Hamilton hunts Verstappen for victory in Brazil

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British Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton holds a Brazilian flag as he celebrates on the podium after winning the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Sao Paulo at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, or Interlagos racetrack, in Sao Paulo on November 14 2021. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA / AFP)

SAO PAULO – Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton chased Max Verstappen to win the Sao Paulo Grand Prix for Mercedes on Sunday and cut his Red Bull rival’s Formula 1 lead to 14 points in one of the biggest laps of his career.

Verstappen finished second with Valtteri Bottas third for Mercedes after a controversial roller coaster weekend in Brazil.

“I don’t remember another weekend like this,” said Hamilton, his dream of a record eighth title is back with three races to go. “It’s pretty overwhelming, to be honest.”

“This was probably one of the best weekends, if not the best, I’ve had since … probably in my entire career.”

The Brit was fastest in Friday qualifying at Interlagos for Saturday’s sprint that set the grid on Sunday, only to retreat to the back of the pack after his car’s rear wing failed a technical inspection.

On Saturday he went from 20th to fifth place, returning to 10th on the grid on Sunday after an engine penalty but thirsting for much more.

The rest was history as the 36-year-old took his third win at Interlagos and set a record for victory in Brazil from the lowest position on the grid, beating Italian Giancarlo Fisichella’s 2003 win from eighth.

“Lewis, that’s how he gets through a 20-place disqualification,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told him on the radio after taking the checkered flag in front of a cheering crowd.

“It was actually 25, but you’re right,” Hamilton replied.

The win was the sixth of the season for Hamilton and the 101st record of his career.

“It was one of the best units I’ve ever seen in F1. By anyone. Absolutely fantastic, ”1996 world champion Damon Hill commented on Twitter.

“I feel like Lewis is in his league today,” Bottas said.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez finished fourth, eventually stopping in the pits for fresh tires to score the fastest lap and deny Hamilton a valuable bonus point.

Mercedes led Red Bull by 11 points in the constructors’ standings.

Wheel to wheel

Bottas started from pole but lost at the first corner first to Verstappen and then to Perez while Hamilton was already seventh.

The defending champion was third on lap five, with Bottas letting him pass as expected.

The 3.5-second gap from Perez was narrowed a lap later when the safety car was deployed after a clash between AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll left debris scattered across the track.

Perez was then overtaken on lap 18, after an additional virtual safety car period when the front wing of Mick Schumacher’s Haas broke off and left more debris.

Then the game started, with Hamilton stopping in front of Verstappen and narrowing the gap.

The 24-year-old Dutchman was determined not to suffer the cuts again and jumped first for the second stop on lap 41 with Hamilton coming in three laps later and then approaching with the benefit of fresher tires and a newer engine.

Both fought wheel to wheel on lap 48, with Verstappen defending himself hard.

Hamilton moved on but Verstappen closed it and both cars went wide, Mercedes complained that their man was pushed away unfairly, with the stewards ultimately deciding not to take any further action.

Hamilton tried again before making the move for the third time as the stewards waved a black and white flag at Verstappen for pulling on the straight, getting a sarcastic response: “Yes, perfect. Say hi “.

Good fight

“It was a good fight but in the end we just lost a little bit of rhythm. We gave it our all today, it was a lot of fun, “said Verstappen.

“We still have a good points lead. Today was some damage limitation in a tough weekend for us. I am confident that the next races will take us back. ”

Two of the remaining three are new circuits for F1 – Qatar and Saudi Arabia – before the final in Abu Dhabi.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished fifth with teammate Carlos Sainz sixth.

Seventh place for Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri, ahead of the alpine duo of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. Lando Norris took the final point for McLaren despite a puncture on the first lap.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo retired his McLaren after a loss of power.

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