Max Verstappen believes his route to victory in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix appeared easier from the outside than it was inside the cockpit of his Red Bull RB19 car.

Verstappen aced two standing starts to be uncontested away from the line, but Lando Norris, who’d moved into second, maintained pace with the leader during the early stages.

Following one attempted overtaking manoeuvre on the seventh lap, Verstappen instantly pulled away out of DRS range to ultimately prevail over the McLaren by 8.2s.

However, the reigning champion contends that the race was tougher than his winning margin suggested, citing how Norris was a match for him at the beginning of stints.

“I think it was good,” Verstappen said. “I mean, also, maybe it looks fully easy from the outside, but I think for most of every stint, Lando was matching my lap times.

“It was always like the last five to ten laps when it seemed like then, of course, we had better tyre deg. But yeah, the beginning of every stint, I definitely had to focus a lot and I couldn’t afford to make mistakes.

“And around here with the high deg as well, it’s not the easiest to drive. It’s not like you can just relax and let the car just roll into the corners without any consequence. You had to be really on it.

“And yeah, luckily, everything we did today, also strategy-wise, pit stops, were good. So, very happy about that.”

(L to R): Race winner Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in parc ferme with second placed Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren. 05.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day

Norris’ one chance to seize the lead came on Lap 7 when he utilised the slipstream of the Red Bull and the aid of DRS to close on Verstappen on the approach to the first turn.

Verstappen, however, was able to protect his position on the inside and then also covered off the McLaren driver on the run down to Descida do Lago before streaking clear.

Recounting the battle, Verstappen explained: “He suddenly closed a lot. I didn’t expect him to have a run into Turn 1, but yeah, I had to use my battery a bit. And for one lap, into 1, into 4, I had to defend. And then I had to, of course, try and maintain that gap.

“But I think what also was very important at that stage of the stint was to really look after the tyres. To make sure that you have a good lap to pit.”

Although Norris proceeded to bag the bonus point for the fastest race lap, Verstappen was always able to respond to the Briton’s pace to claim his 17th victory of 2023.

Regardless of the outcome of the last two races, Verstappen’s win percentage for the year will remain at 77.2%, surpassing Alberto Ascari’s all-time F1 record from 1952.

“I mean, it’s not something that when I joined Formula 1, I need to have a 75% win record over a season you know,” he contended.

“These kinds of things come along when everything just works really well. You know, I feel good in the car, the car is very competitive, and the team barely makes mistakes as well. So then you can get a season like we are having. So for me it’s more about just enjoying the moment and trying to maximise every single opportunity.”

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