Hamilton stars in against-the-odds win at Interlagos: 2021 Brazilian GP as it happened


Lewis Hamilton won the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix after starting tenth and battling wheel to wheel for the lead with Max Verstappen

Lewis hamilton waves Brazilian flag after winning 2021 grand prix at Interlagos

Hamilton wore an Ayrton Senna tribute helmet and picked up a Brazilian flag after winning the race

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

“We were penalised 25 places,” Lewis Hamilton pointed out on his slowing down lap at Interlagos as he celebrated an epic victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver had been disqualified from qualifying — after  posting the fastest time — and started Saturday’s sprint race last, making up 15 places to finish fifth.

Then he took a five-place grid penalty for having a new engine fitted to start tenth.

Despite the setbacks, the reigning champion cut through the midfield and launched an attack on the Red Bulls, going wheel-to-wheel with Max Verstappen to take the lead — after another controversial incident, to take an emphatic win and close the gap in the title race to 14 points.

2021 Brazilian Grand Prix lap by lap

Start of the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix

Verstappen moves ahead of Bottas at the start, as Norris clips Sainz on the left

Florent Gooden / DPPI

Max Verstappen gave Valtteri Bottas a taste of his own medicine as the lights went out, leaping ahead from second on the grid, as the Finn had done in yesterday’s sprint qualifying.

But his advantage wasn’t quite a decisive as Bottas’s had been, and the two cars ran side by side into Turn 1, with Bottas losing out on the outside and running wide.

Perez closed up and pulled alongside of Bottas on the run to Turn 4. The Mercedes driver defended the inside of the corner but was carrying too much speed and ran out wide, making it simple for Perez to duck past on the inside.

Valtteri Bottas runs wide on the outside of Max Verstappen at the 2021 Brazilioan Grand Prix

Bottas runs wide at the start

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Behind, Lando Norris was limping along with a puncture, his rear wheel having clipped the side of Carlos Sainz as he tried to take the Ferrari for third place.

Hamilton was having ,much more luck in progressing from tenth, running down the inside of  Esteban Ocon’s Alpine and he was passing Sebastian Vettel for sixth at the end of lap 1, when Verstappen was a second ahead of Perez.

Norris pitted with a 6sec stop putting him out last behind the pitlane starting Kimi Räikkönen, but mechanics found his car had got off lightly, giving him hope of progressing in the race.

Hamilton moved into fifth by lap 3, passing Carlos Sainz at his favourite spot into Turn 1. He then passed Leclerc and Bottas was ordered to led his team-mate through, bringing Hamilton up to third and behind the Red Bulls fourth by lap 5.

Yujki Tsunoda proved the Turn 1 overtake wasn’t as straightforward as Hamilton made it looked. His passing attempt on Lance Stroll at the inside ended in a shower of broken bodywork and a broken nose for the AlphaTauri driver who headed to the pits. He would be handed a 10sec time penalty for the over-optimistic manoeuvre.

Yuki Tsunoda crashes with Lance Stroll at the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix

Tsunoda lost his front wing in Turn 1 clash with Stroll

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Hamilton closed up to the Red Bull on lap 7, thanks to a safety car called out to clear up the Tsunoda debris. George Russell was first to stop, coming in to put on a set of hard tyres and returning to 18th place.

Verstappen left it late to accelerate aaway for the restart on lap 10 but he and Perez kept clear of the Mercedes and it was Bottas who found himself in difficulty, holding station behind Hamilton but under pressure from Charles Leclerc behind.

Lando Norris began his charge up the field, passing Tsunoda at the restart and was up to 15th by the end of the lap, clearing the two Williams and Kimi Räikkönen.

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But racing was paused again on lap 12, as Mick Schumacher understeered into Kimi Räikkönen while the pair fought for 16th; his front wing detaching, becoming trapped under his car and spraying debris across the circuit.

The virtual safety car period ended on lap 14, with the Red Bulls appearing to gain, Verstappen running 1.5sec ahead of Perez with Hamilton a further second behind.

