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Mercedes and Ferrari under microscope as sprint drama looms - What to expect at the São Paulo GP

Mercedes and Ferrari under microscope as sprint drama looms - What to expect at the São Paulo GP

F1 News

Mercedes and Ferrari under microscope as sprint drama looms - What to expect at the São Paulo GP

Mercedes and Ferrari under microscope as sprint drama looms - What to expect at the São Paulo GP

F1 arrives at the São Paulo Grand Prix for the penultimate round of the championship season.

Max Verstappen broke the record for most wins in a single season with his 14th of the campaign last time out in Mexico.

But things could change in Brazil this weekend as sprint makes its final appearance of the year, potentially changing up the pecking order with reduced practice and more drama.

So what can we expect?

Red Bull to flex muscles

There is no doubting the dominance displayed by Red Bull and Verstappen in the second half of the season.

No driver other than Verstappen or Sergio Perez has taken a victory since the French Grand Prix, two races before the summer break, such has been the strength of the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

Interlagos should be a track suited to the RB18, with the high downforce middle sector partnered with the power-thirsty start and end to the lap, providing the Red Bull-badged Honda engine with a chance to stretch its legs.

You would be foolish to bet against Red Bull at any race, but São Paulo may perhaps be the strongest we will see from Verstappen and Perez.

READ MORE: Verstappen concedes Perez focus for Red Bull

Mercedes aim to stay in fight

If the United States and Mexico City Grands Prix are to be a stepping stone for Mercedes, the team must first confirm its improvements with a strong showing in Brazil.

Lewis Hamilton was Verstappen's closest challenger at both events, with the seven-time champion and George Russell all over the Dutchman in Mexico City GP qualifying.

But with the team struggling for top-end speed compared to Red Bull and Ferrari this year, it is hard to see a repeat performance this weekend.

Any positivity would prove the steps that have been taken by the Brackley-based team in the second half of the season.

READ MORE: Wolff reveals Mercedes' priority over Ferrari battle

Ferrari to right Mexican wrongs

Mercedes went forward but Ferrari dropped back in Mexico as a dreadful weekend left the Scuderia a minute adrift of winner Verstappen.

Based on that performance alone, it is hard to believe that the Italian team was tipped for the title after the first three races, such has been the drop-off.

But hoping that the extreme altitude in Mexico prompted a one-off lacklustre outing, Ferrari will need to improve for the upcoming weekend with Charles Leclerc locked into a battle with Perez over second in the drivers' title.

Momentum also needs to be gathered for a new championship assault next year.

READ MORE: Ferrari "licking its wounds" as Mercedes battle intensifies - Hill

Alpine and McLaren face crucial weekend

Just seven points separate Alpine and McLaren in the race for fourth in the constructors' title after Fernando Alonso's Mexico City GP retirement.

Alpine's reliability was again called into question after Alonso pulled off in the closing stages of the race two weeks ago, spurning critical points in the tense championship fight.

McLaren may have struggled to compete with Alpine for much of the season but certain circuits have seen the Woking-based outfit outpace its rival.

A positive weekend for Alpine should ensure fourth in the standings barring any major dramas in Abu Dhabi. The pressure is all on McLaren.

READ MORE: Alpine double down on 'performance first' PU plan

Sprint makes final appearance of season

For the final time this season, the sprint format makes an appearance.

There will be an increased number of six sprint events next season despite divided opinions on the format, not least from world champion Max Verstappen who has been highly critical of the expansion.

What it means for this weekend, however, is a shift for qualifying to Friday afternoon, allowing for the 100km sprint on Saturday.

This event proved to be exciting last season with Hamilton coming from the back of the grid on Saturday to win on Sunday. Will we have similar drama this time around?

READ MORE: F1 sprint race: What is it and how does it work?

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