Red Bull’s Max Verstappen dominated 2023 Sao Paulo Grand Prix ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Verstappen survived a second-lap red flag due to a serious first corner incident involving Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen, plus a restart to cruise to a comfortable 17th main race victory of the season ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Fernando Alonso denied Sergio Perez a third-placed finish in a dramatic finish at the checkered flag, with the pair split by just 0.053 seconds.
Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Lewis Hamilton, Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top ten.
In the drivers’ standings, Verstappen is already champion but second-placed Perez extended his gap to third-placed Hamilton to 35 points, whilst Alonso stayed fourth but Norris moved above Sainz into fifth with the latter trio now split by just six points going into the final two races.
Ahead of the race start, every driver opted for the soft tyre except Logan Sargeant who started on the medium tyres, but Charles Leclerc failed to make the start after he spun out at Turn 6 with a hydraulic failure on the formation lap.
At lights out, Verstappen enjoyed a clean start as Norris benefitted from Leclerc’s vacant grid slot on the front row as he stuck to the inside line, which enabled him to pass Alonso for second whilst Hamilton moved round the outside to take third from the Spaniard.
Stroll consequently lost two spots from third to fifth at the start but further behind him, Albon made minor contact with Nico Hulkenberg which sent the Thai-Brit clattering into Magnussen’s sidepod and caused both him and Magnussen to spin out.
Magnussen however punted into the rear end of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri to seemingly end the Australian’s race with rear-wing damage at that point, whilst AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo suffered severe damage to his rear wing from a loose tyre on Albon’s car during the chaos.
Stewards subsequently deployed the Safety Car but quickly were forced to red flag the race a lap later due to debris strewn across Turn 1, plus heavy damage to the barriers, which provided Piastri and Ricciardo with a successful chance to rejoin after quick repairs under the stoppage.
The race resumed behind the Safety Car on Lap 3 after a 24 minute delay with a standing restart on the following lap, as Verstappen made another clean start as he headed Norris and Hamilton through the Senna S.
Hamilton however lost third to Alonso at Turn 4 whilst Russell and Perez demoted Stroll to seventh, with the latter trio soon stuck in a DRS train behind Hamilton with Sainz and Gasly behind them.
Up front, Norris refused to initially let Verstappen out of his sight and tried to snatch the lead on Laps 7 and 8 but the three-time champion resisted and soon kept the Brit at a gap of around two seconds in the opening stint.
Within Hamilton’s DRS train, Perez cleared Russell into Turn 1 on Lap 14 then passed Hamilton four laps later on Lap 18, whilst Ocon in tenth triggered the opening pit stop phrase to switch to medium tyres on Lap 16.
Up front, Hamilton was the first frontrunner to pit from fifth which allowed him to jump Perez once the first raft of pit stops were completed on Lap 28, as Verstappen and Norris pitted from the lead and rejoined ahead of third-placed Alonso.
Hamilton meanwhile lost fourth to Perez on Lap 23 into Turn 4 as he and Russell began to struggle with tyre degradation and eventually slipped to seventh and ninth respectively by the time of their second stops on Laps 47 and 46 respectively.
After his second stop, Hamilton bemused to Mercedes that he should of gone to “hard tyres” as he quickly lost position to Gasly on Lap 50, after he had initially cleared Gasly’s teammate – Esteban Ocon two laps earlier before Ocon let Gasly past on the next lap.
Perez meanwhile reeled in Alonso after the second round of stops in their fight for third whilst Stroll fought off Sainz for sixth, as Gasly headed Hamilton in seventh whilst Tsunoda demoted 2022 race winner – Russell to tenth on Lap 57.
Russll however retired a lap later with worsening power oil temperatures which put his Mercedes at risk of failure on track.
Lap 59/71: George comes in to retire with high and worsening PU oil temperature. There is an imminent risk of failure. pic.twitter.com/HCGNQXbNwK
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 5, 2023
Up front, Verstappen had built a seven-second gap to Norris by the time he pitted on Lap 57 with the Brit staying out for three further laps, but Norris eventually couldn’t deny Verstappen a 17th Grand Prix win of the season – thus 21st overall if include his four sprint wins.
Perez meanwhile passed Alonso into the Senna S on Lap 70 for third but lost the position on Lap 4 a lap late and was eventually outfought to the line in a dramatic finish, as Alonso claimed his first podium finish since the Netherlands.
F1 now heads to Las Vegas from 17-19 November for the first part of the season finale double-header, followed by Abu Dhabi on weekend of 25-27 November.
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||71||1h ..m …|
|2||Lando Norris||McLaren||71||+ 8.277|
|3||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin||71||+ 34.155|
|4||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||71||+ 34.208|
|5||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||71||+ 40.845|
|6||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||71||+ 50.188|
|7||Pierre Gasly||Alpine||71||+ 56.093|
|8||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||53||+ 62.859|
|9||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||71||+ 69.880|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||70||+ 1 Lap|
|11||Logan Sargeant||Williams||70||+ 1 Lap|
|12||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas||70||+ 1 Lap|
|13||Daniel Ricciardo||AlphaTauri||70||+ 1 Lap|
|14||Oscar Piastri||McLaren||69||+ 2 Laps|
|RET||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||38||Mechanical|
|RET||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo||22||Mechanical|