Max Verstappen comfortably dominated from pole position to win the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, as Fernando Alonso pipped Sergio Perez at the death to third.

The Dutchman survived two race starts to claim the victory, ahead of Lando Norris and Alonso, as Charles Leclerc crashed out before the race start with a technical issue.

Except for the Williams of Logan Sargeant down in 19th position on the grid, every driver opted to commence the 71-lap encounter on Pirelli’s Soft compound tyre.

Leclerc, who was set to start on the front row, bizarrely crashed on the formation lap at the Ferradurra corner, explaining on the team radio he had sustained a loss of hydraulics.

The marshals swiftly removed the stricken Ferrari in time for the start to be taken as planned, with Verstappen getting away expertly to comfortably preserve the lead.

Behind the polesitter, both Aston Martins got away sluggishly. Norris sliced up the inside and Lewis Hamilton the outside to seize second and third respectively.

However, the race immediately required the intervention of the Safety Car as Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen came to blows on the approach to Turn 1, putting both cars out.

Replays showed that Albon had made slight contact with Nico Hulkenberg which sent him spearing into the sister Haas. Race Control soon upgraded it to a red flag stoppage to repair the damaged barrier.

Although Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo also inherited damage from the ensuing chaos, their teams were able to repair their respective cars to return to the running.

After a lengthy delay, the race resumed with a standing restart following a second formation lap, with Verstappen ahead of Norris, Hamilton and the two Aston Martins.

Alexander Albon (THA) Williams Racing FW45 and Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas VF-23 crash at the start of the race. 05.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day

Verstappen again aced the initial launch to be untroubled into Turn 1, while Hamilton tried unsuccessfully to swoop by Norris.

Hamilton’s compromised run through the next sequence of corners put Alonso right on his tail and the Spaniard took advantage of the slipstream to dive to the inside of Turn 4.

However, team-mate Lance Stroll had endured another poor getaway, dropping behind George Russell and Sergio Perez to plummet further down the order to seventh.

Towards the end of the lap at Juncao, Yuki Tsunoda’s attempted move on the inside of Pierre Gasly saw him run out wide onto the grass, allowing Esteban Ocon through.

Norris had remained within one second of Verstappen and having utilised DRS down the start-finish straight, the Briton almost had a look down into Descida do Lago.

Having fended off the McLaren’s attack into Turn 4, the Red Bull driver instantly started to stretch his legs in clear air and had opened up a 2s gap over Norris within two laps.

With Hamilton unable to maintain pace with Alonso, Russell retracted his earlier statement that he would protect his team-mate amid fears over the train behind.

First up in that queue of cars behind the Mercedes duo was Perez and the Mexican finally overtook Russell into Turn 1 on Lap 14. Despite the Briton having the advantage of DRS on the back straight, Perez had the inside line to move into the top five.

Four laps later Perez repeated the same move on Hamilton, his primary championship rival, to progress into fourth, albeit now 8s behind Alonso directly ahead.

That position loss prompted Mercedes to pit Hamilton at the end of the lap for a set of the Medium tyre, returning to the race track outside of the points in 11th position.

The German outfit opted to bring Russell into the pits next time around, which resulted in Red Bull responding with Perez the following lap. The two lap undercut had seen Hamilton get back ahead of Perez, but the Red Bull driver wasted no time in clearing the Mercedes again into Turn 4 on Lap 24.

Elsewhere, Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo became the first driver to drop out of contention since the restart, parking his car in the garage.

Alonso was the next of the frontrunners into the pits on Lap 26, with McLaren afforded enough margin to respond two laps later and still keep Norris ahead in second place.

Red Bull also elected to bring Verstappen in at the same time as McLaren fitted Norris with a new set of Medium compound tyres, the pair separated by nearly 4s out front.

Prior to that, Stroll had been flying on his new Medium tyres and displaced both Mercedes drivers to propel his way into the top five.

Hamilton had been struggling considerably more than his team-mate but Russell’s failure to mount an attack saw Sainz progressively reel in the pair at a rapid rate.

By the time Lap 35 arrived Sainz had blasted past Russell and soon dispatched Hamilton into Turn 4 just two laps later, while Perez was progressively catching Alonso for third.

Alfa Romeo’s race went from bad to worse as a technical issue forced Valtteri Bottas into an early exit, leaving the Italian squad with a double DNF.

Despite still circulating on the track, Mercedes’ Sunday was also unravelling even more as Gasly in the Alpine comfortably swooped by Russell for eighth place.

Russell’s demotion to ninth resulted in him coming into the pits for a second time on Lap 47, while Hamilton bemoaned how badly his car was handling before also pitting.

Perez had also boxed on the same lap as Hamilton and remained 3.7s behind Alonso, who retained a net third after also making his final scheduled pit stop of the race.

Gasly had also been equipped with a new set of the Soft tyres and he maximised the added grip to swoop past Hamilton, who queried the call to not run the Hard rubber.

Perez had attached his car onto the back of Alonso with 15 laps still remaining but the Spaniard continously appeared unperturbed by the presence of the Red Bull behind.

Russell had been overhauled by Tsunoda for ninth place when Mercedes instructed him to retire the car, revealing that “high PU oil temperature’ was responsible.

Having courting Alonso’s rear for several laps, Perez finally got close enough to dive down the inside of the Aston Martin on the penultimate lap to seize third.

However, that wasn’t the end of the battle as Perez failed to break Alonso’s resolve, enabling the two-time F1 champion to pounce into Turn 4 on the final tour.

Despite Perez attempting to nose back ahead on the run to the line with slipstream and DRS, Alonso marginally came out on top of an enthralling duel for third position.

After being hampered last year by Red Bull going in a wrongful set-up direction, Verstappen banished those woes to power to his 17th victory of the year in Sao Paulo.

Norris trailed the three-time champion home for the second time this weekend, while Alonso held Perez at bay to return to the podium for the first time since August.

Stroll brought two cars home inside the top five for Aston Martin, convincingly beating Sainz, who was nursing downshift issues, in the sole-running Ferrari.

Gasly led Hamilton home in seventh and eighth respectively, while Tsunoda recovered from 16th on the grid to record another points finish, ahead of Ocon’s Alpine.

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