Verstappen wins hectic Sao Paulo Sprint
By Mat Coch
Sunday 5th November, 2023 - 6:12am
Max Verstappen has won a hectic Sao Paulo F1 Sprint that witnessed no shortage of overtaking up and down the field.
Verstappen headed Lando Norris to the flag after 24 laps of racing by a comfortable four seconds.
However, it belied the battle behind which saw passing and repassing a plenty.
Daniel Ricciardo and Oscar Piastri were in the thick of the action, battling with Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso for much of the encounter.
As the Sprint started, Norris and Verstappen got an even jump off the line, the Red Bull driver getting the better second phase to draw alongside into Turn 1.
With the inside line, the Red Bull driver eased into the lead.
Midway around the lap, Norris was down to third as George Russell dived underneath at the hairpin.
The opening lap ended with Verstappen from Russell, Norris, Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, and Yuki Tsunoda in the points.
Perez dropped to fifth a lap later, Hamilton getting underneath the Red Bull into the opening corner.
The pair swapped back next time around, the Mexican using DRS before sweeping around the outside.
The battle continued as Hamilton looked around the outside at Turn 4, opening the door for Leclerc to look underneath.
However, with the inside line at Turn 6, the Mercedes driver held on to remain fifth.
Having dropped out of DRS range of the lead Red Bull, Russell fell behind Norris as they began Lap 5.
The Mercedes driver was slipping backwards as Perez got through into Turn 1 at the start of Lap 8.
Russell immediately launched a counterattack, using DRS down the back straight to regain third into Turn 4.
Perez finally cleared the Mercedes as they began Lap 11.
It was then the turn of Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo as they scrapped over the final points position.
The Australian used DRS to pull alongside into the first corner, but he ran deep, compromising him onto the back straight.
Sainz also had DRS and eased back by.
Two laps later, the Scuderia AlphaTauri swept around the outside of Turn 1, Sainz reclaiming the place once more down the back straight as Oscar Piastri bought into the battle.
The McLaren driver mugged his countryman at Turn 7 with an opportunistic move to take ninth.
Behind them, Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly engaged in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle for 11th.
Having seen off Ricciardo, Sainz had managed to spring clear, edging out of DRS range from Piastri behind.
Verstappen continued to lead from Norris, the gap between them hovering around two seconds as they pulled clear of Perez behind.
Then ran Russell and Hamilton from Leclerc who had Tsunoda for company, with a 3.5s gap to Sainz after 18 laps.
Piastri had slipped two seconds back from the Ferrari ahead, the McLaren driver hotly pursued by Ricciardo, Alonso, and Lance Stroll who’d despatched with Gasly.
At the start of Lap 21, Leclerc swept through on Hamilton, the Mercedes driver immediately vulnerable to Tsunoda into Turn 4.
The Scuderia AlphaTauri driver backed out of the move, having pulled halfway alongside the seven-time champion, as they both lived to fight another day.
Hamilton was struggling, however, as he quickly fell off the back of Leclerc before falling victim to Tsunoda along the front straight at the end of the lap.
Second later, Ricciardo regained ninth from Piastri in a similar move to that of his team-mate two places up the road.
Rear grip was at a premium as the soft tyres began to give up in the closing laps.
It mattered not to Verstappen who held on to win from Norris.
Perez maintained third from Russell then Leclerc, Tsunoda, and Hamilton, who’d just held on to the place from Sainz and Ricciardo.
Piastri held on to 10th from Alonso as they exchanged places on the last lap.