Verstappen signs off his championship-winning season with race win

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen signs off his successful championship with victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He finished ahead of Charles Leclerc and George Russell.

At the start, Leclerc made a better getaway than polesitter Verstappen and was fully alongside the outside of the Red Bull at the first corner, but the world champion swept around the Ferrari to maintain the lead.

The same thing played out at Turn 5 at the end of the Yas Marina track’s long back straight before a third time Leclerc was able to move within Verstappen but had to move to the outside of the Turn 9 hairpin at the end of the second long acceleration zone.

Verstappen then dropped Leclerc by enough to move out of DRS threat, which left the Ferrari under more pressure from the battling McLaren pair behind.

Initially, Oscar Piastri headed Lando Norris – the McLaren driver having jumped George Russell through the race’s opening corners – before Norris moved ahead on lap four of 58.

A long DRS train ran back from the leaders through the early laps, before gaps began to appear as Leclerc pegged Verstappen’s lead around the 1.5 second-mark and Piastri fell back from Norris.

As the lap count moved into double figures, Norris could not match the pace at the front in the mid-one minute, 30 seconds, with Leclerc still just over a second behind Verstappen as they nursed the medium tyres they had all started on through the opening stint in what was a thermal degradation, tyre management affair.

Although Verstappen complained his front tyres were “getting hurt a bit”, it was Leclerc who fell back as the pitstops approached – kicked off for the frontrunners when Piastri, Norris and Russell stopped on laps 13 and 14.

Verstappen came in at the end of lap 16 with a 2.0 seconds lead to switch to hards, which was nearly doubled thanks to the undercut’s power when Leclerc rejoined on the same compound one tour later.

Ferrari initially had to be more concerned about Russell’s threat on warmed hards after he had jumped Norris in the pits thanks to a slow left-rear change on the McLaren having got ahead of Piastri shortly before the stops.

But Leclerc was soon pulling clear and the leaders made their way through the cars that had yet to stop after starting on the hards, including Carlos Sainz, who offered no defence when Verstappen came up behind him with DRS down the back straight.

By lap 23 Verstappen was back at the front after AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda had been the last medium-starter to pit and led for a chunk, with Verstappen’s lead at this stage over Leclerc now up to 4.5 seconds.

This reached 6.4 seconds by the start of lap 30, with Russell still keeping Leclerc honest under two seconds behind in third, with Verstappen alone able to regularly lap in the low one minute, 29 seconds now on the more durable compound of the two main race tyres.

At the front, as night rolled in over Yas Island, little happened beyond Verstappen extending his lead over eight seconds before Norris stopping at the end of lap 33 for more hards.

Russell and then Leclerc stopped over the subsequent two laps to avoid being undercut, while Red Bull left Verstappen out along with Perez.

He had carved his way up from starting ninth to running just behind Norris before the McLaren came in for a second time, with Perez eventually coming in at the end of lap 42 and rejoining a net fifth and three seconds behind Norris.

Verstappen, who had instructed Red Bull to consider pitting his teammate first, duly came in one lap later – his lead now the two-stop strategy had played out down to 5.5 seconds but the world champion instead gaining a bit tyre-life offset to Leclerc.

He brought this to bear immediately in his third stint – pulling away with a fastest lap in the high one minute, 26 seconds and then a string of times in the one minute, 27 seconds that Leclerc could not match.

Verstappen’s final winning margin was 17.9 seconds and in controlling this event as he did, he achieved over 1,000 laps led in 2023.

Perez was the main focus of the final stint as he battled Norris – but in controversial circumstances, as they collided at Turn 6 on lap 47 in what was a low-speed clash well away from the apex where each driver blamed the other.

The next time by at the same spot, Perez got Norris to move up to fourth, but Checo was soon handed a five-second time addition for causing the clash in the eyes’ of the stewards.

But an intriguing off-track controversy was also brewing by this stage, as first Lewis Hamilton then Pierre Gasly in the pack behind were announced as being under investigation for an infringement at their final stops.

An FIA spokesperson announced this related to mechanics possibly not wearing required eye protection during the services, with Verstappen, Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu also facing similar investigations post-race.

As the closing stages commenced, Perez closed up to Russell’s rear and passed him with a DRS-assisted dive to Turn 9’s inside on lap 54.

Perez then shot after Leclerc but with Russell able to stay just close enough behind, Leclerc’s late decision to try and boost a driver he knew would fall back once the chequered flag fell by pulling over ahead of the Turn 5 chicane and then chasing Perez home ended up being a complicated tactic that did not come off.

