Max Verstappen won the FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN GRANDE PRÊMIO DO BRASIL 2019 having started from pole. But his victory did not come as easily as that simple sentence might sound, at the end of a race that can truly be described as crazy and was without doubt the most exciting Grand Prix of the season.
For the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver this was the third win of the year and for a while it looked as though it might have been a Red Bull one-two. It was not, although it was a one-two for Honda because in an incredible final lap, Pierre Gasly finished second for Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda. Joining them on the podium at the end of the 71 laps of Interlagos was Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, however, after the race, the Englishman was given a 5 second penalty for causing a collision with Alex Albon, thus delivering the most unexpected podium of the season, as Carlos Sainz stepped up to third place for McLaren.
Verstappen never really looked under threat, having started from pole, and a well executed strategy and brilliant work from his pit crew with tyre changes taking less than two seconds all helped him to control the race. But it was no stroll in the park and with Hamilton attempting the undercut, the Dutchman had to pass the six times world champion on track, not just once, but twice!
As for Gasly, he inherited second place when Hamilton and Albon collided on the penultimate lap, robbing the Thai rookie of his first F1 podium. The French driver kept his cool, placing his Toro Rosso in just the right part of the track coming out of the final corner to win the drag race to the line.
At the start, Verstappen kept the lead and Hamilton got ahead of Sebastian Vettel going into Turn 1 to go second. The Mercedes man was the first to pit on lap 20 of 71, attempting the undercut and committing to a two stop strategy as he again fitted Soft tyres. Red Bull covered the move, bringing Max in on the next lap. The Dutchman nearly got pushed into the pit wall by Robert Kubica in the ROKiT Williams and the delay ensured that Hamilton took the lead. However, the Mercedes man was also delayed, as he was caught behind the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow of Charles Leclerc. That allowed Verstappen to catch up and eventually pass Hamilton going into the Senna S first corner.
The pit stop dance for the leaders resumed on lap 43, when Hamilton again came in trying for an undercut and again Verstappen covered the move next time round to keep the lead. With 18 laps remaining, fifth place Bottas retired his Mercedes with a mechanical failure and that brought out the Safety Car. Verstappen pitted for fresh rubber, but Hamilton chose to keep the lead and stayed out on older tyres. Hamilton backed up the field, hoping to prevent Verstappen getting by, but again the Dutchman retook the lead in the bottom of the Senna S. This was incredibly exciting but there was plenty more to come.
Alex Albon produced an aggressive move to pass Vettel and go third and began to challenge Hamilton for second, but instead the Red Bull man had to defend from a returning Vettel. With five laps remaining, Leclerc passed Vettel at the first corner, but the German fought back and they were side by side on the run down to Descida de Lago. The two Ferraris collided and both had to retire, Leclerc with suspension damage, Vettel with a puncture.
That triggered a safety car under which Hamilton dived into the pits yet again, dropping him to fourth behind Albon and Gasly. The Mercedes and the Red Bull collided forcing Albon into a spin, which allowed Gasly past into an amazing second, although it looked more like a dead heat. Hamilton admitted his mistake, which resulted in Carlos Sainz’s promotion to the podium.
For the Woking team today’s result marks an extraordinary achievement, considering that Sainz, who sealed the first podium of his career, started at the very back of the grid after the technical problem that effectively prevented him from taking part in yesterday’s qualifying. The team’s haul of points was also added to by Lando Norris with an excellent eighth place. This was the first time since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix that a McLaren driver had finished in the top three: that time in fact it was two of them – Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button – who finished behind the winner Nico Rosberg.
Behind Sainz came the two Alfa Romeo drivers, with Kimi Raikkonen fifth and Antonio Giovinazzi sixth. This was the best result of the season for the Hinwil team – while for their Italian driver fifth place marked the best finish of his career.
Completing the top ten were Sergio Perez, taking his sixth straight points finish, and Daniil Kvyat. The Russian, who saw his points disappear due to penalties after the chequered flag both in Mexico City and Austin, this time didn’t have any unpleasant surprises!
There was so much on track action this afternoon – to the joy of the spectators who filled out the grandstands as ever (an attendance of 150,307 over the weekend) – it felt like a grand finale to the year. But that is yet to come, when racing resumes in a fortnight for the 21st and last time in the FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2019.
Brazilian Grand Prix Facts & Figures
• The last time that two cars powered by Honda secured a one-two finish was at the 1991 Japanese Grand Prix. That time the McLarens of Gerhard Berger and Ayrton Senna triumphed at the circuit of Suzuka. You have to go even further back, to the 1987 Italian Grand Prix, to find two cars from different teams – both powered by Honda – finishing in the first two places; on September 6 that year it was Nelson Piquet’s Williams which took the chequered flag ahead of Senna’s Lotus.
