“Lewis was behind me and I could see there was a lot of pace, it was already quite tough to match that,” Verstappen said. “I think in general we did all the right calls in trying to just cover, so there is not much you need to say about that. We were just a bit too slow. Of course, this weekend, they were very quick on the straights so I had to get my lap time through the corners but it was very hard on the tyres this weekend, the track. So it was not ideal.”
Hamilton felt his best chance was early, so consecutive fastest laps put him in DRS range and he attacked Verstappen on Lap 48. The Red Bull driver defended the inside towards Turn 4, Hamilton got ahead on the outside but then Verstappen ran both of them off the road on exit, with the stewards noting it but deciding no investigation was necessary after plenty of radio chatter from each team.
“Of course not!” Hamilton sarcastically exclaimed when told there would be no penalty over team radio, but his tone changed by the end.
“In the heat of the moment I don’t really know. I think I was ahead initially and then he held his ground and then we both ran out of road. Well, I think he was running out of road so I had to avoid and go off road, but I mean I didn’t think too much of it. I have to watch the replay. It’s hard battling, wouldn’t expect anything less really. We didn’t touch wheels, which was good.”
Verstappen himself admitted he used the run-off once he was struggling to make the apex, but was pleased with the way the situation was handled.
“I braked a bit later to try and keep the position and the tyres were already a bit worn,” Verstappen explained. “So I was really on the edge of grip, so that’s why I think I was already not fully on the apex. And it’s a safer way, of just running a bit wide there. In a way I was, of course, happy that the stewards decided that we could just keep on racing, because I think the racing in general was really good today.”
Ten laps later, Hamilton was back within range but starting to run out of time. As the pair again went side-by-side towards Turn 4 – after Verstappen had been weaving on the straight – Hamilton attempted a cutback that didn’t work out. But he stayed close enough to hint at a move into Turn 1, forcing Verstappen to defend and opening the door for an easy DRS pass a lap later.
“I kind of got into Turn 1 and dummied him – kind of dummied him, as such. I was either going to dive super late into Turn 1 so he had to block, then I got to position the car correctly through Turn 1 and 2 and knew through Turn 3 I’d have a far better slingshot past him as I was close, then I knew I was ahead going into the braking zone.”
From 20th on Saturday to the lead on Sunday, the job was done. Hamilton pulled away to take a vital victory, while Verstappen’s tyres fell away further and he just ensured Bottas couldn’t threaten his second place.
Perez made a late stop for softs and took the fastest lap point of Hamilton on the final lap without losing fourth, with Leclerc and Sainz a distant fifth and sixth on a good day for Ferrari. Gasly had to make do with seventh but it was hard-earned, passing the one-stopping Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon late on, with Norris recovering to tenth after his early puncture to score a solitary point for McLaren after Daniel Ricciardo retired with a power unit issue ahead of him.
There was still time for a little more drama as Hamilton was summoned to the stewards for undoing his seatbelts on the cool-down lap, reaching out of the cockpit for a Brazilian flag he proudly displayed on the podium. But a fine was all it was, ensuring the topsy-turvy weekend ended with a 14-point gap between the championship contenders.
It is the 11th time the two have shared the top two steps this season – including the past three races – and for all Hamilton’s brilliance it was another extremely good display from Verstappen that ensured the points’ swing wasn’t as dramatic as the performance difference.
2021 Brazilian Grand Prix results
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1hr 32min 22.851sec||25|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+10.496sec||18|
|4||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+39.940sec||13*|
|7||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+1 lap||6|
|8||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+1 lap||4|
|9||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1 lap||2|
|10||Lando Norris||McLaren||+1 lap||1|
|11||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+1 lap|
|12||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|13||George Russell||Williams||+1 lap|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|15||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+1 lap|
|16||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+1 lap|
|17||Nikita Mazepin||Haas||+2 laps|
|18||Mick Schumacher||Haas||+2 laps|
|20||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||DNF|
*Includes additional point for fastest lap