SAO PAULO GP – Max Verstappen takes another dominant seventeenth win of the season eight seconds ahead of Lando Norris

Testing & Race Reports

Max Verstappen put in another dominant win beating Lando Norris by eight seconds to win the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. The Dutchman looked unstoppable after the second start from where he controlled the race from the restart opening a second lead by the end of the first full lap of racing.

The Dutchman’s seventeenth win of the 2023 season was also his fifty-second in of his career moving him ahead of Alain Prost to go fourth in the all-time Grand Prix winners’ list, two more wins with two races to go would see him pass Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen was barely challenged after the opening ten laps.

The race had been stopped soon after the first start following a three-car crash at the first corner, Alex Albon clipping Kevin Magnussen who went into Haas teammate Nico Hulkenberg and Oscar Piastri. The debris led to the red flag and allowed McLaren to repair Piastri’s and Williams Albon’s car for the restart.

On the restart, Norris looked to challenge Verstappen but the three-time champion fended him off in the opening laps and soon pulled ahead and then controlled the race on his way to his seventeenth win of the season. The events of the opening lap and Charles Leclerc not starting, put Norris in the best place to challenge Verstappen.

While Norris attempted to close the gap, Verstappen simply responded by upping his pace and the two were then untroubled following the second stop. A slow second start for Fernando Alonso allowed Norris down the inside at the Senna S on the restart before the McLaren fended of Lewis Hamilton who got into third.

But Alonso would recover hanging on to third following a close battle with Sergio Perez, in the final stages of the race. The Aston Martin and Red Bull taking it to the final two laps, Perez had got passed Alonso sweeping around the outside through the Senna S taking third, but Alonso managed to stay with the Mexican.

Aston Martins’s return to form begs the question what this season could have been they slumped off following the summer break, but this weekend their form and a bit of luck has allowed them to have a double finish in the top five. Alonso scoring his first podium since Zandvoort in August.

The great battle continued as Verstappen crossed the line, the two-time champion lunging his way past Perez at the Curva do Sol taking third, finishing half a second ahead of Perez. Perez spilt the two Aston Martins with Lance Stroll putting in a decent result finishing fifth.

It was a thrilling fight between Perez and Alonso in the final quarter of the race both delivering hard and clean racing in the final quarter of the race. Stroll delivered a solid weekend having struggled to match Alonso all season, his best result since Melbourne back in March. Aston Martin delivering some of that stronger form they had at the start of the season.

Verstappen, who has won a record seventeen races this season, said, “The starts were very important today, both of them I think were very good and after that the whole was just about management of the tyres. We were good on any tyre but I think especially in that middle stint we could create a bit of a gap and I thought that was very strong there.”

Norris, who finished second added, “Very good [race], couldn’t have gone much better to be honest. Good pace, similar to yesterday which is the main thing and a much better start in beginning to get from sixth to second which was a nice surprise.

Alonso said, “For me, it felt like thirty laps that I had the pressure from Checo but when he past me two laps to the end I thought this isn’t possible anymore but he braked too late in Turn One and I said OK I go for it.”

Verstappen who wrapped up his third title in the sprint in Qatar further extended his lead by two hundred and sixty-six points over teammate Perez, while the Mexican increased his lead to thirty-two points in his battle with Hamilton for second.

Red Bull also have sealed the constructors increasing their lead to four hundred points over Mercedes. But the tough weekend for Mercedes has allowed Ferrari to slightly close the gap to twenty points in the battle for second.

Carlos Sainz was sixth finishing ahead of Pierre Gasly, Sainz’s teammate Leclerc who missed out on the pole on Friday failed to start the race crashing out because of a hydraulic failure on the formation lap.

Sainz was six seconds ahead of Gasly who spent much of the second half of the race managing a brake issue, after gaining places early on. Leclerc bemoaned after being due to start on the front row, “why am I so unlucky” as he hit the barriers.

He said, “When I lost the steering wheel. I went straight because I had no hydraulics anymore. I don’t think it’s a hydraulics problem. I know what it is but I cannot go into too much detail. Then there was an engine thing that made me lock the rear wheels then obviously I spun and hit the wall. I couldn’t do anything.”

Last year’s winners Mercedes looked to struggle with tyre deg with left Hamilton dropping down to eighth, and George Russell ninth before retiring. The black arrows race unravelled immediately, while at the first start Hamilton gained three places, come the restart like the move on Perez in the closing stages, Alonso swept around the outside on the open lap at Descida do Lago and took third. Hamilton would during the first stint lose out to Perez.

Then until his teammate George Russell retired with twenty-two laps to go, spent most of the race battling each other, before Mercedes issues with tyre deg saw both overtaken in the second stint by Sainz and Gasly. Yuki Tsunoda was ninth the Alpha Tauri the final car on the lead lap, ahead of Esteban Ocon as he took the final point.

Mercedes faced questions once again, Hamilton was second last weekend in Mexico City giving him hope of fighting for a win. But in both the sprint and Grand Prix, struggled for pace allowing others to pass and had had high tyre wear making it hard for them to reach their stint lengths.

At one stage, Russell was behind Hamilton and asking to be let by because he was faster, but as the race progressed, he dropped back and was eventually called into the pits to retire because of power-unit overheating, with the team saying it was on the point of imminent failure.

Hamilton had also complained about his car in dirty air, but it could show how evenly matched and what a potential championship battle could be between the two Englishmen could be.

CEO and team principal Toto Wolff said, “Inexcusable performance, I don’t have words for that. That car finished second last week and whatever we did to it was horrible, Lewis survived out there, I can only feel for the two driving such a miserable thing.”

Logan Sargeant finished ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, and Piastri was the final classified finisher. He spent the whole race a lap down after being caught in the opening corner shunt between Albon and Magnussen.

Albon’s rear-left was clipped by Nico Hulkenberg’s front wing as the field compressed into the first corner, which pitched the Williams into Magnussen’s flank. While both Aussies took the restart they were both effectively out of the battle for points as they were both a lap down.


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