Max Verstappen won the São Paulo Grand Prix in dominant fashion. Lando Norris finished with a big lead over Fernando Alonso, who after an exciting battle managed to stay ahead of Sergio Pérez for number three, with a difference of 0.053 seconds. Charles Leclerc dropped out in the warm-up lap, but Mercedes was unable to benefit from Ferrari’s misfortune thanks to a dramatic race.
As in the sprint race, the C5 soft tire was by far the most popular choice in Brazil. Only Logan Sargeant started the race in nineteenth position with medium tires, all other drivers opted for the softest rubber. In addition, the wind had completely changed compared to Saturday in São Paulo, where the race was held under sunny conditions. In the warm-up lap, Charles Leclerc dropped out of the front row. The Monegasque had hydraulic problems, which caused it to crash. The second starting spot therefore remained empty.
Chaos at the start causes a red flag
Verstappen easily held the lead at the start. The Aston Martin drivers had a poor start from their places on the second row, allowing Lando Norris to take advantage and fly from sixth starting position to second place, behind Verstappen. Hamilton also managed to outpace both Aston Martin drivers and took third position, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, with George Russell and Sergio Pérez in sixth and seventh.
The chaos immediately continued at the start of the race. Verstappen was able to easily hold on to the lead after Leclerc dropped out, but behind him the drivers went four wide towards the first corner. From the third row, Norris and Lewis Hamilton got away much better than the Aston Martins on the second row. The McLaren driver flew from P6 to second place and followed Verstappen, with Hamilton as number three, ahead of Alonso.
A starting accident resulted in a safety car and later a red flag. Nico Hülkenberg ended up in a sandwich between Kevin Magnussen and Alexander Albon, after which Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo suffered rear wing damage due to the debris. After two laps behind the safety car, the race management decided to temporarily stop the race. At McLaren and AlphaTauri, a lot of work was done on the rear wings. Haas also saw an opportunity to repair Hülkenberg’s car.
Verstappen starts excellently again
At the restart, Verstappen again took his place in the first starting box, with Lando Norris now next to him and former champions Hamilton and Alonso on the second row. Hülkenberg, Piastri and Ricciardo were able to take part in the start, but the two Australians had to do so from the pit lane with a lap behind and therefore needed a safety car to get back into the fight for the points.
Verstappen again had an excellent start, and was not attacked by Norris, who held on to second place. Alonso now had a better starting lap and nicely overtook Hamilton at the end of the first sector, while Russell and Pérez moved up one spot at the expense of Stroll.
Norris managed to keep up with Verstappen in the opening phase and was rewarded with DRS on the straights after a number of laps. This meant that the 23-year-old McLaren driver Verstappen was even able to attack twice in lap 8, after which the Dutchman with an excellent middle sector put his challenger more than a second behind. Alonso managed to keep up with the duo surprisingly well.
Mercedes scores very low
Behind the Spaniard there was a gap between the two Mercedes drivers, who initially worked well together. The British decided not to attack each other, so Russell had DRS in P5 to defend the drivers behind, with Pérez as the locomotive of the chasers. That tactic worked for a while, but on the fourteenth lap Pérez managed to outbrake Russell, after which Hamilton was relatively easy prey a few laps later. At that moment, the Mexican was already eight seconds behind number three Alonso.
Just like in the sprint race, Mercedes couldn’t get the speed at all. After eighteen laps, Hamilton was the first of the top ten to be fitted with new tires, and a lap later it was Russell’s turn. Pérez also had little speed after coming into open air, and followed suit at the end of lap twenty, rejoining the track behind Hamilton. Two laps later, Hamilton saw the RB19 come alongside again, and not much later Stroll also passed both Mercedes drivers with playful ease.
Verstappen and Norris were the last to pit after 27 laps. After the first stint, Norris was only 3.4 seconds behind and was able to give Verstappen an excellent match. Like most other drivers, the two leaders switched from softs to mediums, and after the pit stop the difference increased little by little, while both Alfa Romeos retired with technical problems. After that, only thirteen drivers drove on the same lap.
Verstappen and Norris in a class of their own
While Alonso managed to stay reasonably close to Verstappen and Norris on the soft tires, the difference on the medium tires was much greater, forcing the Spaniard to look more and more in his rear-view mirrors. Pérez managed to close within a second, but Alonso had taken better care of his tires and later managed to increase the difference to more than three seconds, making him safe from the undercut during the second tire change. After the second pit stops, Alonso still had a lead of about 3.6 seconds.
Mercedes’ free fall never ended, and just before Russell was about to be overtaken by Tsunoda, the Briton made his second pit stop. Hamilton crossed the line in eighth, but Russell had to abandon the race prematurely, while one-armed bandit Ferrari took eight points with Sainz in sixth place. Leclerc’s retirement is so painful for Ferrari that it missed an ideal opportunity to almost completely close the gap on Mercedes.
Verstappen controlled the race and was even further ahead of Norris in the final phase. The final difference was more than eight seconds. Pérez managed to overtake Alonso with two laps to go after a long battle, but the Spaniard pulled off a stunt by regaining third place on the final lap! Stroll finished an excellent fifth, ahead of Sainz, Gasly, and Hamilton. The last points went to Tsunoda and Ocon.