The race on Sunday in São Paulo, Brazil was the climax of a hectic Grand Prix weekend vital in determining the ultimate outcome of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Lewis Hamilton was disqualified from Friday qualifying after setting the fastest lap time. After it was deemed that the opening of the DRS system on his Mercedes was too large, Hamilton started the sprint qualifying race from the back of the field. The Mercedes driver carved his way through the field from 20th to 5th. He still had to serve a five-place grid penalty for an engine change and started Sunday’s race from 10th.
Max Verstappen inherited the first starting position in sprint qualifying, where take his Red Bull across the finish line in second. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas would overtake Verstappen at the start of the sprint and go on to win pole position. Verstappen was slightly involved in Hamilton’s disqualification as he was caught on camera touching the Mercedes rear wing after the Friday session. Obviously, there was no way that the Red Bull driver could deflect a rear wing designed to take thousands of pounds of force. Verstappen was fined 50,000 euro for his actions violating parc fermé regulations.
The roles were reversed during the race start on Sunday. Max Verstappen overtook Bottas in the first corner of the race. Behind them, Lewis Hamilton was able to make his way to fifth by the third lap. The safety car was deployed on lap 6 to clear debris from turn 1 after AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda lost his front wing lunging in an attempt to get by Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
Briefly after the race was resumed, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed to retrieve debris on the circuit from Mick Schumacher’s Haas. Lewis Hamilton was third by this point in the race with Verstappen in the lead and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez in second. Perez slowed under the VSC to increase the gap between Max Verstappen in the lead and Lewis Hamilton trapped behind him.
There was a three second gap between the title contenders by the time the Virtual Safety Car period ended on lap 14. Hamilton and Perez had an exciting pair of position exchanges on lap 18. Hamilton got around Perez in turn 1 and Perez returned the favor in turn 4. Hamilton would decisively overtake Perez into the first corner on the next lap.
On lap 48, Lewis Hamilton attempted to pass Verstappen around the outside in turn 4. The Red Bull driver defended aggressively and took a wide exit with both drivers making light contact and going into the runoff area outside of track limits.
FIA Race Control told Mercedes that Verstappen was under investigation for the move and the team relayed the message to Hamilton over team radio. However, there was no notice of an investigation on the broadcast. It seemed as if the FIA told Mercedes this just to get them off their back. Red Bull were quick to radio race control over the possibility of a penalty and there soon was a broadcast notice from the FIA that no investigation was necessary.
On lap 59, Hamilton was in position again to try and take the lead. The Mercedes driver would have a much better run down to turn 4, overtaking Verstappen before the corner. Hamilton drove away from his rival and won the race after completing all 71 laps. Verstappen came across the line second with Bottas in third. Sergio Perez finished fourth. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished fifth and sixth respectively for Ferrari.
Max Verstappen leads the drivers’ championship by 14 points. Formula One will return next week in Qatar.