Max Verstappen secured his 17th win in a record-breaking season on Sunday, resisting early pressure from Lando Norris to triumph in an accident and incident-hit Sao Paulo Grand Prix. Red Bull’s three-time world champion came home 8.277 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Norris on a sunlit afternoon at a packed Interlagos circuit. Behind them, Fernando Alonso snatched third for Aston Martin by just 0.053 seconds from Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.
Alonso and Perez provided a thrilling finale as they battled through the final laps before the Spaniard regained the podium position and held the Mexican at bay as they roared across the line.
Lance Stroll finished fifth in the second Aston Martin ahead of Carlos Sainz of Ferrari, whose team-mate Charles Leclerc crashed out on the formation lap, and Pierre Gasly of Alpine.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finished eighth for Mercedes after a race-long survival battle against degrading tyres ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine.
For Verstappen, it was his 52nd career win, lifting him one clear of four-time champion Alain Prost on the list of all-time winners.
“It was really good,” said Verstappen. “A well-executed race by the team, perfect pit-stops and well done I think. I had two good starts which was very important and then managed the tyres.”
For Norris it was a seventh podium this year and 13th of his career, the most by any driver without recording a victory.
“I couldn’t have done any better,” Norris said. “P2 is as good as it gets nowadays. So, I’m happy with that. Max always had an answer.”
Alonso held off Perez after the two swapped places twice in the closing laps.
“It was like 30 laps of pressure from Checo! When he passed me two laps from the end, I thought a podium was not possible and it was gone, but I got it back,” said the Spaniard.
After the extreme weather of Friday and Saturday, the race began in moderate conditions with a track temperature of 46 degrees and the air at 23 as Verstappen took the lead from his 11th pole of the year.
‘Why am I so unlucky?’
By then, the luckless Leclerc was already out. He lost hydraulics on the formation lap, smacking into the barriers and damaging his front wing.
“Why am I so unlucky?” he asked.
Without a front-row rival, Verstappen powered away but a collision involving Williams’ Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen of Haas brought a red flag.
Both drivers escaped injury.
Replays suggested Albon hit both Haas cars, of Nico Hulkenberg and Magnussen, who in turn hit the rear wing of Oscar Piastri’s McLaren.
In the chaos, a tyre snapped off Hulkenberg’s Haas and bounced onto Daniel Ricciardo’s Alpha Tauri.
After a 30-minute delay, the race restarted with Piastri and Ricciardo setting off from the pit-lane following repairs. Verstappen streaked clear again.
Norris resisted a Hamilton attack and Alonso used slipstream to profit and pass the Mercedes man who fell to fourth ahead of team-mate Russell.
Following team advice, Hamilton was preserving his tyres — to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s sprint race debacle. He could not hold off Perez on lap 19 and then pitted, swapping his softs for mediums.
The leading duo pitted together on lap 27 and rejoined with Verstappen 4.7 seconds clear of Norris and Alonso, who also pitted, third.
By mid-distance, it was clear Mercedes were struggling and Sainz swept past both for sixth, as Verstappen built his lead.
Russell began the second round of stops when he pitted again for used softs, on lap 46 and Hamilton on lap 47, before Russell retired with engine heating problems.
Verstappen waited until lap 57, gifting the lead to Norris until he too pitted on lap 60, leaving Alonso to deliver the final thrills.