In the end, Russell being boosted back to third by Perez’s penalty meant Mercedes ended three points ahead of Ferrari in the constructors’ standings, with the latter’s tactic of leaving Sainz out on effective one-stopper hoping for a late safety car backfiring when this did not appear.

After a last-gasp stop for softs, Sainz was retired in the pits in a race where all the other cars went the full distance bar the lapped Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen right at the back.

So not the most thrilling race at Yas Marina and yet in terms of victories, Max Verstappen ended his championship-winning season by coming first. Charles Leclerc finished in second while George Russell took third and that was enough for the Mercedes team to take the runners up place in the constructors’ standings.

Hopefully next year, we will have closer competition as Red Bull and Max Verstappen dominated with so much success.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:27:02.624
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +17.993s
3 George Russell Mercedes +20.328s
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull +21.453s
5 Lando Norris McLaren +24.284s
6 Oscar Piastri McLaren +31.487s
7 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +39.512s
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +43.088s
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +44.424s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +55.632s
11 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +56.229s
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine +66.373s
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine +70.360s
14 Alexander Albon Williams +73.184s
15 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +83.696s
16 Logan Sargeant Williams +87.791s
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +89.422s
18 Carlos Sainz Ferrari DNF
19 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1 lap
20 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap

Verstappen takes Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pole

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen signed off his qualifying performance this season by taking his usual spot – pole position. The Red Bull driver finished ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren driver Oscar Piastri.

In a final qualifying session where the soft tyres were good for just a single flying lap – unlike the multiple fliers seen in Las Vegas – Lewis Hamilton was knocked out in Q2 for Mercedes while Carlos Sainz suffered from traffic to get eliminated in Q1.

In Q3, Verstappen put in time of one minute, 23.445 seconds on his first of two runs, with the 2023 title winner well clear of the rest at this stage as he was the only one to use new tyres.

On the second runs, Verstappen ran at the rear of the group of leaders to this point, but was unable to improve his time.

The others did, but not by enough, with Charles Leclerc going from just over a second off after the first Q3 runs to shoot up to second on his final attempt – ending up 0.139 seconds to the Red Bull driver.

Piastri took third ahead of George Russell, who climbed the order with Q3’s quickest time in the final sector to rise to fourth position.

Lando Norris had looked like Verstappen’s biggest challenger but he made a mistake with the new tyres right at the end due to a massive sideways moment at Turn 13 which cost the McLaren driver 0.4 seconds in the lap’s final third sector alone.

Then came Yuki Tsunoda, Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg, while Pierre Gasly rounded out the top ten.

Sergio Perez’s final lap was good enough for sixth but he lost it for running too wide out of Turn 1, where he had had a wild sideways moment on the first Q3 attempts. So time was deleted and will start in P9 instead.

Verstappen progressed Q2 with just a single run on new softs, while the rest took a sighter on used softs at the start of the middle segment.

Come the end with everybody bar Verstappen out on new softs, Russell’s improvement eliminated his Mercedes teammate Hamilton, who complained on his way back to the pits, “There’s something wrong with this car”.

Then came Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo, with Albon having run off-set for his second run and completed his final flier well ahead of the rest – just as Williams had done at the end of the opening segment.

In Q1, where the entire field was covered by one-second, Perez’s last-gasp effort moved him through in second behind Verstappen, knocking out Carlos Sainz along with Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant.

The first four completed personal best efforts on their second and final fliers, with Sainz complaining about traffic impacting his last run, but Sargeant lost both his Q1 times for running beyond track limits at Turn 1.

His best of those two laps was his first, but that still would not have been fast enough to progress.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in taking pole at Yas Marina. Earlier, the Red Bull driver was struggling to find a right setup after a tricky final practice session. But the team figured it out and the world champion delivered the result with P1. Kudos.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:23.445
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23.584
3 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:23.782
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:23.788
5 Lando Norris McLaren 1:23.816
6 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:23.968
7 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:24.084
8 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:24.108
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:24.171
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:24.548
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.359
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:24.391
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:24.422
14 Alexander Albon Williams 1:24.439
15 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:24.442
16 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:24.738
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:24.764
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:24.788
19 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:25.159
20 Logan Sargeant Williams No time

Verstappen is victorious at Las Vegas

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen brushed off the time penalty and car damage to score big at Sin City – winning the Las Vegas Grand Prix from Charles Leclerc, who passed Sergio Perez on the final lap.

Verstappen overcame a five-second time penalty for clashing with Leclerc on the first lap and had to drive around with front wing damage picked up in another incident with Mercedes driver George Russell.

