. Alonso drove that corner much rounder, while Pérez chose more of a V-shape. Alonso seemed to be able to parry those attacks quite well.’
That turned out to be increasingly difficult in the last few laps. ‘At one point Pérez caught DRS and passed it. Then I actually thought it was over, especially considering how strong Red Bull is this season.’ Partly thanks to defensive lines, Pérez was unable to open a gap to Alonso in the penultimate lap. ‘I was somewhat surprised about that. This allowed Alonso to walk towards him again on the straight. That action on the outside was out of the book. That was beautiful.’