Max scored his third win of the season, the eighth of his career and the Team’s 62nd victory with a superbly controlled drive to the top step of the podium at the end of a hugely dramatic Brazilian Grand Prix. There was heartbreak for Alex, though, as he was denied second place when he was hit by Lewis Hamilton just two laps from the flag.
Max made a good start to the race and settled into P1 into the first corner. That task was eased by front-row starter Sebastian Vettel coming under immediate pressure from hard-charging Lewis Hamilton who started third. Hamilton swept past Vettel through the Senna S but Max was already powering towards turn three and the long Reta Oposta straight. Behind them Alex also made a good start to hold his starting position fifth behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
As Max steadily built a 2.5s gap to Hamilton over the first dozen laps of the race, the major moves were made by Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari driver started from P14 after a PU-related 10-place grid drop before the start, but with 10 laps he was up to P6 behind Alex having stormed through the midfield.
Hamilton then sparked the first round of pit stops when he took on a new set of soft tyres on lap 20. The Team reacted by bringing Max in at the end of the following lap for the same compound and though the crew completed a brilliant 1.9s stop, Hamilton’s undercut attempt was helped when Williams unsafely released Robert Kubica directly into Max’s path as the Dutchman made his way to the pit exit.
The delay allowed Hamilton to fly past, but Max was in no mood to give up track position. He quickly closed on the six-time champion and muscled his way past the Mercedes driver through the Senna S.
Leclerc, who had started on medium tyres, was the last of the front runners to make a pit stop, on lap 29, and when the order shook out, Max once again led the race, three seconds ahead of Hamilton, with Vettel a further nine seconds back in third place. Bottas who had taken hard tyres during his pit stop was fourth and Alex was comfortable in P5 on medium tyres, 13s ahead of Leclerc who, like Bottas, had taken hard tyres in his pit stop.
Bottas struggled on his hard tyres, however, and on lap 41 Mercedes took the decision to pit the Finn for medium compound Pirellis. He rejoined behind Leclerc and Alex was boosted to fourth place.
Two laps later Hamilton then made his second stop, taking on medium tyres. Once again the Team reacted and Max dived for the pit lane. This time there were no hazards in the way and after taking on mediums tyres he rejoined ahead of Hamilton.
Vettel now led the race, but as Max closed in Ferrari pitted the German on lap 49. The Ferrari driver took soft tyres and he rejoined in P3, as Max once again led the race.
The race then took a twist on lap 52. Bottas who was pushing hard to pass Leclerc suddenly slowed, and with smoke pouring from the back of his car. He pulled over at the side of the track and the safety car was deployed.
The Team immediately chose to pit Max and he took on new soft tyres. Hamilton, though, stayed on track. Leclerc also pitted to shed his slow hard tyres and he bolted on a set of softs. The order behind the safety car was now Hamilton followed by Max, with Vettel in third ahead of Alex.
And when the action resumed at the end of lap 59, both Bulls went on the rampage. Max powered around the outside of Hamilton to retake the lead, and Alex mirrored the move to sneak past Vettel and claim third place. Vettel immediately tried to fight back on the run to turn four but Alex was alive to the threat and positioned his car well to repel the attack.
Vettel then began to come under pressure from teammate Leclerc, and on lap 65 the race took another dramatic turn. Leclerc powered down the inside to pass his teammate through the Senna S. Vettel fought back and drew alongside the other Ferrari on the Reta Oposto. But, as he passed the Monegasque driver there was contact. Leclerc’s front right tyre punctured and then exploded, sending the Ferrari driver skidding off track in a shower of sparks as his front wing collapsed.
Vettel also sustained a punctured left rear tyre in the incident and though he was able to carry for a few corners he eventually also pulled over and retired.
With debris strewn across the track, the Safety Car was deployed again.
This time it was Hamilton’s turn to pit and after taking on new softs he rejoined in fourth place, behind Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly. The Red Bulls were now first and second.
When the SC left the circuit at the end of lap 69, as Max powered away in P1, Hamilton immediately passed Gasly and tried to attack Alex into turn one. The Thai driver locked up but managed to hold on to P2.
Hamilton continued to probe and then when Alex took a wide line into turn ten Hamilton went for the gap. Alex, though was already closing the door and he was hit by the champion and sent into a spin that dropped him to P15. Hamilton recovered but Gasly was through to P2.
Ahead, Max was now out on his own in P1 and after 71 incredibly dramatic laps he crossed the line to take his eighth career win and the Team’s 62nd overall.
Behind him Gasly incredibly out-dragged Hamilton to keep P2, with just six hundredths of a second separating the pair. Hamilton, though, was placed under investigation over the collision with Alex and later received a five-second time penalty that dropped him to seventh place.
It means that Carlos Sainz took third for McLaren, with Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi fourth and fifth respectively for Alfa Romeo. Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for Renault ahead of Hamilton and the second McLaren of Lando Norris. Sergio Pérez finished ninth and the final point on offer went to the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.
8 – Career wins now for Max and his third of the season after wins in Austria and Germany.
62 – Max’s win brings the Team’s total to 62.
3 – Max is back into P3 in the Drivers’ standings with 260 points, 11 ahead of Charles Leclerc.
Brazil Grand Prix - Top 10:
- MAX VERSTAPPEN
- Pierre Gasly
- Carlos Sainz
- Kimi Räikkönen
- Antonio Giovinazzi
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Lewis Hamilton
- Lando Norris
- Sergio Perez
- Daniil Kvyat