Leclerc showed Ferrari’s race pace potential was true, but was ultimately undone by the second of two safety cars losing a tyre advantage he had over Verstappen and with the caution period it helped Perez recover from picking up front wing damage in a Turn 1 chaos.

At the start, polesitter Leclerc found Verstappen quickly alongside him but when they arrived at the Turn 1 hairpin the Red Bull ran the Ferrari to the edge of the track and off, each soon arguing that they had their front axles ahead at the apex per the racing rules of engagement since early 2022.

In the pack behind, Fernando Alonso spun solo on the low-grip surface and got hit by Valtteri Bottas, who in turn was struck by Perez, with Carlos Sainz understeering into Lewis Hamilton.

The ensuing debris left behind meant the virtual safety car was activated at the end of lap one of 50, with Verstappen already over a second clear anyway.

His gap was up to 1.6 seconds when the race went back to green flag racing conditions at the start of lap three, which did not last long as Lando Norris – having made good gains in the early chaos from his lowly grid spot – crashed hard at Turn 12.

He had actually lost the rear of his McLaren following teammate Oscar Piastri in the previous corner and when things snapped suddenly sideways Norris could not catch it back up again on the slippery surface and he slammed rearwards into the Turn 11 exit wall and then shot down the track to the barriers well behind Turn 12 – nearly collecting Piastri as he did so.

The safety car was called out as Norris climbed out of his broken car, with the caution period lasting until the start of lap seven.

Verstappen was already out of DRS threat by this point as he had dropped Leclerc just before Turn 14 at the end of the long Strip straight, then braked for the right-hander, which Leclerc called “dangerous”.

At the start of lap nine when Verstappen’s lead had reached 2.0 seconds with his pace in the early laps, the race stewards determined he was at fault for the Turn 1 incident with Leclerc and handed him a five-second penalty.

Red Bull told the world champion to concentrate on extending his gap to above the penalty duration before his first pitstop, to which he replied his team could, “give them [the stewards] my regards”.

But Leclerc pressed on reducing the gap to the leader and reversing any gains Verstappen made.

Approaching lap 16, Verstappen’s pace dropped as his tyres degraded, which meant Leclerc got DRS on the following tour and used it to pass Verstappen into Turn 14 – just after Red Bull had told its charge he would be pitting.

Verstappen came in and served his penalty before switching the mediums he and Leclerc had started on for hards – the whole service lasting 7.7 seconds and with Verstappen rejoining back in the pack and even behind Russell, who had stopped a few laps earlier.

Ferrari initially left Leclerc out to build a gap while Verstappen lost more time fighting slower rivals and getting through the hard tyre’s tricky warm-up phase before Leclerc finally pitted at the end of lap 21.

He rejoined in third position – behind Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Perez, who had both gained stopping after the lap one chaos and early safety car.

Leclerc took a few laps to make sure he did not overstress his new hards – fitted at a pitstop that ran at least a second long due to a slow right front change – then he charged down and passed Stroll into Turn 14 on lap 25.

A little further behind, Verstappen and Russell, who had both been making progress in the pack back towards their previous positions, clashed when Verstappen dived to the inside of Turn 13 and Russell turned in.

The contact smashed Verstappen’s right front endplate and Russell’s left-hand side, with the debris left on the track requiring another safety car to clear up.

Red Bull pitted to net leader Perez and Verstappen for more hards, while Leclerc was left out again and his previous tyre off-set was gone at that moment.

When the race restarted on lap 29 – just before which Russell was handed a five-second penalty for the Verstappen contact – Leclerc dropped Perez nicely but was soon under pressure.

As Verstappen worked his way by Pierre Gasly and another second safety car non-stopper Piastri, Perez closed in and passed Leclerc for the lead into Turn 14 on lap 32 after initially unable to get by the Ferrari with DRS the first time.

But Leclerc was able to stay with Perez even as Verstappen roared up behind him – the Ferrari driver attacking at Turn 14 and surprising Perez to retake the lead on lap 35 at Turn 14.

Verstappen then demoted his teammate at the same place on the following lap, then immediately on lap 37 he retook the lead with a DRS blast down the Strip and then sealed the position at Turn 14’s apex after Leclerc had come off the brakes and tried to make a fight of it.

Leclerc again initially stayed with Verstappen, with Red Bull urging the leader to find a way to break the tow to his pursuer, with Perez unable to pass Leclerc again despite his tyre advantage thanks to the Ferrari’s smaller, lower-downforce rear wing.

Verstappen’s superior pace in the low-one minute, 36 seconds did get him clear of immediate threat from Leclerc as the race entered its final laps, before on lap 43 Leclerc outbraked himself at Turn 13 and went very deep.

