Lewis Hamilton won the Brazilian Grand Prix, with an outstanding performance to take victory from 10th on the grid. He beat his title rival Max Verstappen into second, reducing the Dutchman’s lead in their championship battle. Hamilton’s win was a stunning comeback for the driver and Mercedes after a weekend where he has taken two separate penalties. Valtteri Bottas was in third for Mercedes. Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez in fourth and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in fifth.
The result was a remarkable one for Hamilton after a weekend that threatened to all but end his championship hopes. To win having received a five-place grid penalty for taking a new engine and then having to start the sprint qualifying from the back of the grid after Mercedes were found to have breached the regulations on their DRS, was perhaps beyond any ambitions the world champion or his team may have harboured.
He had delivered with clinical, aggressive precision to carve through the field in the sprint qualifying from 20th to fifth, making 15 decisive overtaking manoeuvres to do so. It meant he started from 10th and he did it all over again when it mattered.
In the mix from the off the 36-year-old once more demonstrated commitment and fine judgment in equal measure to come through the field with verve. He made nine passes and becomes the first driver to win at Interlagos from lower than eighth place.
Hamilton proved, were any demonstration necessary from the seven-time world champion, that if his title is to be wrested from his grasp it will be an almighty struggle. The win puts him right back in the fight against all the odds.
Hamilton needed a result in Interlagos. He went into the race trailing Verstappen by 21 points. Now with three races remaining and 78 points available, the Dutchman leads by only 14. Verstappen does hold an advantage but in a season that has ebbed and flowed with such drama, any straightforward denouement is far from a given.
If this season has been defined by some key moments, Verstappen’s puncture in Baku, the clashes at Silverstone and Monza, this was a mighty swing in Hamilton’s favour when to all intents it appeared it was in Brazil where the championship would slip away.
Verstappen took the lead at the start from second on the grid diving up the inside of Bottas at turn one, while behind them Hamilton launched himself through the field. On lap one he made up three places to seventh by turn 10, by lap two he had passed Sebastian Vettel for sixth and then immediately dealt with Carlos Sainz for fifth.
Within two laps he was up to fifth and within five seconds of Verstappen. Leclerc fell a lap later as the world champion made the most of the pace his Mercedes, with its new engine, has displayed all weekend.
Bottas had dropped a further place to Pérez giving the two Red Bulls a one-two advantage and the Finn ceded third to Hamilton on lap five. On lap 14 Hamilton looked to once more close on Pérez. He did so and pulled off a magnificent pass round the outside of turn one on lap 18. But with both drivers enjoying DRS, the Mexican took the place back at the turn four, Descida do Lago. It was gripping stuff but the following lap Hamilton once more passed through one and this time held enough of a lead to make it stick.
Into second, Hamilton was just under four seconds off Verstappen by lap 20. Mercedes pitted Hamilton on lap 27 taking the hard tyres and Red Bull covered it off a lap later, Verstappen holding his place.
Hamilton promptly pumped in some fastest laps, enjoying immediate pace and grip and by lap 32 had Verstappen within striking distance. The Dutchman responded by upping his pace, with the better pace in the twisty second sector against Hamilton’s straightline speed through the first and third.
Tense laps ensued, Verstappen holding his lead at just over a second – crucially out of DRS range. Red Bull eager to avoid another undercut pitted Verstappen on lap 41, once more taking on the hard tyres. Mercedes left Hamilton out as Verstappen made the most of his new tyres until Hamilton came in on lap 44 and was given the hard rubber.
The stops complete, he came out in second, 2.6 seconds back but with tyres slightly fresher for the end. Hamilton grasped his moment on the new rubber, pushed hard. On lap 48 Hamilton caught his rival on the back straight with a nose in front but was driven wide through turn four by Verstappen with both drivers going off the track. It was the season in microcosm, the two rivals wheel to wheel and uncompromising, with Mercedes convinced Verstappen had deliberately not turned into the corner sufficiently.
The incident was deemed acceptable by the stewards, a decision derided by the world champion. Hamilton regrouped and began another assault. Hard on Verstappen in turn one he forced him onto the defensive and in hugely tense moments followed it up by finally making it stick through turn four on lap 59.
It was the decisive moment – in clean air with a pace advantage Hamilton stretched his legs and completed a sensational win, 10 seconds in front, the title fight on fire once more.
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