• For the third time in its history a Toro Rosso driver managed to make the podium. After Sebastian Vettel’s victory at Monza in 2008 and Daniil Kvyat’s third place finish at Hockenheim earlier this year, now comes Pierre Gasly’s second place, the best result of his career. The total of 83 points collected so far this year represents the best haul in the history of the Faenza team, beating their previous record of 67 from 2015.
• Ferrari today put an end to a series of 46 consecutive grands prix in which it has collected at least one world championship point. The last time this happened was at the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix, and there too it was due to a collision between the two drivers – then Vettel and Raikkonen – in which Verstappen was also involved. Now it is Red Bull which has the longest straight run of points-scoring finishes with 37 and counting.
From the Drivers
Max Verstappen, 1st
“It’s an incredible feeling right now and to win today was a huge Team effort. It was a crazy race with a lot of action and fighting but luckily we always had the pace to counter back and overtake Mercedes in every scenario. It wasn’t easy out there but the Team made all the right calls, especially at the end to pit for the soft tyres during the Safety Car which gave us the win today. As a Team you always try and make everything perfect, I focus on my job and the Team also try to do a perfect job in the pits and on the strategy and clearly today it worked out pretty perfectly. It’s a great victory, after last year of course, but more for the way the race unfolded and how we all had to work together. Today and the whole weekend the car and Honda power unit have been working really well and we have made a step so thank you to everyone for that. It is of course a massive shame that Alex could not be on the podium with me as it would have been an even better result for the Team but it’s great for Pierre to be up here and for Toro Rosso and Honda.”
Alex Albon, 14th
“Of course I’m frustrated but I’m not angry, I’m just upset. I wanted that podium and we deserved it as it was on merit. At the Safety Car restart we had some fun and I enjoyed battling with the Ferraris, the overtake felt good! Obviously Lewis had good grip once he pitted and I think he would’ve got me eventually into Turn 1, but I thought worst case scenario we had P3. I had a good gap to Lewis and I wasn’t worrying about him. I went into the corner deep just to cover him so he didn’t get any ideas, and then there’s a blind spot and obviously we made contact. Of course he didn’t do it on purpose, it’s just one of those things and today wasn’t meant to be. It’s done now and we’ll focus on the positives before the next race. Congratulations also to Max, he drove really well and deserved the win.”
Lewis Hamilton, 7th
"It was a great race, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was hopefully fun for people to watch, although the result is upsetting. I never want to collide with anyone, it was really unfortunate with Alex. Naturally I take it on me, it was my fault, I was coming from behind. He was doing a great job, so apologies to him. I gave it absolutely everything and more today, I was pushing so hard in every lap just to keep up with Max in front of me. We really didn't have a lot of pace today and I think we were probably going faster than we should have gone. Congratulations to Red Bull, they did the better job today and deserved the win. They were extremely quick today, I was basically a sitting duck on the straights. There's one more race to go in this season, so we will be pushing for a better result in Abu Dhabi."
Valtteri Bottas, DNF
"It was a tricky race overall, even before I had to retire the car. The pace wasn't quite there today, so we will have to investigate that. I was aiming to do a one-stop and go to the end on the Hard tyres, but I had to pit again as we were concerned that the tyres wouldn't last until the end. It's obviously not ideal to switch strategies like that, but it didn't really matter in the end as I didn't finish the race. I don't know the details yet, I just suddenly lost power, so we will have look into that and see what caused it. It was very disappointing especially since there was a lot happening afterwards, so it would have been nice to be a part of that action. I'm now looking forward to the race in Abu Dhabi, we want to come back strong and finish the season on a high."
Sebastian Vettel, DNF
"The summary of the day is that we did not finish a race in which we could have got a good result. It’s a shame about the collision between us, especially for the team as a whole, given that both cars were in the points and considering how much work everyone puts in, both at the track and back in Maranello. "From my point of view, the race was going well, even if I think that Max (Verstappen) was uncatchable today. Now we must just focus on the final race of the season where will try and bring home the best possible result."
Charles Leclerc, DNF
"It’s a real pity to end the weekend like this. I am sorry for the whole team, especially because today we were fast and we were looking good to bring home some decent points. "It had actually been an exciting race for me. Starting from the midfield, I enjoyed fighting my way forward and was satisfied with the way things were progressing. "We will move on from this in any case and continue to work together in the best way. Now it’s time for us to focus on Abu Dhabi to end our season in the best possible way."
