Max Verstappen won his fifth race in succession at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing’s reigning world champion untroubled up front despite a chaotic start behind him that caused the race to be red-flagged to take his 17th victory of a record-breaking Formula 1® season.
The winner of Saturday’s Sprint from second on the grid, Verstappen started Sunday’s 71-lap race from pole and led the field into Turn 1 before a multi-car mid-pack crash triggered by Alex Albon (Williams) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas) saw the race halted. Albon cannoned off Magnussen’s teammate Nico Hulkenberg into Magnussen, both cars ending up in the barriers.
After a half-hour delay, Verstappen repelled McLaren’s Lando Norris into the first corner and was never headed outside of three laps when he took his final pit stop on lap 57, and won by 8.2secs to squash a statistical anomaly from Brazil last year, when he finished sixth for his only result outside of the top five in the past 12 months.
The win was the 52nd of the Dutchman’s career, seeing him surpass four-time world champion Alain Prost for fourth in the sport’s all-time record books.
Norris, on pole for Saturday’s Sprint before finishing second, leapt to fifth place in the drivers’ standings with his seventh podium of the season, six of which have been for second place.
With the battle for the win petering out up front, all eyes focused on the late-race battle for the final podium position between Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) and Verstappen’s under-pressure teammate Sergio Perez, the Mexican recovering from ninth on the grid.
Perez finally made it past with two laps to go, only for Alonso to attack at Turn 4 on the last lap and re-take the position, the Spaniard hanging on by 0.053secs for his eighth podium of the year, but first in seven races.
Elsewhere, Lance Stroll’s fifth for Aston Martin saw the team have its best weekend haul of points (25) since round nine in Austria, while just 14 cars saw the chequered flag, the fewest classified finishers in a race this year.
Just 19 cars took the start after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who qualified second, had a hydraulics failure and crashed on the formation lap to the grid. Teammate Carlos Sainz finished just sixth, which dropped the Spaniard behind Norris in the championship standings.
The first-corner Albon/Magnussen crash saw both drivers eliminated on the spot and wrecked the races of Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo after both Australians were caught up in the resultant mayhem.
Piastri, who started 10th for McLaren after spinning at Turn 12 in Friday’s qualifying and failing to record a lap time before heavy rain red-flagged the Q3 session, was hit hard from behind by Magnussen’s Haas.
Piastri limped back to the pits for repairs to his rear wing and suspension, which were completed in the garage as the race was red-flagged, seeing him take the start from the pit lane one lap down. He finished two laps down in 14th place, last of the classified runners.
Ricciardo ‘won’ the race between the compromised compatriots from the pit lane, the Scuderia AlphaTauri driver’s rear wing being hit by a tyre carcass from Albon’s Williams that had rebounded across the track and, like Piastri, needing to be pulled back into the garage for repairs.
Ricciardo, who had qualified 17th after a mistake at Turn 2 on his final lap in Friday’s Q1, started behind Piastri in pit lane but had more pace, passing his countryman on track on lap nine and staying ahead of him – but well behind everyone else – for the rest of the race. Ricciardo’s frustration was exacerbated by setting the third-fastest lap of the race (1min 13.866secs), a time only Verstappen and Norris bettered.
A week after Ricciardo’s strong drive to seventh in Mexico City, things weren’t looking as bullish in Brazil for AlphaTauri in its fight with Alfa Romeo for eighth in the constructors’ standings, but a bag of points for Yuki Tsunoda saw the team close on Williams for seventh after neither Albon nor teammate Logan Sargeant scored.
Tsunoda flew in the Sprint to overtake Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes late in the short-form race to finish sixth, the first time the team has ever scored in a Sprint, while he gained seven places from 16th on the grid on Friday to grab five points for the weekend, passing Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) for 14th in the drivers’ championship and seeing the team draw to within seven points of Williams.
Number to know
13: The 13th podium for Norris in his 102nd Grand Prix saw the McLaren driver equal German Nick Heidfeld (183 starts from 2000-11) for the most podiums without a win in F1® history.
For me, it was like 30 laps that I had the pressure from Checo. This is a phenomenal result for the team, we’ve been struggling for a couple of months. We keep fighting until the last lap.
Sao Paulo Grand Prix: top 10
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 1hr 56mins 48.894secs
- Lando Norris (McLaren) +8.277secs
- Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +34.155secs
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) +34.208secs
- Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +40.845secs
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +50.188secs
- Pierre Gasly (Alpine) +56.093secs
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +62.859secs
- Yuki Tsunoda (Scuderia AlphaTauri) +69.880secs
- Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1 lap
Standings (top 5)
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 524 points
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) 258 points
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 226 points
- Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) 198 points
- Lando Norris (McLaren) 195 points
- Red Bull Racing (782 points)
- Mercedes (382 points)
- Ferrari (362 points)
- McLaren (282 points)
- Aston Martin (261 points)
Round 21: USA, Las Vegas (November 16-18)