Max Verstappen takes victory in stunning Brazilian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen secured a stunning win in the Brazilian Grand Prix – on a shocking day for Ferrari and a tough one for Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen made it worth the wait as he triumphed in a remarkable Brazilian Grand Prix, a year after an Interlagos victory was snatched from his grasp.

A cruel collision with back-marker Esteban Ocon 12 months ago saw Verstappen hand the lead to Lewis Hamilton, who went on to take the checkered flag.

Verstappen was so upset on that occasion that he took out his frustration on Ocon when remonstrating with the Frenchman after the race, and was handed a two-day ‘public service’ punishment.

This time it was world champion Hamilton who was left frustrated, frequently chuntering complaints from the cockpit as he and Verstappen vied for supremacy over long stretches of the race.

Victory after a series of dramas went to Verstappen, and rather than Hamilton it was Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly who finished second. Hamilton crossed the line third for Mercedes, but a late collision with Alex Albon cost him a five-second penalty and dropped him to seventh place. Hamilton apologised after the race and a penalty was inevitable.

Hamilton was unhappy with the choice of tyres – soft rather than medium – at the first change, and seemed repeatedly irked.

 

Later, while leading, Hamilton complained he was a “sitting duck” when Verstappen went to the pits for a third time as the safety car came out when Valtteri Bottas, his engine smoking, pulled over on the 54th lap.

And that was exactly how it played out, Verstappen sweeping past Hamilton when racing resumed on the 60th lap, taking the lead at the first corner.

If Hamilton had a trying day, Ferrari had a nightmare. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were pushing to finish on the podium when they astonishingly collided on the 66th lap. Leclerc looked to go past his senior team-mate, who appeared to turn into him, resulting in a clash of tyres and a pair of blow-outs.

“What the hell? Come on!” snapped Leclerc, as the latest chapter in a tense rivalry between the team-mates unfolded, causing another safety car interruption.

Hamilton went to the pits for his third change, leaving him down in fourth as the 71-lap race neared its conclusion. As racing resumed, Hamilton went for broke on the inside leading into a tight corner and ran into Albon, Verstappen’s team-mate who was sitting second.

Gasly avoided the carnage and quietly moved up to second place. With Hamilton penalised by the stewards after the race, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was promoted to third, with Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) fourth.

History suggested pole-sitter Verstappen would have a good race. Only once in the previous 15 Brazilian Grands Prix, when Raikkonen took victory in 2007, had the winner not started on the front row.

Verstappen and Hamilton, who swept past Vettel on the first lap to move second, fought a gripping race, with strategies changing all the time, before the final 20 laps saw the race reduced to a cat-and-mouse affair.

As Ferrari picked up the pieces of their wretched afternoon in Sao Paulo, Verstappen could toast his third win of the season.

GASLY STAYS OUT OF TROUBLE, REAPS REWARDS

The top five drivers in the championship standings have had the podium places locked down this season, with the only exception before Brazil coming when Daniil Kvyat took third place in Germany after a slew of retirements.

Such a closed shop cannot be healthy for Formula One so it was encouraging to see Gasly break the dominance by quietly holding his own as chaos reigned around him to grab a first podium finish in Formula One. And the stewards’ punishment of Hamilton meant Sainz joined him in the top three, albeit after the podium celebrations.

HAMILTON’S INSTINCTS LET HIM DOWN

Hamilton might be the driver of his generation, and arguably the greatest of all time, but he still has rash moments on the track and he effectively admitted one of those came on Sunday at Interlagos.

By attempting to get through a gap he knew really wasn’t there, he ruined Alex Albon’s race, denying the Thai a maiden podium finish. Hamilton was all apologies after the race, but the damage was done.

IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1 hour 33 minutes 14.678 seconds
2. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +6.077secs
3. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) + 8.896s
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +9.452s
5. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) +10.201s
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +10.541s
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +11.139s
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +11.204s
9. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +11.529s
10. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +11.931s

STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 387
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 314 (-73)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 260 (-127)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 249 (-138)
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 230 (-157)

Constructors

1. Mercedes 701
2. Ferrari 479 (-222)
3. Red Bull 391 (-310)
4. McLaren 140 (-561)
5. Renault (-610)

WHAT’S NEXT?

The 2019 season comes to an end in Abu Dhabi in two weeks’ time, with the United Arab Emirates Grand Prix. Hamilton won at the Yas Marina Circuit last year, with Vettel second.

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