Max Verstappen continued his winning habit with another well-measured victory for Red Bull on Saturday when he triumphed in the sprint race at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
The three-time world champion finished comfortably clear of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Verstappen snatched the lead at the start and came home 4.287 seconds clear of pole-sitter Norris with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez taking third ahead of George Russell of Mercedes and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Yuki Tsunoda was sixth for Alpha Tauri, scoring their first points for the Italian team, ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes and Carlos Ferrari in the second Ferrari, taking the final point for eighth.
It was Verstappen’s fourth sprint win of the season.
“Much better than last year,” he reported to his team at the finish. “It was important to get ahead at the start, but the launch wasn’t amazing.
“It’s a good start and we learned a lot for tomorrow.”
Norris said: “I think I had the power, but I was too conservative. My initial start was good but not the second part of it and then I tried to go after Max, but I just didn’t have enough…”
After a poor start, Perez fell to fifth but fought back to finish third.
“I had a terrible start and had to fight hard on my tyres,” he said. “And I paid the price in the end. Without the start, I think I could have been a lot further up.”
Hamilton’s race ended in disappointment as his tyres fell off in the closing laps and he lost positions and pace. “We got it wrong today ad we have to improve,” said Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.
On a hot day at Interlagos, Norris made a good start from his first sprint race pole position, but Verstappen powered past him on the inside in the second start phase to lead into the downhill turn to the Senna ‘S’.
Behind him, Russell surged forward from fourth on the grid to pass Perez and then take second from Norris on the opening lap with Hamilton following to take fourth as Perez fell to fifth.
The Mexican began his recovery with a slipstream and Drag Reduction System-aided pass of Hamilton at Turn One on lap four, the Red Bull showing superior straight line power and speed as Verstappen pulled 1.5 seconds clear.
Norris also recovered to regain second from Russell into Turn One and Perez took third at the start of lap eight at the same place before the Briton re-passed him at the end of the back straight.
The champion was 1.8sec ahead of Norris with Perez seven seconds adrift in third and the two Mercedes, of Russell and Hamilton, in pursuit.
Red Bull team chief Christian Horner was full of praise for both Verstappen’s race management and Perez’s resilience.
“That was a well-executed race by Max,” said Horner. “He won the start, he drove consistently and he managed his tyres. I was worried about the soft tyres in the high temperatures today, but it was absolutely fine in our case.
“It was also such a good race and a confidence boost for Checo and good points. In the end, we were pretty much 30 seconds up the road from George Russell which is good information for us for tomorrow!”
He added he had been impressed with the way in which Perez had responded to the pressure and speculation that had followed his recent run of poor results.
“He was quick today and he was quick in Mexico – for that move he was going to be hero or zero and it was one of those things, but it is one of his real strengths that he can pick himself up and brush himself down and go again.”