Sao Paulo Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc was unable to start the race due to technical difficulties, and Max Verstappen won ahead of Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso.
Max Verstappen leads Charles Leclerc in the Aston Martins, which appear to be regaining some of their early-season pace, to pole position after Friday’s slightly shortened qualifying session, which was caused by both the storm that moved in for the second half of Q3 and the delay at the start caused by debris.
In today’s race, some penalties were dished out. Pierre Gasly, George Russell, and Esteban Ocon were all given two-place penalties for driving too slowly and failing to keep as far left as feasible on the pit exit to avoid getting in the way of vehicles trying to pass them. The three will begin in P8, P14, and P15, in that order. The team replaced Ocon’s power unit assembly following his crash with Alonso in the first quarter, but there will be no consequences because all of the parts were already in his pool of accessible parts.
Race Results: Sao Paulo Grand Prix of 2023
On the grid, mechanics had to work on a few last-minute concerns. Russell’s Mercedes’s front right brake overheated during his lap, so that needed to be fixed. Meanwhile, Gasly’s Alpine sidepod had to be removed in order to address a problem underneath it.
Logan Sargeant, P19, was the only driver to forgo the soft compound at the beginning in favor of new mediums. Although Leclerc P2, Lance Stroll P3, Nico Hulkenberg P11, Kevin Magnussen P12, Daniel Ricciardo P17, Valtteri Bottas P18, and Zhou Guanyu P20 had brand-new softs available to them, the majority of the soft runners were running on old tires.
Leclerc lost the hydraulics in T7 and crashed into the barrier, creating a dramatic scene on the Formation Lap. The driver from Monaco was able to return to the racetrack, but his only accomplishment was to locate a space behind the barriers.
After that, there was a gap where the Ferrari driver should have been, and Lando Norris, yesterday’s Sprint pole sitter, surged ahead of the Astons to capture P2. Shortly after, the race was stopped as the Safety Car emerged. Lewis Hamilton, who had started in P5, also had a strong start as he had jumped the Aston Martins to take P3.
Following the McLaren’s rapid start, the Haas vehicles and Alex Albon collided. Hulkenberg was caught between his teammate and the Williams, snagging Albon’s rear wheel and causing his car to collide with Magnussen’s. At T1, the drivers from Thailand and Denmark ended up in the wall.
In order to clear all the debris and rebuild the barrier, the Safety Car drove the cars into the pits on the first lap before the race was Red Flagged on the second. Magnussen had broken Oscar Piastri’s rear wing, therefore he had stayed in the pits after the Safety Car passed.
When the Red Flag was raised, McLaren had the opportunity to attempt repairs and maybe get him back in condition for the restart after first declaring that the car was unsafe to drive. Work was also being done on Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri since one of the tyre carcasses that had escaped from Albon’s vehicle after the incident had struck his rear wing.
After prompt work by their teams, the two Australians would be able to continue in the race, though they would be a lap behind the others. The race was scheduled to resume approximately thirty minutes after the original start, and any cars that had been worked on in the garages would have to start from the pit lane.
Once more, Verstappen was positioned front, with Norris at his side and Hamilton and Fernando Alonso trailing behind. Piastri and Ricciardo participated in the out lap before returning to the pits for their start, making a total of fifteen cars on the starting line. For the restart, Piastri would be the sole driver on mediums.
The Mercedes driver had Alonso vying for the final podium position as the lights went out for the second time. It only took him a few turns to make it work and demote Hamilton to P4. Hamilton battled with Norris for P2, but the McLaren driver was able to cling on.
Stroll’s progress was less successful than Alonso’s; after restarting from P5, the Canadian lost ground behind Sergio Perez and Russell. Before DRS was activated, Norris had been able to maintain a lead of less than a second over Verstappen in the lead laps. The driver for McLaren was completing quick laps.
