Briton had already pushed from 20th to fifth on Saturday’s sprint qualifying after being disqualified from Friday’s qualifying
By Yuri Coghe
Lewis Hamilton stormed from tenth to claim a signature win in the São Paulo Grand Prix from Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas in Brazil on Sunday.
The seven-time world champion started in P10 and was in fifth place on lap 3 and third on lap 5, overtaking championship rival Verstappen for the lead on lap 59 in what was perhaps the strongest showing of any driver in the 2021 season and one of his best career wins ever.
The 36-year-old Mercedes driver, who also won in the Interlagos race track in 2016 and 2018, got his 101th career win – the same number all of the Formula 1 Brazilian drivers were able to accomplish in history so far. Hamilton’s idol, three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, claimed 41 of those.
Hamilton celebrated his sixth victory of the year with the Brazilian flag in the car and on the podium, Senna’s trademark.
It was a challenging weekend for Hamilton, to say the least.
He set the fastest time in the Friday qualifying session but got disqualified from it due to a DRS infringement. He then pushed from 20th to fifth on Saturday’s sprint qualifying but had to start Sunday’s race in tenth due to a five-place grid penalty for adding a fifth Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) to his power unit.
Hamilton got the gap to Verstappen down to 14 points in the drivers’ championship with three races to go in the season. Mercedes extended its constructors’ championship lead to 11 points from Red Bull.
“I’m so grateful for the incredible support I’ve had this weekend. I haven’t had as much support as this since Silverstone,” said Hamilton. “What a race. The team did a great job, Valtteri did a great job. With the penalties, it’s the hardest race weekend I’ve had.”
Some laps before taking the lead from Verstappen, Hamilton went for the overtake but Verstappen’s defence took both drivers out of the track. The stewards noted the incident but decided not to investigate it.
In a later attempt to keep his position before being overtaken, the Dutchman also weaved on the straight, for which he received a black-and-white flag as a warning. See their whole battle here.
Verstappen, second, overtook pole-sitter Bottas at the start. The Finn was also overtaken by the other Red Bull in the first lap but took advantage of a virtual safety car later in the race to get the place back from Sergio Perez, who finished fourth and saw his three-race podium streak come to an end.
“We tried everything today and gave it our all. It was a lot of fun but in the end, we just lacked a bit of pace,” said Verstappen. “We still have a decent lead so today was about damage limitation. I’m confident we’ll come back stronger in the next races.”
Hamilton pitted on lap 53, three after Verstappen stopped for fresh tires, and came out 2s5 behind the Dutchman.
When still third, Bottas let Hamilton through after the Briton had overtaken the likes of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr, Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
“I’m disappointed with the start and the first lap – I tried, but afterwards the pace was quite ok,” said Bottas. “I’m glad that we could get more points than Red Bull.”
The top 10
Ferrari had another great weekend when it comes to their chances to finish P3 in the constructors’ standings as Leclerc and Sainz finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
Alpine also enjoyed a double-points finish with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso crossing the finish line in eighth and ninth, respectively. The French team is still tied with AlphaTauri with 112 points for fifth in the team’s championship as Pierre Gasly added another great result to his name by finishing seventh.
Norris wrapped up the top 10. The young Briton, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Saturday, had a puncture on the first lap but made it back from P20 to give McLaren a single point for the second time in the last two races. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo retired on lap 51 due to a power loss.
Canadian driver Lance Stroll also retired, having made contact with AlphaTauri’s rookie Yuki Tsunoda on lap 6. Stroll managed to keep going but the damage sustained meant he eventually had to come into the pits to abandon the race.
Tsunoda received a 10-second penalty for the collision and finished 15h. The encounter caused a safety car to be deployed. The race also saw two virtual safety cars be deployed due to debris on the track.
Stroll’s Aston Martin teammate, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, finished just outside the points in 11th. Alfa Romeo was also left with no points, as Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished in P12 and P14, respectively.
Nicholas Latifi, who outqualified his Williams teammate George Russell for the first time ever on Friday, was 16th, only ahead of the Haas duo of Nikita Mazepin, 17th, and Mick Schumacher, 18th, of the drivers that completed the race. Russell finished 12th.
F1 is back next week for the first-ever Qatar GP, the last race of a triple-header before the final two rounds in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi on the Dec. 03-05 and 10-12 weekends, respectively.
See the full São Paulo Grand Prix results below: