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