'Mercedes looks unbeatable,' says Verstappen as he reflects on 'much tougher than expected' Sao Paulo Sprint |  Formula 1®

‘Mercedes looks unbeatable,’ says Verstappen as he reflects on ‘much tougher than expected’ Sao Paulo Sprint | Formula 1®

Max Verstappen had to reflect on a “difficult” sprint in Sao Paulo when the Red Bull driver took the checkered flag in P4 – while team-mate Sergio Perez admitted concern over the team’s pace against Mercedes.

Verstappen started the Sprint in second – as one of two drivers with Nicholas Latifi starting on the medium tyre, with the rest of the grid opting for the softs. The Red Bull driver quickly passed Kevin Magnussen to take the lead, but was himself passed by George Russell on lap 14 of 24.

Verstappen then came under pressure from Carlos Sainz, and as the Spaniard drove past the two riders collided, leaving the Dutch rider with front wing damage. Verstappen then lost another place to Lewis Hamilton, meaning he finished the Sprint in fourth position.

READ MORE: Russell beats Verstappen in Sprint thriller to secure P1 grid spot for Sao Paulo GP

“It was way harder than we expected,” Verstappen said when asked if he found the Sprint hard on the medium tyre. “I didn’t expect to have this [tyre degradation]. Then, even on the softs, we wouldn’t have been fast enough, so we’re clearly struggling to keep the tires alive.

“So that’s something we have to try to fix for tomorrow. Although of course there’s not much to do but it can’t get any worse than that… At the moment [Mercedes] seem unbeatable, but we will analyze everything.

Sao Paulo Sprint GP 2022: Verstappen and Russell in a thrilling battle for the lead at Interlagos

When asked what he made of the contact with Sainz, Verstappen replied: “It’s tiny. It broke my end plate and a bit of the structure, but luckily it didn’t fall off. At the end of the day, I would have finished fourth anyway with a full front wing.

His teammate Perez started the Sprint in ninth and moved up to fifth at the end. And while he was happy to crack the top five, he was concerned about his team’s pace against Mercedes.

WATCH: Magnussen leads Verstappen at start of Sao Paulo Sprint as Alpines come into contact

“We managed to get into the top five, which is always good,” Perez said. “But I think I’m more concerned about tomorrow because the pace wasn’t very good on our side, so a lot of work to do tonight.

“I was quite impressed with [Mercedes’] rhythm; they were super fast… So, lots of things to understand for tomorrow.


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Verstappen fell to P4 by the flag

Team principal Christian Horner admitted the soft tire would have been a better option for Verstappen, but remained hopeful that the extra set of the softer compound compared to Mercedes would help them take part in the Sunday race.

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the F1 Sprint action in Sao Paulo

“We felt that the soft was a little limited in range, so we made the decision to start on the medium; if we could survive the first 12 laps, the second half of the Sprint would become a bit more comfortable,” said Horner.

“After surviving the first half of the race we found ourselves in worse degradation than the softs and Mercedes had a fast car today and we just couldn’t hold them back… The softs would have been better for us today. But the advantage is that we take this extra set in tomorrow’s race. What we strategically give up today, hopefully, we can get back tomorrow.

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