What a Formula 1 thriller: Hamilton counters Verstappen’s merciless maneuver

What a Formula 1 thriller
Hamilton counters Verstappen’s merciless maneuver

The fight for the Formula 1 world championship has gained another impressive episode. In Brazil, Max Verstappen even tried the forbidden to stop Lewis Hamilton from catching up. But the defending champion, who was still disqualified in qualifying, wins after an unprecedented race to catch up.

In what is possibly the greatest pressure situation of his career, Lewis Hamilton has become an escape artist: Unimpressed by two dramatic relocations, the Formula 1 record world champion won the São Paulo Grand Prix thanks to a crazy overtaking show – and is in the World Cup duel with Max Verstappen after the gala of Brazil back in business ahead of the last three races of the season.

“Before the weekend I would never have thought that we could close the gap to Max in such a way,” said Hamilton: “Everything went against us. But that shows that we must never give up.” The Mercedes star made up a total of 24 positions in the sprint on Saturday and the race on Sunday and, with his 101st Grand Prix victory, reduced the gap to Verstappen in the Red Bull to 14 championship points. “We did everything we could, it was a good fight, but in the end there was a bit of a lack of speed,” said Verstappen: “I am confident that we will fight back.”

Third place went to Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes. Ex-world champion Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin missed the target points in eleventh place. Haas driver Mick Schumacher also crossed the finish line in 18th and last place due to a slight collision with Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo).

Previously, no driver who had started outside the top eight had won at Interlagos. Sir Lewis Hamilton added another record to his great career with his third win at Interlagos after 2016 and 2018. But especially the way it was done was breathtaking: everything finally seemed ready for Verstappen to make a preliminary decision in the title fight.

For Hamilton, therefore, support from Bottas in the second Mercedes would have been useful, but the pole setter lost the starting duel against Verstappen. Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull also quickly overtook the Finn, who had to leave Mercedes after five years at the end of the season. Hamilton moved up from tenth on the grid impressively quickly, at the end of the first lap he already conceded Vettel and was sixth, at the beginning of the fifth lap Hamilton then overtook Bottas and only had the Red Bull in front of him.

Verstappen received a warning for defense

Thanks to clear speed advantages on the straights, Hamilton overtook Perez in the 18th of 71 laps, but the Mexican countered immediately. A little later, Verstappen’s noble helper had nothing more to counteract. The Dutchman, on the other hand, was able to keep Hamilton at a stable distance for a few seconds. Mercedes brought its star driver into the pits after the 27th lap to change tires, Verstappen followed suit one lap later – and lost a good two seconds on his rival, who was suddenly on his neck.

After 41 laps, Verstappen changed tires again, Hamilton came in a little later and then heralded his dreaded “hammer time”. As usual, Verstappen defended himself sternly and in the gray area of ​​the regulations. In lap 48, the two World Cup opponents were suddenly 15 meters off the track, Verstappen had defended his lead with all strength. A little later he got a warning from the race management when he changed lanes several times to keep Hamilton behind him. The Mercedes driver was unimpressed and took the long-awaited lead on lap 59.

Up to this point, two penalties against Hamilton had superimposed the weekend: First, the seven-time champion was moved back five positions on the grid for the race because of the replacement of his internal combustion engine. With the fresh drive, he stormed to first place in qualifying for the sprint on Friday, but the stewards then discovered that the adjustable rear wing on Hamilton’s Mercedes opened slightly too far – it was relegated to starting position 20 for the sprint, from where Hamilton made up 15 positions in just 24 laps.

The case “should never have landed with the stewards,” ranted Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff on Saturday evening. “We didn’t have an illegal wing, we just had damage,” said the Austrian. Nevertheless, Wolff stated before the start: “Lewis can still win the race.” Which he then emphatically confirmed.

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