And now the ritual extermination of Martin Brundle’s grid walk before the race. He first interviews Bollywar star Ranveer Singh not knowing who he is. Then Ben Stokes and Jimmy Anderson offer some polite platitudes about the recent success of English cricket, before Pep Guardiola is blamed and promptly flees the scene. Thank God it’s over.
A little pre-race reading on Russell after his first GP win last week:
Vettel’s opening call:
1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2 Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
3 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
4 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
5 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
6 George Russell (Mercedes)
7 Lando Norris (McLaren)
8 Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
9 Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
10 Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
11 Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
12 Mick Schumacher (Haas)
13 Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
14 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
15 Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)
16 Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
17 Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
18 Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
19 Alexander Albon (Williams)
20 Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
Long chance of the day: if George Russell were to win this race and if he gets the fastest lap, he would creep up to 291 points, one ahead of Perez and Leclerc’s current total. So a place in the top three in the Drivers’ Championship is not out of the question for him – but he will have to repeat last week’s heroics and that one or both of those two end up empty-handed. Surely not?
Damon Hill: “He is very humane and people react to that, sometimes anyone could see the argument. He is obviously a great character and what a send off! I hate long goodbyes, but it’s a good way to go. He became the driver’s therapist, phoning everyone when they had problems. He is a very good-natured person.”
Max Verstappen: For me, one thing I will always remember for the rest of my life was last year at Silverstone. I came back from the hospital to get to the camper and get all my stuff. He was there waiting for me when I got out of the car. He said, ‘How are you Max, are you okay?’, and that just shows what he’s like: a super nice, caring person who’s not just there for the show, but means well.”
Daniel Ricciardo:I can speak so highly of him as a person, also on a personal level. Some things he did for me; I’m just very grateful. I think he is a very caring person, he cares about the sport in general, but he cares about us drivers.”
And here is Seb’s dadNorbert, drank all this afternoon:
Here we are again. Nobody needs reminding of what happened in Abu Dhabi last time, but suffice it to say you’d forgive Lewis Hamilton if some repressed and angry memories surfaced in the next few hours.
This time it’s less on the line, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing at stake for drivers today. Max Verstappen may have finished with his title a few weeks ago and his Red Bull team similarly secured the constructors’ crown, but there is still the small matter of second place to be won between Checo Perez and Charles Leclerc, who are tied on points going into in the season finale.
The odds are in favor of Perez, who starts from second on the grid, sandwiched between his teammate in pole position and his rival in third. And Red Bull would love a one-two – an ambition that went completely unaided last week by their star driver, who refused to let his team-mate pass in defiance of team orders. This is a consequence that may or may not stem from May’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Friends again? At least they are for cameras. “I’m very happy that both cars are on the front row,” Verstappen said after qualifying. “We want to win the race, but we also want Sergio to finish second in the championship.” Dictionary definition of party line. Whether it was delivered through gritted teeth, I can neither confirm nor deny.
Second place can also be won in the constructors’ championship, where Mercedes trails Ferrari by 19 points. It’s a big old gap to make up, but not insurmountable for a team whose riders took the top two spots on the podium last week in Brazil. Lewis Hamilton – in his last chance to avoid a first winless season – and George Russell will have a task on their hands though, starting from the third row.
Elsewhere, today will mark the curtain for Sebastian Vettel, who after 16 years and 298 starts will end his F1 career at the track where he won his first title. More about him soon.