Verstappen Survives Chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen (33) on his way to victory Sunday in Brazil. (Steve Etherington Photo)
Max Verstappen (33) on his way to victory Sunday in Brazil. (Steve Etherington Photo)

SAO PAULO, Brazil – One year after a heartbreaking loss in the Brazilian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen returned to Autódromo José Carlos Pace with retribution on his mind.

The Red Bull driver delivered in spades, surviving two late-race restarts to earn his third Formula One triumph of the season as chaos reigned behind him.

Verstappen dominated the race at the front of the field, leading 58 of 71 laps and only really giving up the lead during pit stops. Things took an interesting turn on lap 52, when the engine in Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes gave up and he parked his car off track, requiring a safety car to collect and remove it.

Verstappen, seeing an opportunity for fresh tires, hit the pits and emerged in second behind Lewis Hamilton. The lead change proved to be momentary as Verstappen blew by Hamilton going into turn one when the race resumed.

It wasn’t long after that things took a dramatic turn. It started with the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, who made slight contact while battling for fourth position. The contact proved costly, as Vettel cut down a rear tire and Leclerc’s front suspension failed, ending the race for both men.

With debris all over the track, the safety car was deployed again. Hamilton took the opportunity to pit for fresh tires, but he emerged in fourth behind Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon.

Racing resumed again with three laps left and Hamilton made quick work of Gasly and then went to work on Albon for second. In turn 10 Albon left a gap and Hamilton went for it, but instead made contact with Albon, who went spinning as he watched his first podium finish go down the drain.

The contact opened the door for Gasly to slip back by Hamilton and into second. Hamilton was able to get back going again and hunt down Gasly, with the pair going side-by-side to the checkers. Gasly won the battle, finishing second to score his first podium finish in Formula One.

All of that happened well behind Verstappen, who finished more than six seconds ahead of the battle for second.

Hamilton crossed the line in third, but the stewards made sure that position didn’t stand for very long. Hamilton was penalized five seconds for the incident with Albon, dropping him from third to seventh.

That elevated McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr. to his first podium finish in third, McLaren’s first podium finish since Australia in 2014. Sainz started the day from last after failing to turn a lap in qualifying.

Kimi Raikkonen was scored fourth at the checkers ahead of his Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi. Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for Renault, followed by the penalized Hamilton, Lando Norris, Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat.