Belfast Telegraph

Verstappen makes light of drama

 

Crash point: Lewis Hamilton forces Alexander Albon off the track
Crash point: Lewis Hamilton forces Alexander Albon off the track

By Philip Duncan

Max Verstappen won the Brazilian Grand Prix as Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc crashed out following a dramatic late finish.

Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly finished a surprise second after he took advantage of Lewis Hamilton banging into Alex Albon on the penultimate lap.

Hamilton, with damage to his car, took the flag in third, but his podium was subject to a post-race investigation and he was handed a post-race five-second penalty.

That dropped the British driver to seventh, and promoted McLaren's Carlos Sainz to third.

Hamilton was also penalised with two penalty points on his licence.

Verstappen looked to have been denied victory here after Robert Kubica almost collided with his Red Bull during the first round of pit stops. Verstappen slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the Williams and ending up in the wall, allowing Hamilton to get the jump on the Red Bull.

But in a spellbinding 75 seconds, Verstappen fought his way past Ferrari's Leclerc and then latched on to the back of Hamilton's Mercedes before diving underneath the world champion at the opening bend. Verstappen's skills were tested for a second time when the safety car was deployed after Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes engine conked out.

Red Bull opted to pull Verstappen in from the lead to give their driver fresh rubber for the remaining 15 laps. Hamilton, running in second, was told by his Mercedes team to stay out if Verstappen stopped.

But the Englishman was a sitting duck for the speedy Verstappen, who used Hamilton's tow before sailing around the outside of the Mercedes at the first corner after the safety car pulled in.

The Ferrari drivers then sensationally collided as they diced for fourth place. Leclerc had just passed Vettel at the Senna Esses, but on the run down to the left-handed fourth corner, the German appeared to cut across his team-mate. Both sustained terminal damage, before pointing the finger at one another in a series of furious radio outbursts.

That led to a third safety car period. Hamilton took on fresh tyres, dropping him to fourth. He immediately drove past Gasly at the restart but then collided with Albon in the battle for second, denying him his first podium. He would finish 14th.

"I massively apologise to Albon," Hamilton said. "The gap was there but it closed at the end. It was definitely my fault."

How they finished

FIA Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix, Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Final Positions after Race (71 laps): 1 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1hr 33mins 14.678secs, 2 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:33:20.755, 3 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:33:20.817, 4 Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:33:23.574, 5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:33:24.130

World Championship Standings

Drivers: 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 396pts, 2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 314, 3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 260, 4 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 249, 5 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 230

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