Sir Lewis Hamilton rallied from a difficult start to a racing weekend by persevering in a late battle with championship rival Max Verstappen and winning the São Paulo Grand Prix at Interlagos Circuit on Sunday, November 14.
The reigning seven-time F1 champion’s weekend started off on a rough note when he was penalized five grid spots when his team decided to change engines to his Mercedes. Then he was disqualified from starting on pole position for the F1 Sprint qualification event on Saturday, November 13, due to a technical infringement involving his rear wing and DRS system on his Mercedes. The disqualification relegated Hamilton to start in last place for the Sprint, which he made up for the misfortune by finishing in fifth place. With the five-place penalty grid still intact, Hamilton fell back to 10th place on the starting grid for the main event.
Rolling off the grid just inside the top 10, Hamilton, who methodically carved his way to the front, spent the majority of the main event battling towards the front with his teammate and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas along with Red Bull Racing’s Verstappen and Sergio “Checo” Perez.
Then on Lap 48 of 71, Hamilton made a move to the outside of on Verstappen for the lead entering Turn 4. Entering the turn, however, both title contenders ran off the circuit as Verstappen retained the lead without being penalized.
Eleven laps later, Hamilton, who made another move to the outside of Verstappen in Turn 4, moved his Mercedes into the lead. From there, Hamilton pulled away and was able to cross the finish line more than 10 seconds ahead of the Dutchman to grab the victory.
The victory was Hamilton’s sixth of the season, third at the Interlagos Circuit and the 101st of his F1 career. With the victory and the points he earned, Hamilton decreased his deficit to Verstappen by five, from 19 to 14, with three Grand Prix events remaining to the schedule as he pursues his quest to win a record-setting eighth F1 title.
“It was one of the most fun races I’ve had in a long time,” Hamilton said. “Just a great start and just really bounced throughout. I definitely didn’t know whether or not that I would be able to overtake [Verstappen]. [The Red Bull competitors] are working as well as the team. It was just kind of crazy to think that where we started yesterday, last, and then, I got up to fifth yesterday, and then I realized I got to go back another five places, and then thinking, ‘By the time I even get there, Max will be gone.’ He wasn’t that far ahead when I finally got there. I just keep thinking what a great team I have behind me. We continue to push, continue to raise a bar and not say no to any answers really. From this weekend, we’ve been thrown a lot at us and it was easy to get down and not be positive and not do our job well. They did a remarkable job this weekend.
“Success always feel sweeter when you face adversity,” Hamilton added. “Yes, when you start first and have success, there’s a journey to get there, of course, but it’s far, far greater. This is one of the most beautiful feelings I’ve had in a win, knowing that I’ve had all of those pushbacks, setbacks. We never let it stand in our way…I was gonna get [Verstappen] at some stage. That was how my mindset was. I’m coming for you. That’s where we’re headed.”
Like Hamilton, Verstappen rallied from a difficult start to the weekend when he was fined €50,000 for examining and touching Hamilton’s rear wing in Parc Ferme following Friday’s qualification session for the F1 Sprint. He rallied by finishing second in the F1 Sprint behind Bottas and took command of the lead right from the start, where he dominated the event and was eventually overtaken by Hamilton late in the run.
Despite coming up one position shy of notching his third consecutive Grand Prix victory in recent weeks, Verstappen, who won at Interlagos in 2019, continues to lead the driver’s championship standings by a respectable margin over Hamilton as he closes in towards his first F1 World Championship.
“I knew it was gonna be difficult, but I tried everything I could,” Verstappen said. “Clearly, we were just lacking a bit today. Also, top speed wise, it was really tough to defend. You could clearly see when they take a fresh engine, it gives them a bit more power. So hopefully in the coming races, that will die down slowly. At least it was fun. Of course, I would’ve liked to win, but realistically, I think this was a good result. I think it was good, hard racing. That’s how it should be.”
Meanwhile, Bottas, who won the F1 Sprint on Saturday and started on pole position, ran a consistent event to finish in third place, one position ahead of Perez, who managed to clock in the fastest time of the event at 218.453 kph on the final lap. The third-place result marked Bottas’ 10th podium result of the season as he is down to his final three races with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team before transitioning to Alfa Romeo in 2022.
“Lap 1 was quite disappointing,” Bottas said. “We had a very average start. Max had a good one and then, I tried to defend Checo [Perez] and went wide, but I tried. We’ll have a look at what happened. After that, I, obviously, kept pushing and we took the opportunity with the virtual safety car. I think the pace was actually OK today, so it was good to be there till the end. It was very close and was actually pretty close to Max…Really good points. That’s something to be happy about.”
Finishing behind the two Mercedes and Red Bull competitors were the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr., with both competitors being the last of six competitors finishing on the lead lap. The top-six results for Leclerc and Sainz were enough to stabilize Ferrari’s positioning of third place in the constructor’s standings.
Pierre Gasly, the first competitor a lap down, finished in seventh followed by Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon. Lando Norris, meanwhile, rallied from an opening lap puncture following contact with Sainz, to complete the top 10 on the track.
Sebastian Vettel was the first competitor to finishing outside of the top-10 points-paying results in 11th followed by Kimi Räikkönen, George Russell, Antonio Giovinazzi and rookie Yuki Tsunoda, who damaged his car following an early collision with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
Nicholas Latifi settled in 16th followed by Haas’ Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, who lost his front wing following an on-track collision with Räikkönen’s Alfa Romeo.
Daniel Ricciardo retired in 19th place due to losing power in his McLaren, which marked his first retirement since the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix.
Lance Stroll rounded out the field in 20th place following his early collision with Tsunoda.
1. Lewis Hamilton, 25 points
2. Max Verstappen, 20 points
3. Valtteri Bottas, 18 points
4. Sergio Perez, 13 points
5. Charles Leclerc, 10 points
6. Carlos Sainz, eight points
7. Pierre Gasly, six points, +1 lap,
8. Esteban Ocon, four points, + 1 lap
9. Fernando Alonso, two points, +1 lap
10. Lando Norris, one point, +1 lap
11. Sebastian Vettel, +1 lap
12. Kimi Räikkönen, +1 lap
13. George Russell, +1 lap
14. Antonio Giovinazzi, +1 lap
15. Yuki Tsunoda, +1 lap
16. Nicholas Latifi, +1 lap
17. Nikita Mazepin, +2 laps
18. Mick Schumacher, +2 laps
19. Daniel Ricciardo – Retired
20. Lance Stroll – Retired
Max Verstappen continues to lead the drivers’ standings by 14 points over Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team continues to lead the constructors’ standings by 11 points over Red Bull Racing Honda thanks to the strong performances from Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
With three races remaining to the schedule, the 2021 Formula One season will continue at Losail International Circuit for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday, November 21.