SAO PAULO (AFP) – Max Verstappen underlined his potential as a champion of the future early yesterday with a commanding victory for Red Bull in an astonishing and crash-hit Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.
The 22-year-old Dutchman twice passed newly crowned six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in a thrilling contest that had two safety car interventions and saw the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc clash and retire, before clinching the eighth victory of his career.
His third win this season also made up for his disappointment in last year’s race in Brazil when he looked certain to win before a late accident wrecked his hopes of victory.
He made the most of pole position and finished a dominant winner ahead of his former Red Bull teammate Pierre Gasly, now with Toro Rosso, as they delivered a Honda-powered one-two for the Japanese company for the first time since the heyday of local hero Ayrton Senna.
Frenchman Gasly came home 0.062 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who finished third for Mercedes but was demoted to seventh following a post-race stewards’ investigation after crashing with luckless Thai driver Alexander Albon, the man who replaced Gasly at Red Bull, in the final laps.
“Lewis was very quick,” said Verstappen. “So I had to keep pushing all the time. He pitted early so we had to be on top of our pit-stops and we had a good move on him.
“I could control the race with the tyres I had, so, for me, it was unbelievable. It was a lot of fun out there and great to win the race.”
He said his decisive second overtake of Hamilton was achieved thanks to his superior speed in the rarefied atmosphere of the 700-metre altitude Interlagos circuit.
“I was behind so I was pushing flat out on my out lap,” he said. “We knew we had great top speed the whole weekend – but that was a guess – and I’m very happy to have got past him!”
Gasly screamed with delight at his good fortune on his slow-down lap.
“This is my first podium in F1 and, for sure, I will never forget it,” he said. “It’s such a special moment.
“Toro Rosso have given me such a fantastic car since I came back. This is an amazing day.