Hamilton wins in Brazil after miracle weekend turnaround
- Hamilton takes 101st F1 win in one of the great comeback drives
- Seven-time champion narrows Max Verstappen’s points lead to 14
- Title duo go wheel-to-wheel yet again
Lewis Hamilton completed a stunning weekend turnaround by winning the Sao Paulo Grand Prix at Interlagos from 10th on the grid.
The Mercedes driver had been the fastest contender all weekend at the classic Brazilian venue, but a series of penalties looked set to deny him the chance to take advantage of his speed.
He set the fastest time in qualifying on Friday afternoon, giving him a front of the grid starting position for Saturday’s Sprint qualifying race, which determined the grid for the main Sunday Grand Prix.
But after an overnight deliberation by the stewards, Hamilton was sent to the back of the 20 car grid for the Sprint, after his DRS overtaking device was found to be 0.2 millimetres bigger than the rules permitted.
Desperate for vengeance, the multiple record-holder blasted past 15 cars to claim fifth after just 24 laps of racing.
That should have given him fifth on the grid for the Grand Prix, but heading into the weekend his Mercedes team opted to install a new engine into Hamilton’s car, necessitating a five place grid drop for the main race.
Bottas had won the Sprint from pole, giving him the same position for the start of the Grand Prix, but Verstappen from second on the grid found his way past at the first corner, with his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez following through into second place just a couple of corners later, in a dream start for the team.
Hamilton from 10th repeated his Sprint form to climb to sixth at the end of the first lap of racing, made short work of the two Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, before Bottas let him past into third without fuss at the start of lap five.
A safety car period to clear away debris following a clash between Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll allowed Hamilton to close right up to the Red Bull duo.
Hamilton made his first move on Perez on lap 17, going around the outside of the first corner. But that allowed Perez to get into his slipstream down the following straight and the Mexican retook the position at turn four.
Unperturbed, Hamilton tried again on the next lap, with an almost mirror image move at the first corner, but this time doing enough to keep ahead of Perez on the run to turn four.
By now, Verstappen was 3.7 ahead, and Hamilton’s progress was slow initially, unable to make serious inroads into the Dutchman’s lead. Instead, Mercedes pitted Hamilton on lap 27 to give the seven time champion a fresh set of tyres.
Verstappen pitted a lap later as his Red Bull team attempted to negate Mercedes’ advantage, but even so, Hamilton had got to within 1.2 seconds of his title rival when a virtual safety car was deployed to clear up more debris, this time from Stroll.
Under the caution period, Bottas pitted and moved ahead of Perez for third, giving Mercedes a crucial extra few points in the battle for the Constructors’ championship.
Verstappen was the first of the championship contenders to pit for the second time, stopping on lap 41, while Bottas pitted again next time around, with Perez following suit a lap later.
Hamilton stopped three laps later than Verstappen, and this time unleashed some prodigious pace. He lapped eight tenths of a second quicker than the championship leader on lap 45 and was within DRS range a couple of laps later.
In a highly controversial moment, Hamilton got a big slipstream from Verstappen on the run down to turn four and was ahead in the braking zone. But the Red Bull driver edged the pair of them off the road, and held his lead. The move was investigated by the stewards but ultimately no further action was deemed necessary by the stewards, to the fury of the Mercedes staff on the pit wall.
It took 10 further laps for Hamilton to get back within striking range, and got in the slipstream again on the run to turn four. This time, Verstappen opted to weave down the straight, with Hamilton opting against a move, while Verstappen was shown the black and white flag for dangerous driving.
A lap later though, and Hamilton was even closer on the flat out blast to turn one, forcing Verstappen to defend and compromise his line through the first three turns. That gave Hamilton the perfect run down the straight to turn four, and drew alongside halfway down it, completing the move before the pair reached the braking zone.
This time Verstappen had no answer, as Hamilton pulled away with ease, taking the chequered flag over 10 seconds clear to close the gap to Verstappen down to 14 points with just three races remaining.
Verstappen finished just three seconds ahead of Bottas, with the Finnish driver’s points extending Mercedes’ lead in the Constructors’ standings, with Perez finishing fourth and a long way back. He was pitted near the end for new tyres and to steal the fastest lap point away from Hamilton.
Ferrari pair Leclerc and Sainz were fifth and sixth ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.
British driver Lando Norris salvaged the final point in 10th despite picking up a puncture at the first corner of the race after banging wheels with Sainz.
The next race of the season, the first ever event in Qatar, comes next weekend.
Richard Randle is a motorsport PR professional working with the UK’s top racing circuits and the UK’s premier single-seater category, the BRDC British F3 Championship.