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Verstappen wins Sao Paulo Sprint


Ahead of today's Sprint, the final one of the season, the air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 55 degrees. It remains bright and sunny and there is a 0% chance of rain.

Lando Norris has pole, having made up for yesterday's strategic error, the Briton edging out Max Verstappen by 0.061s.

Sergio Perez starts from third ahead of the Mercedes pair and the AlphaTauris which sandwich Charles Leclerc... yes, it continues to be that sort of weekend.

That said, with an eye on tomorrow, which is what really counts, Ferrari opted to use used tyres for the Shootout hence the relatively lowly grid positions. On the other hand, Tsunoda, in particular, benefitted by opting for fresh softs... as did the Bulls and Mercedes in all honesty. Norris, on the other hand, did the business on used rubber.

Then again, Norris, Verstappen and Leclerc are about the only front-runners with fresh softs still available... but will they save them for tomorrow?

Behind these we have Sainz, Piastri, Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Gasly.

Alonso starts from 15th following that clash with Ocon, while Albon, who has had a tough weekend thus far, starts from 19th.

While Verstappen has support in the form of his teammate, Norris is on his own, with the next couple of rows pretty much dominated by Mercedes, Ferrari and AlphaTauri.

The drivers head out to the grid.

All are starting on softs bar the Haas pair and Sargeant who are on mediums. All are on used rubber bar Tsunoda, Ricciardo, Bottas, Zhou and Sargeant, AlphaTauri all too aware that this Sprint presents the perfect opportunity to make strides in the constructor standings, possibly even leapfrog Williams for seventh.

They head off on the formation lap, all getting away cleanly.

"It's a hot one today. We know we're biased towards race conditions, but let's see what we can do," Gasly is told.

The grid forms.

They're away. Norris gets way well, but so does Verstappen and into Turn 1 the Dutchman is ahead. He holds the line through 2 and 3 and heads off down the back straight in the lead.

Coming out of Turn 3 Alonso runs wide as does Piastri at Turn 4.

first Russell and then Hamilton pass Perez, Russell subsequently nailing in Turn 10 for third.

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Russell, Norris, Hamilton, Perez, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Sainz, Ricciardo and Piastri.

At the start of Lap 3, Hamilton passes Perez as they head into Turn 1 as his teammate posts a new fastest lap (14.422).

A lap later and Perez returns the compliment and passes Hamilton in Turn 1. As the pair continue to battle, Leclerc joins in the fun.

Norris appears to catch Russell napping as he retakes second spot in Turn 1.

Unbelievably, just 4 laps in and the Ferrari pair are being told to life and coast.

Down in 17thm Bottas goes quickest in S1 as Tsunoda complains that Leclerc is moving under braking.

Alonso passes Magnussen for 12th, both having access to DRS.

"There's oil coming out of the back of Valtteri's car," reports Albon.

Leclerc is leading a DRS train of six cars including Tsunoda, Sainz and Ricciardo.

Perez passes Russell in Turn 1 but the Briton retakes the position as they head into Turn 4.

Both Mercedes drivers appear to be struggling with their tyres.

At the start of Turn 10, Perez passes Russell again in Turn 1, but this time the Mercedes driver is unable to respond.

As Tsunoda enjoys a 1.2s comfort cushion over Sainz, Ricciardo is just 0.39s behind the Spaniard.

At 1.69s Norris is keeping Verstappen in his sights, as Ricciardo makes a typically bold move on Sainz in Turn 1 to claim 8th but the Spaniard retakes the place on the run to Turn 4.

Alonso is all over Gasly as they battle for 11th.

Verstappen is warned that Norris is "pushing hard".

At the start of Lap 14, Ricciardo once again nails Sainz in Turn 1 but again the Spaniard subsequently retakes the position on the back straight. Adding to the fun is the fact that Piastri has joined the pair and makes short work of Ricciardo.

A brave move sees Alonso take 11th from Gasly but the Alpine driver subsequently retakes the place. However, there's no stopping the two-time world champion who refuses to take no for an answer.

"We need to make a decision here, are we going to push the high speed or not," says Verstappen. "Yes," he is told, "I've been telling you for the last three laps."

Tsunoda is hard on the heels of Leclerc, as Alonso closes on Ricciardo.

18 laps in and a number of drivers are beginning to struggle for grip.

In quick succession Stroll passes both Alpines for 12th.

At the start of Lap 21, Ricciardo has a look at Piastri in Turn 1 as Alonso looks to pick up the pieces.

Meanwhile, Leclerc is just 0.6s down on Hamilton with Tsunoda in hot pursuit.

Indeed, Leclerc passes the Mercedes driver who is clearly struggling and only just manages to hold off the AlphaTauri.

At the end of Lap 22, Tsunoda passes Hamilton on the pit straight as Ricciardo finally passes Piastri for ninth.

At the start of the final lap, Alonso sweeps by Piastri in Turn 1 but the Australian reclaims the position in Turn 3.

Verstappen takes the flag, ahead of Norris, Perez, Russell, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Hamilton and Sainz.

Ricciardo is ninth, ahead of Piastri, Alonso, Stroll, Gasly, Ocon, Albon, Magnussen, Zhou, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Sargeant.

"Not an easy one," says Perez, "I had a terrible start, lost a place to George and another place to Lewis. Then I was fighting, I had to use a lot my tyres and I paid the price at the end. Without the start we could have been a lot further up."

"I don't know, I have to review it as my initial start was good, the second phase of the launch, things to improve for tomorrow," says Norris, who has been somewhat down on himself all weekend.

"I got caught sleeping a little bit with George on Lap 1," he admits, "but the pace was strong after. I just didn't have enough to go after Max.

"I'm not concerned," he insists, "if anything encouraged with how good our pace is today."

"It was important to get ahead at the start," admits Verstappen. "Then it was all about management, 24 laps on one tyre set is very long.

"We managed the race quite well out there today. Last year was very difficult for us around here, today was much better. I think we learned a lot and hopefully we can do something similar tomorrow."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Interlagos City here.


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