Verstappen wins exciting F1 São Paulo GP ahead of Norris, with Alonso and Pérez battling to the line

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Photo credit: Red Bull Racing

After an interesting Sprint on Saturday, of course won by Max Verstappen, the main course of this Grand Prix weekend was supposed to start off with Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the front row. However, that wouldn’t be the case, as Leclerc’s Ferrari loses its hydraulics, making him losing the car in Laranjinha during the formation lap, hitting the wall quite significantly.

Leclerc’s car is cleared just in time for the start, and when the lights go out both Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton have a great start, following Verstappen in second and third. Further back it is Kevin Magnussen that pinches his teammate, making Nico Hülkenberg tag Alexander Albon. The Thai is turned into Magnussen’s side pod, causing the Haas to spin into the back of Oscar Piastri. Albon crashes heavily in the outside wall, which brings out the safety car and eventually the red flag.

During the break McLaren tries to repair Piastri’s car, as does AlphaTauri with Daniel Ricciardo’s car, as the Ozzy was hit by Albon’s loose tyre. Both teams manage to have the cars mended before the restart, but both are required to take the restart from pitlane.

The restart itself was clean, with Hamilton getting a slightly better jump off the line than Norris. Behind them Fernando Alonso also has a decent start, and he immediately passes Hamilton for third going into the Descida do Lago. Teammate Lance Stroll has again a disappointing getaway, leaving the Canadian in seventh, after having qualified third.

Up front Norris is attacking Verstappen and in lap 8 he manages an attempt, but the straights are just to short to make the actual overtake stick. He immediately loses a few tenths in sector 2, dropping him outside of the DRS range.

Hamilton starts to form a train in fourth, giving Sergio Pérez an opportunity to attack Mercedes teammate George Russell. The Mexican doesn’t manage an overtake just yet. Who does manage an overtake is Valtteri Bottas, who passes Hülkenberg for 12th.

Russell has trouble staying in DRS range of Hamilton, giving Pérez an immediate chance to attack him. A lap later Checo does manage to make the pass into the Senna S. Russell get’s back on the straight, but the Red Bull driver manages to finalise the overtake with a great braking manoeuvre.

Next in line to pass Russell is Stroll, as he drops out of the DRS range of Pérez. In the meantime it is clear that the softs are at the end of their life, as Esteban Ocon and Zhou Guanyu switch to the mediums.

Yuki Tsunoda loses a position to Bottas as he dips a wheel in the grass into Bico de Pato. On the front straight Pérez passes Hamilton, immediately prompting him to stop for mediums. Russell follows a lap later, while Hamilton starts to complain about his left front wheel starting to turn right.

Pérez is the next one to stop, as Red Bull wants to cover the undercut by Mercedes, but only manages to cover Russell. A few lap laters he overtakes Hamilton again, despite the seven time champion fighting back. Zhou has a mechanical issue and is retired.

Stroll overtakens Russell, with the Briton not defending at all, as he is on a different strategy. Aston Martin teammate Alonso stops in lap 26, at the moment Stroll is closing in on Hamilton. And while Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly and Tsunoda make their stops the young Canadian overtakes Hamilton. The leaders stop a lap later, and they emerge in the same order as before the stops.

Hamilton meanwhile seems to struggle on the mediums, giving Russell the opportunity to close the gap. Hamilton however doesn’t want to yield, and both Mercedes drivers lose time to Sainz. After a few laps Sainz is within DRS range of Russell, who has lost connection to Hamilton. The sole Ferrari driver doesn’t waste any time and passes Russell at the first available opportunity.

In lap 36 Tsunoda takes back the position from Bottas, while Pérez is closing in on Alonso. Norris also closes in on Verstappen with a fastest lap, as Sainz overtakes Hamilton for sixth.

Verstappen retakes the fastest lap a lap later, preventing Norris from coming too close. A little while later Bottas has to retire, making him the fifth retirement of the race.

The next car to bug Mercedes is the Alpine of Gasly, who surely but slowly reels in Russell. And even with the underpowered Renault power unit the Frenchman manages to pass Russell. Unfortunately he complains about brake issues, slowing his progress down.

Logan Sargeant looks like the first one of the two stoppers to make his second stop, a lap later followed by Russell, who escapes the pressure by Tsunoda. Yet another lap later it is Pérez, Hamilton and Gasly who make their supposed final stop. Alonso counters the undercut attempt by the Mexican, staying comfortably ahead in third place.

The brake issues by Gasly seem to be resolved as he drives the fastest lap while hunting down Hamilton, and a lap later he takes eighth from the Briton.

Carlos Sainz stops with 20 laps to go, dropping him back behind Tsunoda and under threat from Gasly. Stroll stops a lap later and has a less optimal stop, but manages to stay ahead of Sainz.

His fellow Spaniard Alonso is under attack from Pérez, who seems to have a bit more pace on the soft tyres. Both drive their cars to the absolute limit, with Pérez driving the fastest lap. He doesn’t manage to pass the Aston Martin yet, but gives Alonso no time to relax.

Verstappen has switched to the soft tyres for the last stint, giving the lead at the moment to Norris. A little later Russell is told to retire the car, putting the Mercedes driver out of his misery. Norris makes his final stop with 12 laps to go, giving the lead back to Verstappen, while Alonso is defending for his life. He manages to keep Pérez behind in the Senna S, and Checo is not able to capitalise on the DRS on the next straight.

After his final stop Norris takes the fastest lap and a hefty chunk out of Verstappen’s lead with just a handful of laps to go, but with over nine seconds the Dutchman has still quite a significant lead.

With just three laps to go Sainz complains about his downshifts not working, and with just two laps to go Pérez finally manages to get a good run on Alonso, and forces his car through in the Senna S. A lap later Alonso forces Pérez to defend into the same corner, compromising his exit and giving Alonso the opportunity to retake the final spot on the podium going into the Descida do Lago, with the two almost making contact. But the battle was far from over as they make it a drag race to the line, where Pérez comes just 53 thousands of a second short of third place.

Verstappen eventually wins, in front of Norris and Alonso. Pérez does great business for second place in the championship with fourth position. Stroll manages a very nice fifth place before Sainz and Gasly. Hamilton eventually comes home on eighth place, in front of Tsunoda and Ocon.