Max Verstappen held McLaren’s Lando Norris at bay to win the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix, as 2022 winner Mercedes suffered a wretched regression in performance compared to 12 months ago.
Mercedes was left scratching its collective head after an awful Interlagos sprint race on Saturday, where both cars went backwards suffering from extreme rear tyre degradation.
Attempts to better manage that situation in Sunday’s grand prix proved fruitless, as Lewis Hamilton finished only eighth having challenged Norris for second place early in the race.
NORRIS VS VERSTAPPEN
Thanks to Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari suffering a hydraulics problem and a sudden rear axle lock that spat him into the barrier on the formation lap, then the Aston Martins both making terrible starts from the second row of the grid, Norris propelled himself from sixth on the grid to second and gave us the straight race with Verstappen we thought we’d been denied by McLaren’s poor qualifying strategy on Friday.
When Alex Albon’s Williams crashed with the two Haas cars and caused a red flag, Norris had the chance to challenge Verstappen from the reformed grid, but as in the sprint race - where he started from pole - again the McLaren’s start wasn’t good enough and Norris had to defend from Hamilton’s Mercedes rather than attack Verstappen into Turn 1.
Norris got his head down and closed within range to attack Verstappen into Turns 1 and 4 on lap eight of 71, but having seen off that rare threat Verstappen eased out of DRS range and basically spent the rest of his race controlling the gap between his Red Bull and the McLaren.
Nevertheless, finishing within 8.5 seconds of the Red Bull represented a fine weekend’s work from Norris on a track where McLaren did not expect to be clearly second best. No one apart from Norris was even close to being consistently in Verstappen’s league here.
ASTON MARTIN IS BACK
After two very challenging races for Aston Martin, where the team described itself as doing “R&D projects” in public with upgrades that clearly haven’t been working as intended, reverting to a familiar specification for Brazil led to a significant uptick in performance.
After locking out the second row of the grid on Friday - aided partly by favourable track position in advance of the onrushing storm - Aston Martin had decent pace in the grand prix too, probably the third-fastest car behind the Red Bull and McLaren.
Fernando Alonso even managed to fend off Sergio Perez to complete the podium, thanks to a superb defensive drive in the final stint, expertly using his ERS deployment to help negate the power of the Red Bull’s superior efficiency and straight-line speed, and then brilliantly repassing the Red Bull at Turn 4 on the final lap after Perez had forged ahead at Turn 1 on the penultimate lap.
In a breathless drag race to the finish line, Alonso held on by less than a tenth of a second.
Perez himself looked to be back on from after a rough stretch of races recently, and probably would have been somewhere inside the 25-second gap between Alonso and Norris had he enjoyed better track position in Friday qualifying. Most of the time, over one lap, he was within a tenth or two of Verstappen this weekend.
Lance Stroll completed an excellent weekend for Aston Martin by finishing fifth. Alonso’s starts were bad, but Stroll’s were worse and so he had to battle his way back past the two Mercedes after losing ground at both getaways.
Carlos Sainz rounded out the top six in the remaining Ferrari, another who had to make up ground lost to a disappointing Q3 result on Friday. He overcame the Mercedes easily enough, but the second Aston was 9.3s out of reach at the flag.
MERCEDES' AWFUL RACE
Such were Hamilton’s struggles that he finished behind Pierre Gasly’s Alpine too - a car that barely scraped its way out of Q1 and certainly wasn’t fast enough to make it into Q3. Hamilton finished over a minute behind Verstappen.
Yuki Tsunoda added two more points to the board for AlphaTauri by finishing ninth from 16th on the original grid.
His restarted race started in a very messy way and he lost ground to both Alpines, also going off briefly at Turn 8 in the first stint, but as both Alfa Romeos retired early on and then Russell was called into the pits to retire with sky-high engine oil temperatures, so Tsunoda recovered his way into a top 10 rounded out by the second Alpine of Esteban Ocon.
Logan Sergeant was 16.3s away from putting the remaining Williams in the top 10, finishing ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s repaired Haas, and two cars that began the restarted race a lap down.
Daniel Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri had its rear wing damaged after Hulkenberg’s Haas flicked up a loose rear tyre from Albon’s crashed Williams at the original start, while Oscar Piastri’s McLaren was rear-ended by a spinning Haas in the same incident.
|Pos||Name||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||71||0||1h56m48.894s||1m13.422s||0||33|
|3||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin-Mercedes||71||0||+34.155s||1m14.442s||0||15|
|4||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||71||0||+34.208s||1m14.124s||0||18|
|5||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||71||0||+40.845s||1m14.007s||0||10|
|9||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||71||0||+9.880s||1m14.231s||0||5|
|13||Daniel Ricciardo||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||70||0||+0.000s||1m13.866s||0||0|
|Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||39||0||DNF||1m15.731s||0||0|
|Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||22||0||DNF||1m16.232s||0||0|
|Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||0||0||Invalid date||0s||0||4|