For the first time since the Dutch Grand Prix in September, Ferrari finds itself holding third place in the constructors’ championship ahead of its old F1 foe McLaren.

The intense battle for P3 has raged all season long but largely swung in favour of McLaren. 

However, since introducing an upgraded engine in Russia and Turkey, Ferrari have held the upper hand. The Scuderia has been chipping away at the deficit until finally snatching third away from McLaren last time out in Mexico. 

A miserable race for McLaren saw Daniel Ricciardo’s drop out of the top-10 after first-corner contact with Valtteri Bottas, while Lando Norris salvaged a point as he recovered from the back following an engine penalty. 

With a resurgent Ferrari in the ascendancy and now holding a 13.5-point buffer over P3 in the constructors’ standings with just four races remaining, is there hope of a turnaround for McLaren? 

“Absolutely, absolutely, it’s still doable,” Ricciardo said at Interlagos on Thursday. “We have been in third for most of the season, and now they are. So let’s see. 

"We will be the hunters and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s going to go down to the last race. 

“I do think we can peg it back and come back in the fight. Yes, obviously Mexico wasn’t great from a point swing but no concerns, I think we’re still very much in it.”

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Ricciardo’s teammate Norris was equally optimistic and keen to take the positives from an overly disappointing weekend in Mexico City, a venue where McLaren didn’t expect to perform at its best. 

“From my side we maximised everything,” Norris said of his race in Mexico. “I don’t think we could have done a lot more. 

“Yes, the car wasn’t as competitive as where we have been in previous races, but that’s just the way it is and I think we have to be happy that we maximised what we could. 

“We still got one point and that’s better than nothing. It could be crucial come the end of the season. 

“We’ve had bad weekends, Ferrari have had bad weekends; we just need to make sure we bounce back this weekend with a better one.” 

And Norris is hopeful of having a stronger weekend at Interlagos, where former-teammate-turned-Ferrari-competitor Carlos Sainz registered a podium finish for McLaren at the last Brazilian GP in 2019. 

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“Ferrari have been the stronger team lately, they’ve been the guys who have been consistently ahead in qualifying and the races,” Norris added. 

“So looking at the stats lately, you would put them ahead. 

“But we’re working hard. We’ve done a lot of reviews from Mexico and looking back at two years ago we had a pretty decent car and Carlos was on the podium. 

“So we’re hopeful and we’re confident we can have a good weekend.” 

Ominously for Ferrari, on each of the three previous occasions the Maranello squad have headed McLaren for third this year, it has only been able to hold the advantage for one race. 

Both Sainz and Ferrari stablemate Charles Leclerc are wary of a McLaren fightback in Brazil, and the Spaniard acknowledged the team which reacts best to their new-found situation will be key. 

“We need to see how we go from chasing to now being chased,” Sainz admitted. 

“I think it’s quite a bit of a turning point in the battle. We are finally ahead and we are looking a bit at what McLaren is doing. 

"Before we were always pushing to try and catch them and they’ve been very strong all season, and now we need to see how we can keep this momentum up and keep it going through until the last four races of the season.” 

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