In a sport decorated by the shimmering triumph of the frontrunners, not an awful lot of column space is reserved for those fighting their own battles further back down the grid!
A herculean triumph for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who displaced Charles Leclerc to rise to third in the rankings, massive maiden podiums earned by Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly (second) and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz (third), the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix produced a magical spell for the two Alfa Romeo drivers of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi as well.
While it is fair to judge Alfa’s eventual grid position upon the completion of 71 laps as having benefitted from Lewis Hamilton’s penalty, arising out of the collision with Alex Albon, for the better part of the contest, the two red and white cars ran with great grip and much-needed race pace.
The experienced and exuberant pair from the Hinwill-based outfit went onto score a respectable and competitive P4 and P5, respectively, with Raikkonen finishing just behind Carlos Sainz.
Although, at the conclusion of the Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen, who finished with 12 strong points confessed that on a couple of occasions he did have a chance to get past the faster McLaren up front, he was, nevertheless, content with what turned out to be the best performance from an Alfa Romeo car.
For a man who famously doesn’t speak too often, it was nice to spot a wry chuckle from the Iceman, who achieved his personal best result of 2019, having competed in his 315th Grand Prix.
“It’s great to finally be able to celebrate our best result of the season as a team. It was a positive day and finally we were able to get the result we worked so hard for. We kept on our own most of the race, but at the end we were in the middle of the action. I am disappointed we couldn’t get past Sainz for what turned out to be the final podium position: we had the speed, got a good run on him twice but couldn’t get past. But you always want something more: in the end, it’s good to get big points with both cars,” said Raikkonen.
But it must be said, what made the team’s overall result, their best points haul all season producing a collection of 22 points from a single event this year, was the sheer margin of races after which it was achieved.
While it’s hard to remember when both Alfa Romeos finished inside the top ten, it’s important to rewind the clocks back to the Austrian Grand Prix, which is exactly 10 races back this season.
Until Brazil, Austria was the only occasion where both Alfa Romeos finished inside the points, with Raikkonen finishing just ahead, but not by much, of Antonio Giovinazzi. Raikkonen finished ninth, while the young Italian scored his maiden points with a respectable P10.
But while Kimi may not have spoken much about the significance of bagging two points for the team, the occasion was far more momentous for the 25-year-old Italian.
We were reminded that even if several points separate a prestigious and well-earned podium at the end of a contest, few things can match the joy of bagging one’s maiden F1 points.
Giovinazzi, a product of the Ferrari Driver Academy celebrated it by jumping around in the team’s paddock as Kimi admired the spectacle silently.
But the greater importance for Alfa as a team rests in the outcome achieved at Sao Paulo, the result bringing much-needed respite for a team that endured a listless run, especially in the post-Hungarian GP period.
Even as Giovinazzi, who’s deservingly earned a seat for the next year, went one better than his result at Austria by bagging a competitive P9 at Monza, proving his consistency once again at Singapore by collecting the only points for the team that weekend, for Raikkonen, Brazil was a massive relief.
For someone who’s now entered his 40s, contesting in a sport that sides with reflexes and youth, the oldest man on the grid was able to prove that he’s still got some aces up his sleeve as he demonstrated familiar flashes of speed by getting the better of both Haas’ and finding a way to delay Leclerc’s marauding pass down at the Senna Esses.
While surely a competitive eleventh at the United States Grand Prix that saw Raikkonen drive for the better part of the race well inside the top ten, it didn’t help his fortunes that he was passed by the Renault of Hulkenberg that eventually put an end to his dreams of scoring some points, having endured an absolute drought for seven consecutive races.
That said, the result at Brazil augurs well for Alfa who, particularly during the first half of the season were the best of the rest in the midfield.
It would gift them the much-needed optimism to challenge the likes of Toro Rosso and Renault in the final Grand Prix of the event.
For now, all eyes on the sweltering Yas Marina!