Leclerc followed the top ten, then came Sainz, Vettel, Gasly, Ricciardo and Ocon.

Lewis Hamilton was well within DRS range of Perez on lap 16, pulling closer on the straights, as Max pleaded over the radio for Verstappen to drop back so he could use DRS to defend.

But Verstappen was 2.5sec down the road and Perez couldn’t resist the reigning champion at his favourite hunting ground of Turn 1. At the start of lap 18, the Mercedes swept around the outside and held on through the Senna esses but Perez finally got DRS courtesy of the Mercedes now ahead, and he passed on the next straight.

He couldn’t respond to a second Hamilton attack at the same place and in the same way on lap 19. Hamilton once again took second on the outside and this time he was away, pulling out 2,3sec on the Red Bull by lap 21, with Verstappen 3.8sec ahead.

Lewis Hamilton passes Sergio Perez in the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix

Turn 1 was a happy hunting ground this weekend for Hamilton, who passed Perez on the outside

Lars Baron/Getty Images

Daniel Ricciardo passed Vettel for eighth on lap 21, and the second Aston Martin lost out at the same time; Lance Stroll being passed by Fernando Alonso for 11th. Stroll pitted on lap 23, moving Norris up another place to 13th.

Verstappen was maintaining a 3.5sec gap to Hamilton in second, as Perez fell back, 6.7sec behind the leader on lap 23, but untroubled by Bottas who was running 2sec behind, with the Ferraris a further 4sec behind.

Max Verstappen said that he was starting to slide on his medium tyres on lap 24 and a lap later, Hamilton delivered a similar message as the pitstops approached.

Gasly pitted on lap 26, dropping from seventh to 15th and he was followed by Hamilton a lap later. He was fitted with hard tyres in a 2.4sec stopped and returned sixth, 6sec behind Daniel Ricciardo and ahead of Vettel.

Carlos Sainz pitted behind him, slotting in 13th and putting on medium tyres, in contrast to the other leading cars

Red Bull responded immediately, pulling in Verstappen on lap 28 with an identical 2.4sec stop and exited on hard tyres. The gap to Hamilton had been cut to 1.6sec and could have been even smaller had Hamilton not been delayed by Ricciardo’s McLaren.

Sergio Perez stopped on lap 29, coming out on hard tyres behind Ricciardo in fifth and leaving Bottas in the lead, with no indication that Mercedes was preparing for a stop.

Pierre Gasly, on his fresher tyres, moved ahead of Norris at Turn 1 on lap 30, just before a virtual safety car was called when large sections of Lance Stroll’s floor disintegrated on the start/finish straight — a result of the Tsunoda incident.

It gave Mercedes the chance to pit Bottas while the cars on track had slowed their pace and he jumped Perez to come back out third behind Hamilton. There was more bad news for Red Bull as Hamilton moved to within a second of Verstappen and into the DRS zone.

Fernando Alonso was running fifth, having not stopped, but his descent through the top ten began, as Leclerc, on new medium tyres, went past. He finally pitted on lap 35, a low 4sec stop putting him out in 14th place, ahead of the ailing Stroll, who would soon retire.

Ricciardo’s stop dropped him behind Pierre Gasly and the Australian was running within around a second of the AlphaTauri, eyeing its seventh place.

Esteban Ocon went past Yuki Tsunoda for tenth place on lap 38, as Lando Norris dropped out of the points for his second stop for hard tyres.

Carlos Sainz on medium tyres in the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix

Ferrari opted to run a middle stint on medium tyres

Lars Baron/Getty Images

The Ferrari pair on medium tyres weren’t setting the timing sheets alight, despite being the only cars apart from Mick Schumacher’s Haas to run the compound. Leclerc was 24sec behind Verstappen and Sainz 4sec further behind, and just 1.5sec ahead of Gasly.

Tsunoda continued to fall back on lap 40, passed by both Vettel and Alonso on the start-finish straight.

Hamilton was asked which compound of tyre he would prefer if he stopped again and he kept his answer secret, responding by flicking a switch on his steering wheel.