Perez shot through and from there the top three ran Verstappen shot clear, with Leclerc re-catching Perez and pursuing the Red Bull over the final laps.

On the last lap, with Verstappen having dropped back from a nearly five-second advantage to just over two to try and help Perez with a long-distance slipstream at Red Bull’s request, Leclerc made a surprise dive at Turn 14.

He got alongside Perez late and stole second at the apex, then defended from Perez coming back at the final corner, ending up 2.0 seconds behind Verstappen.

Russell charged back to fourth on the road with a series of late passes – including a move into Turn 14 on Esteban Ocon on the last lap – but his penalty dropped him to eighth in the final results.

Ocon, who had battled by teammate Gasly a few laps after the second safety car in a tough but fair intra-Alpine scrap, therefore got fourth back, with Stroll fading only to fifth after his earlier gains – the Aston Martin driver like Perez also making use of a stop under the second safety car.

Sainz recovered from his Turn 1 contact, damage and first stop under the VSC to finish sixth, with Hamilton ending seventh having had a bruising race that included contact with Piastri in the midfield action just before the first round of pitstops.

Alonso also battled back to finish ninth on an effective one-stopper after his lap-one incident and pitstop later on that tour, while Piastri came home in the final points-paying position.

He dropped back from his late high position behind the leaders as he was on a two-stopper and did not gain from stopping under either safety car, while Gasly dropped back himself as he appeared to not be able to make the one-stopper work as well as Ocon.

Yuki Tsunoda and Nico Hulkenberg were late non-finishers as they both pulled off in the Turn 14 runoff with technical problems in the closing laps.

So after all the pre-race hype leading up to this event, the actual racing at Las Vegas was quite good. The DRS on the Strip provided the most action and entertainment. So good job Sin City.

Congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning the race despite penalty and damage to his car. He was so fast and fight through to take another victory. As for Charles Leclerc, was a shame not to finish first but his final lap overtake was spectacular. Sergio Perez might have lost out on P2 in the end but he finished second in the drivers’ championship so that is a solid result.

Las Vegas Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:29:08.289
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +2.070s
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull +2.241s
4 Esteban Ocon Alpine +18.665s
5 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +20.067s
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +20.834s
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +21.755s
8 George Russell Mercedes +23.091s
9 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +25.964s
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren +29.496s
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine +34.270s
12 Alexander Albon Williams +43.398s
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas +44.825s
14 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +48.525s
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +50.1620
16 Logan Sargeant Williams +50.882s
17 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +85.350s
18 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri DNF
19 Nico Hulkenberg Haas DNF
Lando Norris McLaren DNF

Leclerc scores big with pole at Las Vegas

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc scored big at Sin City by taking pole position for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, edging out his teammate Carlos Sainz and two-time world champion Max Verstappen.

Leclerc led all three segments of qualifying, which featured Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and both McLarens being knocked out≠.

In the first two segments, the cars completed multiple runs on the same set of softs to build temperature and gain grip on the slippery, and cold track surface, but in Q3 the frontrunners completed typical single-lap efforts.

After Leclerc had established provisional pole with a time of one minute, 33.021 seconds first lap in Q3, Sainz went in a different direction with two warm-up laps for his second go, which meant Leclerc and Verstappen would set their laps ahead of him even as they left the pits late on to try and catch the best of the dramatic track evolution factor here.

But the one-lap efforts did not produce the usual excitement as the tyres did not fire up – as widely expected – with Leclerc able to improve best being slower than his personal best in sector one and Verstappen aborting his second Q3 attempt as he was unable to gain any time in the opening two sectors.

Leclerc stayed on it and eventually found enough tyre temperature to improve to a one minute, 32.726 seconds, which was still barely quicker than he went in Q2.

Sainz’s alternative approach also paid off as he went faster and maintained the second position he had taken on the first Q3 attempts, but he will drop to P12 for the race as a result of his controversial penalty for taking a new battery following his FP1 water valve cover strike.

Behind Verstappen, efforts coming in during Q3’s final moments put Pierre Gasly and Williams pair Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant into sixth and seventh – Gasly and Albon unable to displace George Russell from fourth after he had completed his final Q3 run just ahead of them.

Valtteri Bottas took eighth ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso.

In Q2, which the Ferrari drivers started on used softs before switching to a fresh tyres, while Verstappen waited to just complete a later stint on new softs, ended with late improvements for Albon and Gasly knocking out Hamilton.

These gains also eliminated Sergio Perez, the Red Bull having been wheeled back into its garage with over two minutes of the session remaining and Perez already sitting down in sixth and with just a 0.4 seconds margin to P11.

Also knocked out in Q2 were Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo.

