Verstappen romps to Sao Paulo GP sprint win after lightning start

Max Verstappen won the Sprint at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, beating pole-sitter Lando Norris off the line and cruising to victory.

Norris appeared to get a good launch from pole, but in the second phase of the start Verstappen eased alongside to be able to take the lead into Turn 1. The McLaren driver then admitted he was “caught sleeping” by George Russell who passed him for second in the middle sector, while Lewis Hamilton moved up to fourth with a clinical pass around the outside of Sergio Perez at Turn 4.

That was as good as it got for the Mercedes pair, though, as Hamilton was overtaken by Perez into Turn 1 on lap four and then Norris got Russell using DRS into the same corner one lap later and quickly dropped his fellow Brit.

At that point it looked like Norris could still make a race of it — with the Haas pair and Logan Sargeant the only drivers not on soft tires — as he edged back towards Verstappen, cutting a 2s gap to 1.1s at one stage but then seeing the triple world champion respond to pull away and win by over four seconds.

Perez cleared Russell for third place on lap 10 out of 24 — having twice swapped places two laps earlier — and never looked in danger after that, securing his first top three in any race since Monza in September but finishing over 9s behind Norris in a sign of how quick the top two had been.

Although Russell settled in and had a buffer to his teammate to secure fourth, behind him Hamilton was unable to look after his rear tires enough to remain fifth. Having been over 2.5s clear of Charles Leclerc beyond the halfway point, the gap rapidly shrunk in the closing stages and Leclerc took fifth with four laps to go. Hamilton also couldn’t keep Yuki Tsunoda at bay one lap later, as AlphaTauri scored points in a Sprint event for the first time.

Daniel Ricciardo ended up just outside the points after a thrilling fight with Carlos Sainz eventually led to Oscar Piastri opportunistically jumping his fellow Australian, and by the time Ricciardo regained the spot he was left with a little too much to do in the closing stages. Finally in DRS range and in with a chance of overtaking Sainz, Ricciardo was left frustrated as the Ferrari picked up DRS from Hamilton on the final lap to hold him off to the line.

Further back, both Aston Martin drivers showed impressive pace to fight back from a tough Sprint Shootout — where Fernando Alonso collided with Esteban Ocon — and end up just outside the top ten after some high quality fighting with Pierre Gasly, boding well for their chances of holding onto big points from the second row on Sunday.

All 20 cars finished without major incident or damage, although the Haas medium-tire experiment failed to pay off as Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg slipped to 16th and 18th respectively.

Story originally appeared on Racer