Valtteri Bottas fended Max Verstappen off to claim victory in Formula 1’s Brazilian Grand Prix sprint, as Lewis Hamilton produced a remarkable charge from last to fifth.
Bottas took full advantage of having soft tyres to blast past the medium-shod polesitting Red Bull of Verstappen off the line.
Verstappen then came under attack from another soft-tyre runner as Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari surged forward from fifth on the grid, the Red Bull running wide off the track at the Descida do Lago corner as Sainz went through.
It didn’t take long for Verstappen to repass Sainz for second and then chip away at the early gap Bottas had established.
Verstappen repeatedly got within DRS range of the Mercedes, but its soft tyres held on and Bottas kept him at arm’s length to win by 1.2s.
Having lost pole position when he was disqualified from qualifying for a rear wing irregularity, Hamilton faced the prospect of recovering from last place in just 24 laps.
But he was very rapidly up from 20th to 14th, reached the top 10 by half-distance and then continued to make rapid progress even when among more competitive cars.
Once he had cleared seventh-placed Pierre Gasly – a slow-starter from fourth on the grid despite being on softs – Hamilton rapidly demolished the 3s gap to the battle for third place ahead of him.
Charles Leclerc had lost fifth to Lando Norris earlier in the race in a brilliant wheel to wheel battle, and then couldn’t resist Hamilton for long either.
Norris proved to be Hamilton’s toughest obstacle. It took a huge dive down the inside at the Senna S at the start of the final lap to separate the McLaren from fifth.
That still means only 10th on the grand prix grid for Hamilton as he also has a five-place grid penalty for another internal combustion engine change, but the manner of his Saturday charge will be hugely encouraging for Mercedes – especially with Bottas having secured pole.
Though Hamilton quickly gained on Sainz and Sergio Perez’s fight for third too, he ran out of time to make any moves there as the soft-shod Ferrari kept Perez at bay.
Behind Norris and Leclerc, Gasly, Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel completed the top 10.
Daniel Ricciardo and Alonso had started in the top 10 but lost ground on the first lap and could not recover, leaving them 11th and 12th.
Kimi Raikkonen was the main casualty of the final sprint of the season. He spun to the back of the field thanks to contact with Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi at the Senna S after they’d gone either side of Fernando Alonso’s Alpine. Raikkonen finished 18th.
Sprint Qualifying Results
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||+1.17s||1m12.114s|
|4||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull-Honda||+19.787s||1m13.11s|
|10||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||+34.867s||1m13.558s|
|13||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||+41.88s||1m13.627s|
|14||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||+44.037s||1m13.666s|
|18||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||+50.014s||1m13.9s|