In the eighth lap, Norris was following the Dutch driver closely and repeatedly challenged him, but Verstappen was able to sneak far enough ahead to avoid being detected by DRS. By lap 11, Alonso was a full second and a half behind the lead pair in P3, with over two seconds separating them.
The majority of the remaining top ten were in a DRS train led by Hamilton in P4. Russell in P5 informed Mercedes over the radio that his teammate was holding him up. Russell lost a second to Hamilton at the beginning of lap 14, and Perez moved inside at the first curve to take P5. Russell attempted to reply, but at that point the Mexican was too strong for him.
Perez was closing in on Hamilton and ran down the inside at T1 once more to claim P4 on lap 18. Russell was not thrilled to hear that he needed to manage his tires harder to get them through the stint.
At the end of the lap, Hamilton made a pit stop and emerged in P11 on the medium tire, with clear air. The following lap, Russell took his own stop and resumed behind his teammate. Perez switched to mediums at the conclusion of lap 20. The Mexican pulled out in front of the two Mercedes, forcing him to pass Hamilton once more, which he did on lap 23.
Alfa Romeo brought Zhou in to terminate his day on lap 24, making him the fourth retirement; however, the reason for the stop was not disclosed at that time. When Bottas was also retired on lap 41, the team’s day took a turn for the worst.
Out of the top three drivers, Alonso was the first to pit. On lap 26, the Spaniard came in to switch to medium tires and resume in P6, just a few seconds ahead of Perez. On lap 28, both Verstappen and Norris made a pit stop, going to mediums before regaining their positions one and two, but with a marginally wider distance between them than before the stop.
Russell was still not thrilled about being stuck behind Hamilton, but on lap 35, Sainz passed him and dropped the British driver to P8. On lap 37, Sainz passed the more seasoned Mercedes driver who had just communicated over the radio to his crew that he was having trouble with his tires.
Verstappen and Norris were exchanging fastest performances at the front, but their difference remained almost five seconds. Although Alonso had been successful for about ten laps and counting, he had fallen well behind Norris as he battled to keep Perez out of DRS range.
After passing Russell on lap 43 to claim P8, Gasly quickly contacted Alpine to request that they inspect his brakes for possible issues. A few laps later, Russell stopped to reapply softs and came back in P11.
After Perez pulled into the pits on lap 47, Alonso was brought in to cover for him the next lap. With softs now on, the two were running in P5 and P6, with the same amount of space between them as before.
By lap 53, Perez was trailing Alonso by little more than a second, teasing himself into the DRS range and making a run for the last podium spot. On lap 56, however, he was far into DRS; he set the quickest time but was unable to take the lead.
Norris led the race for a short while after Verstappen’s final stop on lap 57. However, on lap 60, he took the lead back to the pits once it became apparent that there would not be a Safety Car or VSC to aid him preserve track position during his pit stop.
On lap 59, Russell became the sixth driver to withdraw of the day when a Mercedes driver experienced a high and increasing power unit oil temperature.
The Aston Martin driver was still able to maintain his position by employing all of his defensive strategies while the Alonso-Perez duel for P3 raged on. Norris was leading the race and was getting closer to Verstappen, but it looked doubtful that he would be able to maintain the same speed or close enough to the leader in the remaining laps.
Alonso’s defensive masterclass was ultimately broken by Perez on lap 70, but the Spaniard held on and reclaimed the lead at T4 on the last lap. At the checkered flag, Alonso denied Red Bull a double-podium by 0.053 seconds, leaving nothing standing between them.
With a time of 1:12.486, a second faster than everyone else, Norris claimed the fastest lap point and finished eight seconds behind Verstappen in the race. Stroll’s P5 meant that Aston Martin had their first double-points since before the summer break, which was a relief after the team’s terrible double-DNF in Mexico last time out.
Sainz was able to bring his Ferrari home in P6, even if he had problems with his downshifts in the finale. Gasly finished P7 ahead of Hamilton, with Tsunoda and Ocon claiming the last two positions.