Lewis Hamilton stormed from tenth on grid to snatch a dramatic victory at 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix and reduce his championship deficit to Max Verstappen.
Max Verstappen beat pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas off the line to claim the lead whilst Hamilton improved three places off the line to seventh before quickly carving his way up to third by Lap Five.
Hamilton benefitted from a Safety Car as debris was cleared as he caught and passed Sergio Perez on Lap 19 before failing to undercut Verstappen at his first stop.
Mercedes consequently opted to deliver the overcut as Hamilton made his second stop three laps after Verstappen, which triggered a tense cat and mouse chase in which Verstappen deliberately drove Hamilton off track at Turn Four on Lap 48 with stewards controversially ruling no investigation was required.
Hamilton though kept going and managed to make the race-winning pass into Turn Four on Lap 59 and sprinted away to his sixth win of the season, as Verstappen settled for second ahead of Bottas.
Perez finished fourth ahead of Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris.
In the title race, Verstappen now holds a 14-point lead over Hamilton with a maximum of 78 points left on offer across the final three rounds of this season.
Mercedes meanwhile extended their championship lead over Red Bull to 11 points whilst third-placed Ferrari extended their lead over McLaren to 31.5 points.
At lights out, Bottas made a bright start from pole but Verstappen was just quicker as he lunged up the inside of Senna S to take the lead, with Perez following through after Bottas ran wide at Turn Four.
Hamilton meanwhile made up three positions to seventh after getting a strong getaway from tenth following his five-place grid penalty for a new Internal-Combustion Engine, after fighting from 20th to fifth in the Sprint Qualifying following a controversial disqualification for a DRS infringement in Qualifying.
Hamilton’s improvement however was aided by Norris suffering a left rear puncture after getting clipped by Sainz into the Senna S, although Norris recovered from last place to finish tenth at the checkered flag.
Passes on Sebastian Vettel, Sainz and Leclerc followed in the opening four laps for Hamilton who was let through by Bottas at the start of Lap Five, just before a four-lap Safety Car was deployed following a collision between Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda into the Senna S which left debris strewn across the corner.
Once the Safety Car came in at the end of Lap Nine, Verstappen waited until he reached the start/finish line before bolting with Perez in tow ahead of Hamilton.
Hamilton waited until Lap 18 when he swept round the outside of Senna S but Perez forced his way back into second on the run to Turn Four, with Hamilton eventually getting through at the start of the next lap with another sweeping outside move into Senna S.
Verstappen though managed to keep Hamilton at bay even through the first pit-stop window by pitting one lap later than his title rival, although his lead was reduced to just 1.290 seconds on Lap 30 as the Virtual Safety Car was briefly deployed after a part flew off Stroll’s Aston Martin.
Hamilton failed to make further impact until Verstappen pitted at the end of Lap 40 with Mercedes responding with Bottas a lap later, as Hamilton maximised his time in clean air ahead of his second stop at the end of Lap 43 which left him 2.608s behind Verstappen.
A game of cat and mouse consequently ensured as Hamilton rapidly tore into Verstappen’s lead with a controversial flashpoint on Lap 48, as Hamilton got the run out of the Senna S and overtook Verstappen into Turn Four for the lead.
Verstappen though was on the dirty side of the corner so deliberately braked late and forced Hamilton wide whilst gaining a lasting advantage, yet stewards controversially chose to deem it a “racing incident” on view of Red Bull Team Principal – Christian Horner.
Hamilton though refused to relent in his efforts as Verstappen received a black-and-white flag for illegally weaving on the straights, which fed into Hamilton’s hands as the Brit eventually passed Verstappen with DRS into Turn Four on Lap 59.
Verstappen thereafter fell back against Hamilton’s pace and finished 10.496s behind his title rival with Bottas in third, whilst Red Bull deliberately pitted Perez at the end of Lap 69 in order to enable the Mexican to snatch the single point for fastest lap on the final lap from Hamilton’s grasp.
F1 now heads to Losail Circuit, Qatar next weekend for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix from 19-21 November with Hamilton now 14 points behind Verstappen in the title fight following a controversial weekend.
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||71||1h 32m 22.851|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||71||+ 10.496|
|3||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||71||+ 13.576|
|4||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||71||+ 39.940|
|5||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||71||+ 49.517|
|6||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||71||+ 51.820|
|7||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||71||+ 1 Lap|
|8||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||71||+ 1 Lap|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||71||+ 1 Lap|
|10||Lando Norris||McLaren||70||+ 1 Lap|
|11||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||70||+ 1 Lap|
|12||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||70||+ 1 Lap|
|13||George Russell||Williams||70||+ 1 Lap|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||70||+ 1 Lap|
|15||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||70||+ 1 Lap|
|16||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||70||+ 1 Lap|
|17||Nikita Mazepin||Haas||70||+ 2 Laps|
|18||Mick Schumacher||Haas||70||+ 2 Laps|
|20||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||49||Damage|