On Sunday, Max Verstappen once again proved his potentiality as a champion of the future with a commanding victory for Red Bull in an astonishing and crash-hit Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. He twice passed newly-crowned six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in a tough contest that had two safety car interventions and saw the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc clash and retire, ahead of gaining the eighth victory of his career.
This season, his third win also made up for his disappointment in last year’s race in Brazil when he was hoping to win but a late accident ruined his hopes of victory. Ahead of his former Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly, he made the most of the pole position and finished a dominant winner.
They delivered a Honda-powered one-two for the Japanese company for the first time since the heyday of local hero Ayrton Senna. Frenchman Gasly came home 0.062 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who became third for Mercedes but was demoted to seventh following a post-race stewards’ investigation after crashing with luckless Thai driver Alexander Albon, the man who replaced Gasly at Red Bull, in the final laps.
“Lewis was very quick,” said Verstappen. “So I had to keep pushing all the time. He pitted early so we had to be on top of our pit-stops and we had a good move on him.
“I could control the race with the tyres I had, so, for me, it was unbelievable. It was a lot of fun out there and great to win the race.”
Verstappen ‘flat out’.
“I was behind so I was pushing flat out on my out lap,” he said. “We knew we had great top speed the whole weekend — but that was a guess — and I’m very happy to have got past him!”
Gasly screamed with joy at his good fortune on his slow-down lap.
“This is my first podium in F1 and, for sure, I will never forget it,” he said.
“Toro Rosso have given me such a fantastic car since I came back. This is an amazing day… I was praying for the engine to give everything it had — without Honda, it would not have been possible.”
A five-second penalty was handed by Hamilton and two points on his racing license.
“I fully accept it was my fault and I accept the penalty,” said the Mercedes driver.
“I was the driver behind and it was my mistake. I apologize massively to Alex — the gap was there, but it closed pretty quickly. It was completely my fault and I hold my hands up.”
Sainz became fourth on the way for McLaren before the two Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, seventh-placed Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and Lando Norris in the second McLaren.