Pierre Gasly, 2nd
“This is just incredible! My first podium in Formula 1 and with Toro Rosso. I kept working every race on myself, I always thought that if I could be in the right place at the right time something will come, and today it happened, it’s just amazing - I have so many emotions! I’ve always said the team is my Italian family, I love their spirit and passion, they always push like hell and today was the best present I could give back to thank them for their massive constant effort. You dream a lot about being in F1, you dream about your first podium, but then when it happens all of the emotions coming through me are just unpredictable, it’s just the best day of my life right now. I want to send a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me since the start of my career and have gotten me to where I am today.”
Carlos Sainz, 3rd
“Yes! What a day! It’s a weird first podium not being there straight after the race, but I’m extremely happy with our race today. To finish P3 coming all the way from the back of the grid was a big challenge, but we fought until the end with everything we had! It was a very eventful race and I think I was the only car to do a one-stop strategy. It was really difficult to hold the other midfield cars behind after the two Safety Car re-starts, but I managed to defend my position well and took advantage of what happened at the front of the race. “A good first stint, a great pit-stop from the guys and a very challenging and long stint to bring it home and finish P3 for the first time in my career. Congrats to the whole team, here and back in Woking! My first podium is obviously very special but we need to keep pushing to step up there on pure pace! That’s what we’re really here for, that has to be our goal!”
Lando Norris, 8th
“A tough, long race, a good result for the team and awesome for Carlos. My first stint was alright, apart from getting boxed-in at the start, and my pace was okay. I boxed onto the hard tyre and struggled, I just didn’t seem to get them working at all. “I was then fortunate with the Safety Car allowing me to make up positions after stopping again for mediums. Carlos on the podium, both cars in the points, is a great reward for everyone here and at the factory who have worked hard for Carlos and I this weekend.”
Kimi Raikkonen, 4th
“It’s great to finally be able to celebrate our best result of the season as a team. It was a positive day and finally we were able to get the result we worked so hard for. We kept on our own most of the race, but at the end we were in the middle of the action. I am disappointed we couldn’t get past Sainz for what turned out to be the final podium position: we had the speed, got a good run on him twice but couldn’t get past. But you always want something more: in the end, it’s good to get big points with both cars.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 5th
“I am really, really happy today, for both myself and the team. What a great race, it was a fantastic way to celebrate my contract for next year with two cars in the points. We had a great start, the best this year – we made up three places and went straight into the top ten, but we still had a lot of work to do. The strategy was great, the restarts were very important, especially the final one when I was under pressure from Daniel [Ricciardo]. The last ten laps were crazy, it was quite intense but we managed to stay ahead. Everyone in the team did a wonderful job and we can be really happy with our work. We are improving race after race and we can now focus on Abu Dhabi and on finishing the season in the right way.”
Nico Hulkenberg, 15th
“I don’t really know what happened today and I just couldn’t seem to make progress in the race. There was some excitement at the end with the safety cars and the restarts. It was fun with some battling, but it just wasn’t happening for me today. It shows how important qualifying is to be right up there and being in a position to gain places.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 6th
“After the early incident, I would have said ‘no way we could finish seventh’, so I’m quite happy with that. I take responsibility for the incident with Kevin. It was close, but I went into him and he spun. Sometimes you can do that and it works, but sometimes you touch wheels. In that situation you think the race is over, but we kept our heads down and managed a really strong race. The safety car restarts were fun and it was good out there. There’s one more to go now and I’m excited for that.”
1st Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 71 126.96.36.1998
2nd Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 71 +6.077
3rd Carlos Sainz McLaren F1 Team 71 +8.896
4th Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 71 +9.452
5th Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 71 +10.201
6th Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team 71 +10.541
7th Lewis Hamilton* Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 71 +11.139
8th Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 71 +11.204
9th Sergio Perez SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 71 +11.529
10th Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 71 +11.931
11th Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 71 +12.732
12th George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing 71 +13.599
13th Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team 71 +14.247
14th Alexander Albon Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 71 +14.927
15th Nico Hulkenberg** Renault F1 Team 71 +18.059
16th Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing 70 +1 lap
17th Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow 65
DNF 18th Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow 65
DNF 19th Lance Stroll SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 65
DNF NC Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 51 DNF
Fastest lap: Valtteri Bottas (1.10.698 on lap 43)
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 387
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 314
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 260
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 249
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 230
6 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 95
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren 95
8 Alex Albon Red Bull 84
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 54
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point 46
11 Lando Norris McLaren 45
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 43
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 37
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 35
15 Lance Stroll Racing Point 21
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 20
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 14
18 Romain Grosjean Haas 8
19 Robert Kubica Williams 1
20 George Russell Williams 0
1 Mercedes 701
2 Ferrari 479
3 Red Bull 391
4 McLaren 140
5 Renault 91
6 Toro Rosso 83
7 Racing Point 67
8 Alfa Romeo Racing 57
9 Haas 28
10 Williams 1