SAO PAULO — Red Bull’s triple world champion Max Verstappen took a record-extending 17th win of the Formula One season in Brazil yesterday while Fernando Alonso provided the thrills in a red-flagged and re-started Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
McLaren’s Lando Norris finished second, 8.2 seconds behind but with a bonus point for fastest lap, while Aston Martin’s Alonso took third place by a whisker from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Verstappen, now fourth in the all-time list of winners and ahead of French great Alain Prostafter his 52nd career victory, clinched the title in Qatar last month while Red Bull have also retained their constructors’ title.
The champions have won 19 of the 20 races so far, including the last five in a row.
“Well done Max, that was absolutely clinical once again,” said team boss Christian Horner over the radio as Verstappen took the chequered flag from pole position at Interlagos.
The victory stretched his lead over Perez to 266 points, with the Mexican now 32 clear of Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton in the battle for second overall.
“The starts were very important today. Both of them were I think very good. After that the whole race was about the management of the tyres,” said Verstappen, who also won Saturday’s sprint race.
While the Dutch driver’s victory always looked inevitable, Alonso provided the late thrills with a dramatic battle with Perez in which he showed all the attacking fire and defensive skill of a double world champion.
The Spaniard crossed the finish line just 0.053 seconds ahead of the Mexican after Perez passed him on the penultimate lap and Alonso, the oldest man in the race at 42, grabbed the place back on the last.
“It was like 30 laps when I had the pressure from Checo (Perez),” he said. “When he passed me two laps to the end, I thought ‘okay, this is gone, the podium is not possible anymore’.
“This is a phenomenal result for the team. We have been struggling for a couple of months, especially the last two events with two retirements.”
Norris, who started Saturday’s sprint on pole, said his result was “as good as we can get nowadays and for the time being”.
The podium was the 13th of the Briton’s career, equalling Nick Heidfeld’s unwanted record of the most top-three finishes without a win.
Ferrari blow, Mercedes misery
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was fifth, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Hamilton, whose Mercedes team had their worst result of the season so far.
Yuki Tsunoda was ninth for AlphaTauri and Esteban Ocon took the final point for Alpine.
George Russell, last year’s winner for Mercedes, retired from 11th place with an overheating power unit facing imminent failure.
Ferrari suffered a blow before the race had even started when Charles Leclerc, who had qualified on the front row, crashed out on the formation lap but still gained ultimately on Mercedes in the standings.
Norris was the big beneficiary, powering from sixth to second into the first corner and speeding past the two Aston Martins on the inside while Hamilton did the same on the outside.
A collision into the first corner involving Haas pair Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg and Williams’s Alex Albon triggered the safety car before the race was red-flagged for repairs to the tyre barrier.
Verstappen again led cleanly away from the standing re-start, with Norris holding second place and putting some initial pressure on the Red Bull driver before the challenge faded, while Alonso passed Hamilton for third.
The red flags helped McLaren’s Australian rookie Oscar Piastri who was caught up in the first-lap carnage but whose mechanics then had time to repair the damage and get him back out from a pitlane start.
Compatriot Daniel Ricciardo, whose AlphaTauri’s rear wing was broken by a bouncing tyre at the first start, was also given a second chance. — Reuters