In Q1, Stroll’s last-gasp improvement knocked out Lando Norris in P16, ahead of Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, Oscar Piastri and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

Stroll faces a post-qualifying investigation for possibly failing to slow under yellow flags brought out to cover Tsunoda’s Turn 5 off late in Q1, with the Aston Martin driver already set to drop five positions for the race overtaking under yellows in FP3.

Hamilton, Russell, Albon, Zhou, Gasly and Bottas also have to explain to the stewards why they were clocked going too slowly at stages in Q1 – part of the attempt brought in since Monza to reduce traffic issues in qualifying but has typically always ended with drivers in question only being handed warnings.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc on scoring big at Las Vegas with this pole. The Ferrari looked quick around the street circuit. Lets see if Charles can win a race on Sunday.

Las Vegas Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:32.726
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:33.104
3 George Russell Mercedes 1:33.112
4 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:33.239
5 Alexander Albon Williams 1:33.323
6 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:33.513
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:33.525
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:33.537
9 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:33.555
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.837
11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:33.855
12 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:32.770*
13 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:33.979
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:34.504
15 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:34.308
16 Lando Norris McLaren 1:34.703
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:34.834
18 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:34.849
19 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:34.850
20 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:36.447
*Ten-place grid penalty for battery change

Verstappen scores his 17th win in Brazil

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen achieved his 17th win of the 2023 Formula 1 season with victory at Interlagos, beating Lando Norris’s early challenge for the lead.

The triple world champion had been able to successfully convert pole position into a win to double up on his sprint race triumph from Saturday, fending off Norris once again in an initially close-fought contest that eventually led to the two drivers diverging.

Verstappen was barely troubled beyond the opening ten laps and, despite a Norris fightback towards the end as the McLaren driver had opted for a strategy offset in the final stint, had enough in hand to cross the finish line with an 8.2 seconds advantage.

Although Norris was only sixth on the grid, the McLaren driver moved into contention with two key moments on either side of the start: first, Charles Leclerc had suffered a hydraulic issue on the formation lap and hit the wall at Ferradura, which ended his race before it had even begun.

This opened up a grid space on the front row, which Norris moved into as the slow-starting Fernando Alonso ahead offered a prime opportunity to break down the inside into the first corner and collect second, as Lewis Hamilton rounded both Aston Martins on the outside to slot in behind.

The race was red-flagged thanks to a crash between Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen at the first corner, and Norris crucially held off Hamilton at the restart to ensure he retained second place.

Norris began to put Verstappen under scrutiny over the next three tours and harried him on the eighth lap, when he attempted to prise open a gap on the outside of the first corner.

He followed that up with a look at Turn 4, but this was countered by Verstappen and the McLaren driver subsequently had to back off having taken a big chunk of life out of his tyres.

The gap between the leaders soon opened to over two seconds as Norris struggled to get back on level terms, with the arrears continuing to increase as Verstappen had the pace advantage.

Both drivers pitted on lap 27 with their delta now at 3.6 seconds, but Norris lost a second through his spell in the pitlane to add to Verstappen’s buffer.

Norris kept Verstappen in check over the middle stint, initially keeping the gap at around five seconds, but after half distance, the difference between the two cars became more apparent and Verstappen was approximately eight seconds to the good when he stopped on lap 56 for a second time.

After pitting three laps later, Norris was 14 seconds behind as Verstappen benefitted from the undercut, but the McLaren driver reduced away the lead and managed it down to just over eight seconds by the chequered flag.

Alonso beat Sergio Perez to third place having come under sustained pressure from the Red Bull in the final stint for a podium position, overturning a penultimate-lap overtake on the final lap and crossing the line with just 0.053 seconds in hand.

The Aston Martin driver had kept ahead of Perez over the previous two stints with apparent ease, but it was Checo who had the greater speed on the soft tyres at the end.

Alonso was forced into taking a series of different lines to keep Perez from gaining the better traction through Turn 8 and Turn 13, and managed to resist despite the threat of DRS.

But Perez managed to collect himself and powered through into the first corner on lap 70, and held off any threat through the Turn 4 braking zone at the bottom of the hill.

To respond, Alonso stayed on Perez’s gearbox throughout the rest of the lap and used the start-finish straight to draw close, capping off the overtake with a last-lap pass around the outside at Turn 4. Despite Perez’s greater pace with DRS at the very end, Alonso had just enough to complete the top three.

Lance Stroll managed his best finish since the Australian Grand Prix to take fifth position as Aston Martin appeared to be in much stronger form over the Brazil weekend, as Carlos Sainz overcame late-race downshift issues to complete the top six.

