SAO PAULO (AP) — Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won Formula One’s Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday for his eighth career victory in a race which ended badly for both Ferrari drivers.
It also finished poorly for six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who caused Red Bull’s Alexander Albon to spin near the end and deprived him of his first podium. A post-race five-second punishment for Hamilton demoted the Mercedes driver from third to seventh place.
Brazil marked Verstappen’s third win this season, after victories in Austria and Germany. He started from pole position in Sao Paulo — the second pole of his career.
The result moved the 22-year-old Verstappen to third place in the driver’s championship, already won by Hamilton. Verstappen is 11 points ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with only the Abu Dhabi GP on Dec. 1 to go.
The victory in Brazil gives some relief to Verstappen, who in 2018 led here for much of the race but finished second after touching backmarker Esteban Ocon’s car. The Dutch driver had an angry altercation with Ocon afterward, and the race was won by Hamilton.
This year was different, with Verstappen appearing mostly unstoppable all weekend long.
Unlike the Ferraris. A dramatic late collision on the 66th lap at Interlagos between four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc happened when they were fighting for fourth position. Both failed to finish.
On team radio, Vettel blamed Leclerc for a puncture that caused him to stop. Leclerc was forced out shortly after. The light contact gave Vettel a right-rear puncture, while Leclerc had a broken suspension.
After the race, both drivers said they were “disappointed,” but refused to expand on what had happened between them.
Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly came second for his first F1 podium, only 0.062 seconds ahead of Hamilton before his penalty.
After Gasly was demoted from Red Bull earlier this season back to feeder team Toro Rosso —with Albon promoted in his place — it was a poignant podium for the French driver and he screamed with delight after crossing the finish line.
In a race watched by more than 70,000 fans, Hamilton and Albon had fought for second place with only two laps to go, and Hamilton’s punishment gave McLaren’s Carlos Sainz third place.
Sainz had started from 20th on the grid and, like Gasly, it was his first F1 podium.
Hamilton said Verstappen was “just quicker than us on the straights” and “there was nothing more we could do.” He was overtaken twice by slick Verstappen moves in the little time he spent ahead — after a pit stop and after a safety car.
“Lewis was very quick so I had to keep pushing ... we had two good moves with him, and from there onward I could control the race," Verstappen said. “It is always good to race against the world champion.”
Hamilton quickly apologized to Albon for their collision.
“I totally accept the blame,” said the British driver. “In hindsight I could have waited.”
The 23-year-old Albon finished 14th.
“I know how that feels,” Hamilton said about the missed first podium. “I apologize to Alex.”
Sainz, whose previous best finish was fourth place, was not totally sure how to celebrate his unexpected podium.
“A bit weird not being there after the race, but still extremely happy. Today's race was just unbelievable. The one-stop strategy was difficult but paid off,” the Spaniard said on Twitter.
Gasly will also remember this day for a long time. Sportingly, he even celebrated with some of his former Red Bull engineers and mechanics.
“It is the best day of my life,” Gasly said. “It was quite an intense finish, but quite incredible too. You get used to the podiums in the lower series. My last was at F2 in 2016. My first podium in F1 is just insane.”
Hamilton had already secured the season title in the previous race in the United States. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who did not finish the race, had also secured the runner-up spot.
Sunday’s race was also marked by several tributes to Brazilian racing hero Ayrton Senna. His nephew Bruno drove his championship-winning McLaren around the track before the race to honor the three-time F1 champion in the 25th anniversary of his death at the San Marino GP.