But Verstappen moved first this time on lap 41 – after complaining on the radio that he was vulnerable to Mercedes pitting first and gaining from the undercut.

After a 2.7sec stop, his exit was blocked by the Williams of Nicholas Latifi leaving his box at the end of the pitlane, but he was soon past the Canadian.

Bottas stopped for hard tyres a lap later, returning in fifth, behind Charles Leclerc. The Finn asked whether the team were sure about the tactic. “Affirm” came the response.

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Perez came in on lap 43 as Verstappen set a fastest lap, almost 4sec faster than Hamilton and Mercedes  responded, pulling Hamilton in on lap 44. He was back on track returned 2.6sec behind Verstappen.

“How do you want me to approach this?” asked Max. “Look after the tyres,” his team responded

Hamilton’s hard tyres didn’t appear to be what he had asked for.“No, no, I asked for medium,” Hamilton told his team, revealing his answer a few laps earlier.

There was an outbreak of disgruntlement in the Mercedes team. “I think we just threw away an easy 1-2,” radioed Bottas.

Lewis Hamilton follows Max Verstappen at the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix

Hamilton biding his time before taking the lead from Verstappen

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Hamilton began setting a series of fastest laps and the gap to Verstappen as they began lap 47 was just 0.5sec. The Mercedes driver pulled closer on the run up to Turn 4, feinting a move  before falling back behind the Red Bull.

He took an outside line on Turn 1 on lap 48, giving him extra momentum through the Senna esses and on to the Reta Oposta straight, where he powered alongside Verstappen, on the outside for Turn 4.

Verstappen pushed Hamilton wide; the Mercedes ran off the track, and then so did Verstappen, both cars well onto the run-off, with Verstappen maintaining his lead when they were both back on to the circuit.

The incident was noted by stewards. “Things are heating up at the front, there might be penalties coming,” Bottas was told.

“That is all about letting them race,” said Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley in a radio message to race director Michael Masi and the verdict on lap 53 was that no investigation was necessary. “Of course not, of course” said Hamilton when he was told of the decision.

Mercedes’ sporting director, Ron Meadows protested to Masi, complaining that Verstappen had crowded Hamilton off the track and gained an unfair advantage, but was told that the incident had been looked at carefully.

While this was going on, Daniel Ricciardo retired on lap 51, pulling in to his pit garage after a loss of power.

Chalres Leclerc swapped his medium compound tyres for hards on lap 53, followed by Sainz a lap later, Leclerc ending up back in fifth ahead of his team-mate, who was only 1.1sec ahead of Alonso.

Hamilton remained within a second of Verstappen as they started lap 58, again pulling out in the run to Turn 4 with DRS open. The Red Bull’s weaving down the straight would result in the Dutchman being shown the white and black flag warning flag for unsporting conduct but this time the inside line was defended more conventionally by Verstappen and there was no way through.

Hamilton was even closer on lap 59, though and this time he made it past on Reta Oposta before even making it to Turn 4 and pulled out a 2sec lead by lap 61.

“Valtteri, go get him,” said team boss Toto Wolff to the third-placed Mercedes.

Pierre Gasly dropped to ninth after a further stop but recovered a place on lap 61 with a tight move on Ocon into Turn 1. He went past Alonso on lap 62 on the approach to Turn 4, moving back into seventh.

Sergio Perez pitted at the start of lap 70 in an effort to take the fastest lap and its associated point from Lewis Hamilton. Bottas had made little headway in his hunt for Verstappen, sitting 5sec behind the Red Bull.

Hamilton crossed the line for a sensational against-the-odds win, picking up a Brazilian flag on his slowing down lap, to match his Ayrton Senna tribute helmet. Perez making his final lap the fastest of the race, taking the associated point.


2021 Brazilian Grand Prix results

Position Driver Team Time Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1hr 32min 22.851sec 25
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull +10.496sec 18
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +13.576sec 15
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull +39.940sec 13*
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +49.517sec 10
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +51.820sec 8
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
19 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren DNF
20 Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF

*Includes additional point for fastest lap