Sainz had been able to work his way past the Mercedes pair on his way to sixth and, thanks to Leclerc’s failure to start the race, was the only remaining Ferrari over the Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver was six seconds clear of an impressive Pierre Gasly, who had to deal with braking worries on his route to seventh having been upwardly mobile throughout the opening half of the race.

Lewis Hamilton’s eighth-place finish summed up a disappointing weekend for Mercedes as a high-drag car and inability to find a competitive method of managing tyres left to a drop through the order.

He had been fighting with teammate George Russell for most of the race, but last year’s winner was called in to retire with rising oil tempertunes.

Yuki Tsunoda claimed ninth position, while Esteban Ocon made a three-stop strategy work to claim the final point available.

Logan Sargeant finished ahead of Nico Hulkenberg outside of the points, as Daniel Ricciardo and Oscar Piastri spent effectively the whole race a lap down after being caught up in the start incident 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.

The incident caused rear wing damage to both Piastri and Ricciardo; Piastri was hit by Magnussen, while the loose tyre liberated from Albon’s car in the clash hit Ricciardo’s rear wing. Both were set to retire, but the red flag offered the respective teams the opportunity to fix the issues.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning the Brazil Grand Prix race. This was an impressive drive in the Red Bull.

Brazil Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:26:07.136
2 Lando Norris McLaren +8.277s
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +34.155s
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull +34.208s
5 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +40.845s
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +50.188s
7 Pierre Gasly Alpine +56.093s
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +62.859s
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +69.880s
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap
11 Logan Sargeant Williams +1 lap
12 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1 lap
13 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +1 lap
14 Oscar Piastri McLaren +2 laps
George Russell Mercedes DNF
Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo DNF
Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo DNF
Charles Leclerc Ferrari DNF
Kevin Magnussen Haas DNF
Alexander Albon Williams DNF

Verstappen takes sprint victory in Brazil

It was a fast and entertaining sprint race at Interlagos and yet it was Max Verstappen who took victory. The Red Bull driver grabbed the lead from Lando Norris into Turn 1 on the first lap.

Verstappen grabbed a much stronger launch off the start line when the five red lights went out, and took advantage of a passive Norris to thread his RB19 down the inside.

The threat of Norris subsided quickly when the McLaren was dispatched by George Russell at Turn 11, as the Mercedes pounced on a gap to move into second position.

But Russell could not get near Verstappen and the three-time champion was given the opportunity to start expanding on his lead to fend off the slightest hint of a battle with DRS.

Russell’s strong start to the 24-lap race soon faded and offered Norris the chance to re-pass after drawing closer with DRS, allowing safe passage for the McLaren driver into the runner-up position once more.

Verstappen was well ahead at this moment, however, with over 1.4 seconds in hand while Norris could not make an effort to close in on the Red Bull’s gearbox.

A minor high-speed corner advantage in Lando’s favour allowed a small glimmer of opportunity for McLaren that could not be delivered upon as Verstappen only had to respond in kind to Norris and keep the gap between 1.4 seconds and 1.6 seconds over the following laps.

After being given the chance to push the higher-speed corners, Verstappen could start to push out the gap a little more on each lap and finally found a two-second cushion as the race moved towards its final stage. This had been doubled at the chequered flag, as a final push gave Verstappen a 4.2-second lead at the end.

Norris thus had to be content with second position, having been unchallenged from behind after passing Russell as the resurgent Sergio Perez was a long way behind after recovering third.

Perez fell behind both Mercedes drivers at the start of the race; Russell got past at the start and Lewis Hamilton made a brave move on the Red Bull at Turn 4, but the W14 seemed to lacked speed beyond the first lap and this offered Perez a way back into third.

With DRS, Perez nipped past Hamilton at Turn 1 having shown much stronger straight-line speed, and then began to reel in Russell for a move on the eighth lap. Although the Red Bull got through into Turn 1, Russell found enough downhill momentum to re-pass into Turn 4 with DRS.

Two laps later, Perez was offered the chance to pass Russell again, and on this occasion was wise to the potential reversal into the next DRS zone and did enough to cover off the Briton.

Russell was unable to keep up with the leading trio and instead elected to cement fourth, while Charles Leclerc snatched ahead of Hamilton on lap 21 as the Mercedes struggled to find traction on the exit of the Senna S.

Their battle allowed Yuki Tsunoda to home in on the seven-time champion; although the AlphaTauri driver had been passed by Leclerc at the start, he kept pace with the Ferrari and pounced when the two encountered a sluggish Hamilton.

Tsunoda got through Hamilton at the start of lap 22, using a DRS tow up the hill to draw alongside and capture the position into the opening corner.

