Senna Gets a Statue, Hamilton Gets Citizenship at F1 Brazilian Grand Prix

·7 min read
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F1 Brazilian GP Notebook: Senna, Hamilton and MoreNELSON ALMEIDA - Getty Images

It’s Luis Hamilton do Brasil, more track time for America’s Logan Sargeant, and drivers are already eager to switch to their new teams. Here’s Autoweek’s notebook of the São Paulo GP.

Senna Sculpture Unveiled at Interlagos

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Ayrton Senna David Madison - Getty Images

An impressive sculpture of the late Ayrton Senna was unveiled at Interlagos during the build-up to the event. The 11-foot aluminum bust was designed by his niece, Lalalli, and was placed on display in Sector A, overlooking the last corner of the iconic race track. Senna won at Interlagos on two occasions during his distinguished Formula 1 career, in 1991 and 1993.

It was part of the celebrations of 50 years of Formula 1 in Brazil, with the first race having been a non-championship event in 1972. That was the year in which Emerson Fittipaldi claimed the first of his two world titles. His grandson, Enzo—the brother of Haas reserve Pietro—has now joined Red Bull’s junior academy. 21-year-old Enzo is sixth in this season’s Formula 2 championship, with six podiums to his name, ahead of this weekend’s Abu Dhabi finale. He will remain in Formula 2 in 2023, switching from Charouz to Carlin.

Hamilton Collects Brazilian Citizenship

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Lewis Hamilton has been embraced by Brazil.MAURO PIMENTEL - Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton visited Brasilia last Monday to receive his honorary Brazilian citizenship. A bill was passed in June approving Hamilton’s honorary citizenship, put forward after his 2021 exploits at the São Paulo round, and on Monday the ceremony took place.

Hamilton sat alongside President of the Chamber of Deputies Arthur Lira where he was introduced as a seven-time world champion, before chanting in the chamber from fans prompted an inadvertent "correction" to eight-time champion by Lira. Hamilton received Brazil’s legislative medal of merit, a diploma, and was applauded by politicians for his activism, in promoting causes to help minority groups and the environment.

“Now I do feel like I’m one of you,” Hamilton said in a speech. “I love Brazil, I’ve always loved Brazil. I want to dedicate this honor to Ayrton Senna. When I was five years old, I saw him race, and that was the moment I knew I wanted to be a world champion, just like him. I then learned about Brazil. I then started to play (computer game) FIFA as Brazil. But through his eyes I could see how passionate Brazilians are, how beautiful the country is, hopefully I can get to see some of the amazing places you have here.”

F1 Hits Las Vegas a Year Out

Formula 1 held a launch party in Las Vegas in the break between Mexico City and São Paulo, despite the inaugural event still being a year away.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei, Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm and Governor Steve Sisolak were among the dignitaries who each painted a portion of the starting grid before demonstration runs took place along the Strip—which will form a section of the circuit.

Lewis Hamilton, George Russell and Sergio Perez demonstrated Formula 1 machinery, with the underside of Hamilton’s Mercedes containing LEDs to add to the night time spectacle. It was also confirmed that Heineken Silver will be the title partner.

The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix is scheduled for 16-18 November 2023.

“Things didn’t go that well in the Casino…” joked a sheepish Perez. “But I think it is going to be the biggest event in the world next year.”

Another Outing for American Logan Sargeant

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Logan Sargeant is on track to race for Williams in Formula 1 in 2023.Peter J Fox - Getty Images

Logan Sargeant was afforded an additional practice session with Williams ahead of his planned 2023 debut. Teams do not typically run young drivers on Sprint weekends due to the unusual timetable, with only one practice session prior to qualifying, but Sargeant instead took the reins of Alexander Albon’s FW44 for FP2.

He completed over 100km in the session, earning another Super Licence point, bringing his current total up to 31—with 40 required for a Formula 1 seat. Sargeant is expected to secure the required F1 Super License points at this weekend’s F2 finale in Abu Dhabi, where he will also participate in FP1 and the post-event test with Williams, as he gears up for his 2023 race program.

Vandoorne Switches to Aston Martin

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Stoffel Vandoorne is set to become a reserve driver in the Aston Martin stable.Justin Shin - Getty Images

Stoffel Vandoorne has joined Aston Martin as one of its reserve drivers. Vandoorne was a prolific junior racer but his Formula 1 opportunity in 2017-18 with McLaren coincided with the team’s lowest ebb, and the Belgian failed to perform in the circumstances. He switched to Formula E, with Mercedes, and won the 2022 title before the marque quit the series. He has remained in the category, with DS Penske, and will dovetail race duties there with a back-up role at Aston Martin.

The move brings Vandoorne back into the same squad as Fernando Alonso, who was his team-mate during his two-year race spell at McLaren. Vandoorne, 30, joins reigning Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich as a reserve driver at the team. Drugovich will be in action in FP1 this Friday in Abu Dhabi, for his first appearance at a grand prix, having recently tested Aston Martin’s 2021-spec car during a private outing at Silverstone. The pair replace Nico Hulkenberg in the role, with the German expected to land elsewhere in Formula 1 very, very soon…

Domenicali Visits Colombia

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Formula 1 chief executive Stefano DomenicaliMark Thompson - Getty Images

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali took a detour to Colombia after the Mexico City Grand Prix, to the northern city of Barranquilla. The city has been linked to a prospective Formula 1 round for a couple of years, with plans fuelled by the enthusiasm of Jaime Pumarejo, Barranquilla’s mayor since 2020. Domenicali was joined in Colombia by representatives of Grupo CIE, the major entertainment and sports group that organizes and promotes the Mexico City Grand Prix, which has been highly successful since its return in 2015.

The manager of Fernando Alonso, Luis Garcia Abad, was also present. The project remains in its nascent phase, and any event would not happen until 2024 or 2025 at the earliest, but it is one to keep an eye on over the coming months. It is also understood that for branding purposes any Grand Prix would come under the Caribbean moniker, rather than Colombia, owing to the sea adjacent to which Barranquilla sits.

Formula 1 has still been striving to return to South Africa in 2024, after plans for a 2023 comeback, but matters have been quiet in recent months.

Piastri to Get McLaren Abu Dhabi Run

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Oscar Piastri is set for a drive at McLaren next season.NurPhoto - Getty Images

Oscar Piastri is set for his first public run with McLaren during next week’s postseason test in Abu Dhabi. Piastri was the subject of a tug-of-war between long-term backers Alpine and prospective employers McLaren in the summer, before Formula 1’s Contract Recognition Board sided with McLaren. Piastri has remained under contract with Alpine, as its reserve driver, but has since been factory-based and has not been present at any Grands Prix.

However, Piastri took part in a two-day test in McLaren’s 2021-spec MCL35M at former French Grand Prix venue Paul Ricard recently, and he has received approval to link up early with his new employers. It means Piastri will get a taste of McLaren’s 2022-spec MCL36 next Tuesday at Yas Marina, ahead of his debut in 2023. He will not, however, take part in FP1 on Friday, with McLaren already assigning that session to IndyCar race winner Pato O’Ward.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who has taken the 2023 Alpine seat rejected by Piastri, will also get his first taste of life with his new employers at the Abu Dhabi test after receiving approval to do so by Red Bull.