Max Verstappen kept his cool to score his third victory of the season in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix as a frantic finish at Interlagos saw Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc come to blows, and Pierre Gasly finish second for Toro Rosso.

Verstappen controlled proceedings through all 71 laps at Interlagos, twice passing Lewis Hamilton for the lead, with the world champion under investigation for a late collision with Alexander Albon while battling for second place.

Verstappen managed to retain his advantage from pole through the opening stages, with Hamilton jumping up to second with a move around the outside of Sebastian Vettel at Turn 1. The Mercedes driver struggled to keep up with Verstappen through the first stint on Softs, though, falling a couple of seconds back despite pushing hard.

Mercedes quickly decided to put Hamilton on a two-stop strategy, bringing him in at the end of Lap 20 for another set of Softs in order to get the undercut. Hamilton warned his team, “don’t miss this shot”, and it duly delivered by turning him around in time to get the jump on Verstappen, who emerged from the pits behind the Mercedes after pitting one lap later. Verstappen’s cause was not aided by an unsafe release from Williams’ Robert Kubica that forced him to slam on the brakes at the end of the pit lane, resulting in a five-second time penalty for the Pole.

But Verstappen wasted little time in recovering position, getting his tyres up to temperature quickly before using DRS to pass Hamilton with a dive down the inside at Turn 1 one lap into the stint. Hamilton was left lamenting the tyre call and a supposed lack of power on his Mercedes engine, slipping back as the stint wore on to give Verstappen more breathing room yet again.

Vettel had fallen out of touch with the lead duo through the opening stint, but had gone a different way on tyre strategy by taking Mediums for the second stint. Valtteri Bottas ran fourth for Mercedes, but was opening the possibility of a one-stop by taking Hard tyres for the second stint ahead of Alexander Albon and the recovering Charles Leclerc, who was back in the top six early in the race after starting P14 following his engine penalty.

Mercedes looked to put pressure on Verstappen once again at the front by pitting Hamilton first, moving him onto Mediums on Lap 43 while sitting three seconds behind. Verstappen again reacted one lap later, emerging a couple of seconds clear.

The pressure began to build on Verstappen entering the final third of the race as Hamilton found his groove on the Mediums, drawing to within a second of the race leader – only for the Safety Car to be deployed and shake up the strategies at the front when Bottas parked up with an engine failure, having spent five laps toiling behind Leclerc in the fight for fourth.

Mercedes told Hamilton to make the opposite pit call to Verstappen, resulting in him taking the net lead when the Red Bull driver pitted for a set of Softs. While it gave Hamilton track position, he was left as a sitting duck on the restart on his worn set of Mediums, powerless to stop Verstappen from sweeping past.

Albon was another man on the move for Red Bull on the restart, taking third place from Vettel with a fine move at Turn 1, dropping the German into the clutches of Leclerc behind who had also come in for a fresh set of Softs.

Leclerc managed to pass Vettel into Turn 1 with five laps to go, only for Vettel to respond and the pair to go side-by-side on the run to Turn 4. Approaching the entry to the corner, the two Ferraris touched, leaving both with damage that forced them to park up at the side of the track and retire from the race. The debris left on the track also sparked another late Safety Car period.

Mercedes took advantage of the second Safety Car to pit Hamilton for Softs, hoping the race would return to green after losing track position to Albon and Pierre Gasly, who sat third for Toro Rosso.

The race went back to green with two laps to go, with Hamilton making light work of Gasly at Turn 1. He closed up on Albon through the middle sector before trying to dive down the inside at Turn 10, only to hit the Red Bull RB15 and send Albon into a spin. It denied Albon a possible first podium, and dropped Hamilton back behind Gasly again, with an investigation over his head for the move on Albon.

Verstappen crossed the line six seconds clear of the field to secure victory, while Gasly managed to hold on by just 0.062 seconds in a drag race with Hamilton to the line to take second, securing his first F1 podium in the process. Hamilton took third, but will meet with the stewards over his move on Albon after the race.

Carlos Sainz took fourth for McLaren ahead of the Alfa Romeo pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, with Daniel Ricciardo in seventh for Renault. Lando Norris grabbed eighth for McLaren ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, with Daniil Kvyat completing the top 10 for Toro Rosso.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...