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