Hamilton was able to hold on to seventh, as Carlos Sainz just about completed the scorers with eighth position as he warded off a late charge from Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo had earlier been in contention for eighth having battled Sainz, but a series of overtaking attempts left the AlphaTauri driver vulnerable through Turns 6 and 7 to Oscar Piastri.

Piastri passed him with ten laps to go, but Ricciardo managed to clear the McLaren with two laps remaining to close back in on Sainz.

The McLaren driver managed to hold off a hard-charging Fernando Alonso for P10, as the double champion attempted to carve his way through the pack after only qualifying P15 through his SQ1 clash with Esteban Ocon.

Lance Stroll followed his teammate into P12, as both Aston Martins passed Pierre Gasly, with Ocon managing to collect P14.

Alex Albon worked his way up to P14, dispatching the medium-shod Haas pair of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg – who were split by Zhou Guanyu.

Valtteri Bottas and Logan Sargeant completed the finishers, as the latter was the only other medium-tyre runner bar the Haas duo.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning the sprint race. The pace of the Red Bull RB19 is mighty and looks positive for the main Brazil Grand Prix.

Brazil Grand Prix, sprint race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 30:07.209
2 Lando Norris McLaren +4.287s
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull +13.617s
4 George Russell Mercedes +25.879s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +28.560s
6 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +29.210s
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +34.726s
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +35.106s
9 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +35.303s
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren +38.219s
11 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +39.061s
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +39.478s
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine +40.621s
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine +42.848s
15 Alex Albon Williams +43.394s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas +56.507s
17 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo +58.723
18 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +60.330s
19 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +60.749s
20 Logan Sargeant Williams +60.945s

Norris takes sprint pole in Brazil

McLaren’s Lando Norris earned pole position for the sprint race at Interlagos, beating both Red Bulls to the top spot after a sprint shootout collision between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.

Despite a first sector that was over two tenths slower than the best efforts from the Red Bulls, Norris found time over the rest of the lap to clinch pole for Saturday’s shortened race – despite with some evident bemusement after feeling that his lap was not particularly special.

McLaren put both cars onto the track first in the SQ3 session, with Oscar Piastri opening the final stage with a one minute, 11.189 seconds benchmark, but Lando’s eventual lap was better.

Norris endured a nervy wait as the Red Bulls and Mercedes looked far stronger in the opening sector; Verstappen looked to be good value to upstage the McLaren having been up on Lando’s split by the end of the second sector, but could not maintain that pace.

Perez was then tracking in first having set the best opening split on his run, but fell behind teammate Verstappen to collect third position on the sprint grid.

Norris was among a number of drivers who had received summons from the stewards over an alleged failure to follow the instructions on maximum lap time.

Checo was followed by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton; Russell briefly looked to be a contender for pole having matched Lando’s middle sector, but lost four tenths in the final part of the lap.

Yuki Tsunoda impressed with a run to sixth on the grid, as Charles Leclerc could not deliver anything better than seventh on his single flying lap of the session. Despite this, Charles is one place above Daniel Ricciardo, as Carlos Sainz and Piastri completed the top ten.

Mercedes and McLaren had rescued themselves from the drop in SQ2 amid a quickfire series of final laps, at the expense of both Haas cars as Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg had been well among the mix after the opening attempt.

Both AlphaTauris, along with Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly, had decided to wait until the end to post their first and only laps of the session; Bottas had elevated himself into the top ten at the expense of Russell.

But this preceded a number of improvements; Tsunoda and Ricciardo fired themselves well into the top ten order – Ricciardo moving up to second for a brief moment – to push Hamilton and Norris into the bottom five.

The group of Mercedes cars managed to move themselves from trouble despite setting not particularly competitive first sectors, as Norris also did to placed himself on top.

Magnussen beat Hulkenberg by 0.025 seconds to claim P11 on the sprint grid, while Gasly and Bottas were shuffled down to P13 and P14.

The opening sprint qualifying stage had been brought to a premature end as Esteban Ocon clashed with Alonso at the Curva do Sol, which pitched the Alpine driver into the wall having started his final lap of the opening 12 minutes.

Ocon had been dumped into the drop zone and was gearing up to reverse that as the session entered its final minute, but suffered a snap of oversteer and careened into a slow-moving Alonso – who had peeled off the racing line to give Ocon room to pass.

Alonso had sustained too much damage in the impact, which ended any running in SQ2 meaning an early exit.

The incident produced a red flag which froze the other, leaving Friday’s qualifying star Lance Stroll in P17 for the sprint grid having been unable to improve on his second attempt at a lap.

