Red Bull's Max Verstappen wins Brazil Grand Prix as Ferrari crashes out

Published 18.11.2019 14:02
Updated 20.12.2019 01:45
Red Bull's Max Verstappen, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action at the start of the race during F1 Brazilian GP at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Nov. 17, 2019. Reuters Photo
Red Bull's Max Verstappen, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action at the start of the race during F1 Brazilian GP at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Nov. 17, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, marking the eighth victory in his career, in a race which ended badly for both Ferrari drivers.

The race also finished poorly for six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who caused Red Bull’s Alexander Albon to spin off-track near the end, depriving him of his first place on the podium and giving Red Bull a one-two. A post-race five-second punishment for Hamilton, meanwhile, demoted the Mercedes driver from third to seventh place.

Brazil marked Verstappen’s third win this season, following victories in Austria and Germany. He started in pole position in Sao Paulo — the second pole of his career and first victory from pole.

The result moved the 22-year-old to third place in the driver’s championship, already won by Hamilton. Verstappen is 11 points ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with only the Abu Dhabi GP on Dec. 1 to go.

Verstappen had to twice overtake Hamilton and avoid a near pit lane collision with Williams' Robert Kubica, an unsafe release that saw the Pole handed a five-second penalty.

The victory in Brazil offers some relief to Verstappen, who in 2018 led here for much of the race but finished second after touching backmarker Esteban Ocon’s car. The Dutch driver had an angry altercation with Ocon afterward, and the race was won by Hamilton.

"Redemption Max, absolute redemption from last year," Red Bull principal Christian Horner told the 22-year-old over the team radio.

"The way we fought for it was even better," replied Verstappen, who led from the start while Hamilton passed Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel around the outside for second.

This year was different, with Verstappen appearing mostly unstoppable all weekend long. The same could hardly be said for the Ferrari team. A dramatic late collision on the 66th lap at Interlagos between four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc struck when both were fighting for fourth position. Both failed to get to the finish line.

Monegasque passed the four times world champion, who was starting his 100th race for Ferrari, but Vettel came back and the two banged wheels. Vettel's rear tire became a flailing carcass while Leclerc, who had climbed from 14th on the grid after an engine change, was hobbled by a smashed front suspension.

On team radio, Vettel blamed Leclerc for a puncture that caused him to stop. Leclerc was forced out shortly after. "What the hell?" shouted Leclerc while Vettel wondered what his team mate was doing. Both were summoned to see the stewards, who took no further action. After the race, both drivers said they were "disappointed,” but refused to expand on what had happened between them.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said he was disappointed, stating: "I feel sorry for the team, I think the drivers need to feel sorry for the team."

With second place in the constructors' championship secure, Ferrari had told their drivers they were free to fight for their own positions, with some stipulations. "Free to fight, but they know that silly mistakes are something we should avoid for the team itself," said Binotto, who refrained from casting judgement before a thorough analysis could be made back in Maranello. "At the end I think both of them got a small percentage of responsibility," said the boss, who felt a podium had been missed. "They know that silly mistakes are still silly mistakes. What happened today is a shame for the team."

Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly came second for his first F1 podium in a rare Honda-powered one-two, only 0.062 seconds ahead of Hamilton before his penalty.

After Gasly was demoted from Red Bull earlier this season back to feeder team Toro Rosso — with Albon promoted in his place — it was a poignant podium for the French driver and he screamed with delight after crossing the finish line.

In a race watched by more than 70,000 fans, Hamilton and Albon had fought for second place with only two laps to go, and Hamilton’s punishment gave McLaren’s Carlos Sainz third place. Sainz had started from 20th on the grid and, like Gasly, it was his first F1 podium. It was McLaren's first podium since the 2014 season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Hamilton said Verstappen was "just quicker than us on the straights” and "there was nothing more we could do.” He was overtaken twice by slick Verstappen moves in the little time he spent ahead — after a pit stop and after a safety car.

"Lewis was very quick so I had to keep pushing... we had two good moves with him, and from there onward I could control the race," Verstappen said. "It is always good to race against the world champion.” Hamilton quickly apologized to Albon for their collision. "I totally accept the blame,” said the British driver. "In hindsight I could have waited.” The 23-year-old Thai finished 14th. "I know how that feels,” Hamilton said about the missed first podium. "I apologize to Alex.”

Sainz, whose previous best finish was fourth place, was not totally sure how to celebrate his unexpected podium. "A bit weird not being there after the race, but still extremely happy. Today's race was just unbelievable. The one-stop strategy was difficult but paid off,” the Spaniard said on Twitter.

Gasly will also remember this day for a long time. Sportingly, he even celebrated with some of his former Red Bull engineers and mechanics. "It is the best day of my life,” Gasly said. "It was quite an intense finish, but quite incredible too. You get used to the podiums in the lower series. My last was at F2 in 2016. My first podium in F1 is just insane.” Hamilton had already secured the season title in the previous race in Texas, U.S. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who did not finish the race, had also secured the runner-up spot.

Finland's 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Alfa Romeo with Italian team mate Antonio Giovinazzi fifth and Australian Daniel Ricciardo sixth for Renault. McLaren's Lando Norris took eighth place ahead of Racing Point's Sergio Perez with Gasly's Russian team mate Daniil Kvyat completing the top 10.

Sunday’s race was also marked by several tributes to Brazilian racing hero Ayrton Senna. His nephew Bruno drove his championship-winning McLaren around the track before the race to honor the three-time F1 champion in the 25th anniversary of his death at the San Marino GP.

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