Verstappen beats Gasly in action-packed finish in Brazil!

Race winner Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme. 17.11.2019.
© XPB 

Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen finally achieved redemption for missing out last year by claiming victory in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.

A thrilling finish to the race saw Pierre Gasly take second place for Toro Rosso. He finished narrowly ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who had tangled with Alexander Albon in a fight over the runners-up spot during a late restart.

Hamilton was subsequently penalised for causing a collision, which handed the final podium place to McLaren's Carlos Sainz. Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas had earlier been the first retirement of the afternoon with a power unit issue.

Ferrari suffered a self-inflicted disaster after Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc made contact while vying over fourth position with five laps to go, putting both cars out of the race. Racing Point's Lance Stroll was also a casualty of debris from the incident.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90 and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Alfa Romeo Racing C38 at the start of the race.

Bright and sunny conditions meant that the track at Autódromo José Carlos Pace was hotting up nicely as Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel arrived at the front of the grid for the start of Sunday's race. However the drivers also had one eye on the wind, which had started to gust around Interlagos by the time the lights went out to get the penultimate event of 2019 underway.

It was a short, sharp run up to turn 1 and Verstappen was able to confidently defend his pole position into the Senna esses, immediately starting to pull away. However Vettel was less fortunate and succumbed to a move around the outside from Lewis Hamilton starting from the second row.

Valtteri Bottas, Alexander Albon, Pierre Gasly, Romain Grosjean, Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen had all maintained their initial starting positions over the opening lap. In contrast, McLaren's Lando Norris had promptly lost two places, allowing Charles Leclerc to jump straight into the top ten ahead of Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF90 at the start of the race.

The Ferrari had qualified in fourth but had then been hit by a ten place grid penalty for an engine change. Starting on medium tyres while all those ahead were on the soft compound, the Monegasque made his intentions clear with further rapid moves on the two Haas cars to move up to eighth by lap 6. The following lap he put Raikkonen to the sword into turn 1, and shortly after it was Gasly's turn to have to defer to Leclerc.

Daniel Ricciardo was less successful in his bid to pass Magnussen for 13th into turn 4, with the Renault tapping the Haas into a spin on lap 10 as Ricciardo tried to take the inside line only to find the gap disappearing before he could make it work. Magnussen was able to gather himself together and get back underway with minimal damage to the VF-19's bodywork, while Ricciardo was forced to make an early pit stop for a new front wing and was subsequently handed a five second penalty by the stewards for causing the collision.

A dozen laps into the race, Verstappen reported that he had picked up a vibration on the left-front tyre on the Red Bull, but he nonetheless seemed able to comfortably sustain a two second lead over Hamilton with Vettel a further four seconds behind but still well ahead of Bottas, Albon and Leclerc.

In fact it was Hamilton who pitted first on lap 21 in an effort to pull off the undercut, forcing Verstappen to immediately respond next time by. Both drivers took another set of softs, committing them to a two-stop strategy. The Red Bull pit crew performed flawlessly but Verstappen was held up by Williams releasing Robert Kubica ahead of him at the exit which meant Hamilton gained track position. A furious Verstappen immediately counterattacked and blasted past the Mercedes at the start of the next lap with help from DRS, only for Hamilton to do the same to the Red Bull a lap later. However the Mercedes was lacking power and a worried Hamilton asked the team if there was a problem, all of which helped Verstappen to once again retake the position.

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W10 makes a pit stop.

Vettel had inherited the lead but pitted at the end of lap 25, opting for a set of medium tyres indicating he was hoping to run to the finish without another stop. A lap later Bottas was in, and his choice of the hard compound likewise hinted that Mercedes were also hoping to run a one-stop strategy. Their stops promoted Verstappen and Hamilton back to the front, with a yet-to-stop Leclerc now struggling in third ahead of Vettel, Bottas and Albon.

Told to switch to 'Plan C', Leclerc made his stop on lap 30 to take on the hard compound to see out the remaining 41 laps. He came back out in sixth ahead of Gasly, with McLaren's Carlos Sainz briefly up to eighth despite starting from the back row until his pit stop on lap 31 dropped him back down the order. With his departure, the top ten was rounded out by the two Alfas of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi and Racing Point's Sergio Perez.

