SAO PAULO, Brazil, Nov 17 – Max Verstappen underlined his potential as a champion of the future on Sunday with a commanding victory for Red Bull in an astonishing and crash-hit Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.
The 22-year-old Dutchman brushed off several attacks from newly-crowned six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, twice passing him after pit-stops, to come home a dominant victor ahead of his former team-mate Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso.
“That was a lot of fun out there,” said Verstappen. “It is great to win the race. We knew we had the speed all weekend so I was happy to get past this time.”
A late collision between Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, who suffered punctures and retired, produced a dramatic and surprising finish to a closely-fought contest.
Frenchman Gasly, replaced at Red Bull mid-season by Thai driver Alexander Albon, held off Hamilton after a wild finale to cross the line ahead of him by just 0.062 seconds and score his first podium finish.
Hamilton, who collided with Albon on the final lap, finished third, but faced a post-race stewards investigation.
Albon, who looked certain to finish second, limped home 15th.
Carlos Sainz finished fourth for McLaren ahead of the two Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, seventh-placed Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and Lando Norris in the second McLaren.
Sergio Perez finished ninth for Racing Point and Daniil Kvyat was 10th in the second Toro Rosso.
It was Verstappen’s eighth career victory and made up for his disappointment in last year’s Brazilian race when he looked certain to win before a late collision.
“I apologise massively to Albon -– the gap was there, but it closed pretty quickly. It was completely my fault… I gave everything and raced my heart out and took some risks,” said Hamilton.
Gasly said: “For sure, I will never forget this -– it’s such a special moment, so emotional and special to get it with Toro Rosso. These guys have given me a great car.”
The result meant that Honda supplied the engines that powered home two of the cars on the podium along with Hamilton’s Mercedes.
– Lovely day –
On a beautiful, warm afternoon at Interlagos Hamilton pitted on lap 21, fitting a set of worn softs, in a bid to under-cut the Dutchman.
He re-joined sixth.
Verstappen, forced to react, pitted one lap later and after a perfect stop, found himself slowed in the exit lane by Williams’ Kubica.
“What the fxxx did they do?” ranted Verstappen on team radio. Williams were handed a five seconds penalty.
When Verstappen pitted on lap 44 his lead was 1.9sec, a critical advantage that enabled him to re-join ahead of the champion.
Bottas, with smoke billowing, then retired with an engine failure, which triggered a Safety Car deployment. Verstappen, grumbling Hamilton had ignored yellow flags, promptly pitted for softs.
The Englishman, on 12-laps old mediums, led for the first time, but was acutely aware of his position. “I’m going to be a sitting duck,” he said.
His fears were realised at the re-start on lap 60 when both Red Bulls flew, Verstappen rounding Hamilton again to lead and Albon taking third from Vettel. Two stunning moves were executed in one swoop at the Senna S.
The Dutchman was four seconds clear with six laps to go when more drama erupted as Leclerc clashed with Ferrari team-mate Vettel afer passing him for fourth, both suffering punctures and retiring as another Safety Car went out.
“What the hell is he doing?” shouted Vettel.
Hamilton pitted again, but was fourth at the re-start on lap 70 when Verstappen flew away. Hamilton swept past Gasly for third, but then clipped Albon as he tried to pass him for second and, after recovering, finished third