Zhou Guanyu was also eliminated at the first stage, while Alex Albon’s attempt to break out of the bottom five by the early conclusion to the session. Logan Sargeant was last of the runners, although felt that he had been impeded by a Haas during his second attempt.

So congratulations to Lando Norris even though the McLaren driver admitted it wasn’t a special lap. But it is still pole position for the sprint. Let’s see if Lando can win the shortened race ahead of the quick Red Bulls.

Brazil Grand Prix, sprint shootout results:
1 Lando Norris McLaren 1:10.622
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:10.683
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:10.756
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:10.857
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:10.940
6 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:11.019
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:11.077
8 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:11.122
9 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:11.126
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:11.189
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:11.727
12 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:11.752
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:11.822
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:11.872
15 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:12.224
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:12.388
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:12.482
18 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:12.497
19 Alexander Albon Williams 1:12.525
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:12.615

Verstappen takes Brazil pole before heavy rain

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen secured pole position for the Brazil Grand Prix just before the heavy rain opened which resulted an early end to qualifying.

The Sao Paulo skyline became increasingly heavy as dark clouds drew over the Interlagos circuit, prompting an early queue in qualifying as rain threaten.

When it emerged, the circuit descended into darkness to prompt the red flag, as the rain finally came once the opening Q3 laps had been concluded.

Verstappen ensured he was at the front of the queue, and set the only time in Q3 below the one minute, 11 seconds mark.

High winds ensured that track conditions became more difficult, and the drivers had to quickly conclude their laps – but no one could overturn Verstappen’s best effort before the rain came – Oscar Piastri looked to be on course to get close, but instead went off the road at Turn 12.

The session was not resumed and Verstappen’s pole was confirmed, as Charles Leclerc collected a front-row start for Sunday’s main race.

Lance Stroll surprised to claim third on Sunday’s grid, as Aston Martin timed its runs well; Fernando Alonso was fourth over the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

McLaren left its runs too late and ended up seventh with Q2-topper Lando Norris, as Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, and Piastri completed the top ten.

Stroll’s tenth best time in Q2 withstood a late siege from the Haas and Alpine drivers as the Aston Martin driver secured his first Q3 appearance since the Belgian Grand Prix.

Alonso’s climb into the top four from the drop zone put Stroll on the brink, but with two tenths in hand over the drivers occupying the elimination zone.

Having been dumped into the bottom five when Alonso improved, Esteban Ocon attempted to surpass Stroll but was unable to find enough time; instead he was jumped by Nico Hulkenberg’s lap as the Haas driver moved up to P11.

Ocon’s Alpine team-mate Pierre Gasly could not improve either, but moved up to P13 ahead of Kevin Magnussen. Alex Albon lost his best lap due to track limits, although this had no effect on his final placing.

Both Alpines are under investigation for impeding on the exit of the pits, having been seen moving slowly in front of the Red Bulls and Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri.

A brief cleaning of the circuit prompted a 15-minute delay to Q1 proceedings, as Pirelli had reported issues with stones and screws on the track surface during FP1.

The threat of rain arriving in the middle of the 18-minute Q1 session prompted a series of second runs to cover it off, although the rain had not emerged at this point.

A third phase of laps to get into Q2 had been triggered over the final five minutes, kick-started by Albon breaking into the top four after he had moved out of the drop zone.

With the timing board resembling a slot machine in the final minute, Tsunoda sat on the edge in P15 as he attempted to improve and pull himself out of danger, but he could not best his previous lap.

This gave Ocon an opportunity to break out of the bottom five and relegate Tsunoda, which the Alpine driver duly managed with a time good enough for P14.

Tsunoda was 0.006 seconds clear of Daniel Ricciardo as the AlphaTauri driver could not repeat his Mexico qualifying heroics, as Valtteri Bottas also missed the mark in Q1.

Logan Sargeant attempted to join Albon in Q2 and briefly moved into P15, but was knocked back into the bottom five amid a last-gasp series of laptime improvements.

The Williams driver dropped to P19, as Zhou Guanyu qualified last – 0.2 seconds down on Sargeant’s best lap.

So anticlimactic end to qualifying and yet it was Max Verstappen who takes his usual spot in pole position.

Brazil Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:10.727
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:11.021
3 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:11.344
4 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:11.387
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:11.469
6 George Russell Mercedes 1:11.590
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1:11.987
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:11.989
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:12.321
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren No time
11 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:10.547
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:10.562
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:10.567
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:10.723
15 Alexander Albon Williams 1:10.840
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:10.837
17 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:10.843
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:10.955
19 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:11.035
20 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:11.275