The mid-section of the race became a waiting game as teams watched to see how their respective tyre strategies played out. Verstappen had pulled out a three second lead over Hamilton who was ruing the decision to stick to used softs and wishing he'd gambled on mediums. Either way both men had to stop again, which would hand the lead to Vettel - but would the Ferrari make it to the end on the mediums? Bottas seemed better poised on the hard tyres but he was slipping away from the leaders and on the verge of handing them a 'free' pit stop, while also coming within range of Albon immediately behind.

Wary of being undercut by Albon and Leclerc, Mercedes made the surprise decision to bring Bottas in on lap 42 for mediums after just 11 laps on the hard compound. Next time by, an increasingly agitated Hamilton was also in for a service and a similar switch to the yellow-walled tyres, Red Bull responding by calling in Verstappen in on lap 44 for another impressive display by the pit crew compared to that of their rivals, which duly kept him in front of Hamilton. Vettel was now in the lead but only by six seconds from Verstappen and Hamilton, and his pace on the worn tyres soon dropped off, leaving him a sitting duck. As soon as Vettel fell to third, Ferrari called him in on lap 50 for a final stop and a new set of softs.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10.

Meanwhile Bottas found himself faced with having to dispense Leclerc and Albon on track if he was to successfully regain fourth place, and the Ferrari was proving a particularly tough nut to crack. The longer it took, the fainter the Finn's prospects of challenging Vettel for the podium. Worrying smoke signals from the back of the W10 indicated that the effort was causing his Mercedes power unit to overheat, and on lap 53 Bottas was forced to pull over and become the first retirement of the afternoon.

The need to recover the stricken car triggered a full safety car, wiping out the big gaps between the drivers on track and allowing lapped cars to unlap themselves before the restart. Verstappen and Leclerc both opted to use the opportunity to pit for a fresh set of soft tyres, while Mercedes told Hamilton to make the opposite move and stay out.

Hamilton did all he could to back Verstappen into Vettel's clutches at the restart on lap 60 but it wasn't enough for the Mercedes to hold on to the lead through turn 2. The unintended consequence of all the manoeuvring was to give Albon the chance to strike successfully on Vettel for third. The rookie then had one idea on catching Hamilton ahead of him while at the same time ensuring Vettel didn't strike from behind.

In fact Vettel had problems of his own, as Leclerc used his fresher tyres to challenge his team mate for position on lap 66. The pair made light contact - Leclerc's front-right touching Vettel's rear left - but the consequences were disastrous for Ferrari with both cars suffering mortal injuries and immediately forced out of the race. The debris from blown tyres also took out Lance Stroll and a second safety car was triggered. Hamilton made the surprise decision to pit, dropping him to fourth place with only four laps remaining and no certainty that the clean-up would be completed in time to allow a restart.

The efficient track marshalls completed their work with enough time to allow a final two-lap shoot-out. Verstappen took off at the front with Hamilton quickly passing Gasly for third place. However his attempt to pass Albon for second was messy and the pair made contact, the Red Bull spinning round from the impact in an incident that was reviewed after the finish by the race stewards with Hamilton receiving a five second penalty for causing a collision.

Gasly reclaimed second place while Hamilton was recovering, and front wing damage to the Mercedes left him unable to retake the position by the time the chequered flag came out - leaving the Frenchman enthusiastically celebrating his first podium success with Toro Rosso.

1st place Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB15, 2nd place Pierre Gasly (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR14 and 3rd place Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10.

While Hamilton appeared alongside Verstappen and Gasly on the podium, his subsequent penalty dropped him to seventh and promoted Sainz into the top three. Raikkonen took fourth ahead of Giovinazzi and Ricciardo, with Hamilton duly classified ahead of Norris, Perez and Daniil Kvyat.

Missing out on the points were Kevin Magnussen, George Russell and Romain Grosjean, with Albon limping home in 15th ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who had been handed a five second penalty for overtaking during an earlier safety car period. Kubica was the last car still running, but the Williams was a lap down by the finish.

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