Anything can happen in Formula One, as they say, and today was one of those days where a lot did happen. Yes, Max Verstappen won from pole – that was to be expected – but Pierre Gasly finished second in a Toro Rosso! It was a crazy race indeed.
Off the start, Verstappen covered Sebastian Vettel going into turn 1 with Lewis Hamilton managing to squeeze around the outside of the Ferrari to take second place.
Further behind, Charles Leclerc, having started fourteenth due to a grid penalty, was very aggressive in his overtakes but was clinical and so moved up the field in no time at all.
Hamilton was the first to pit on lap 21 onto another set of the soft compound tyres, committing himself to a two-stop strategy.
This left Red Bull with no other choice but to pit Verstappen the following lap and he too went onto another set of the soft compound tyres.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing in the pits for Verstappen though. The Red Bull mechanics did all they could, changing the tyres in just 1.9 seconds.
However, this advantage was lost when Williams released Robert Kubica right into Verstappen’s path. Kubica was awarded a five-second time penalty for this.
Taking the positives from the situation, though, it did allow an on-track battle between Verstappen and Hamilton. Verstappen overtook the Brit up the inside into turn 1, before forcing Hamilton to the outside heading into turn 4, holding onto the lead.
The gap between the two stayed relatively the same for the next 20 laps or so before Hamilton came into the pits for the second and final time.
Verstappen made his stop next time round and it was another superb 1.9 second pit stop from Red Bull, which meant that Verstappen came out in front of the Mercedes when he exited the pits.
Another battle developing was that between Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas. Bottas was closing up to the Ferrari on the main straight but just wasn’t brave enough to try a move into turn 1.
That said, Leclerc was defending brilliantly so that Bottas wasn’t able to get past.
Bottas’ race didn’t last for much longer after that as his car began to smoke and then lose power to force his retirement from the race.
A safety car was brought out soon afterwards by surprise but it was later revealed that Bottas had taken his steering wheel off the car but had left it in full lock so the marshals struggled to get it back behind the barriers, hence the safety car.
Verstappen pitted under the safety car with Hamilton staying out, having been told to do the opposite to what Verstappen did.
12 laps were left in the race when the green flag was waved and Verstappen got a good run on Hamilton off the restart, lining an overtake up around the outside of the Mercedes through turn 1 before executing it up the inside into turn 2.
Hamilton then tried to get back at Verstappen but thought better of going around the outside of turn 4.
With six laps to go, another safety car was brought out after the two Ferraris made contact, causing terminal damage.
It was the slightest of touches as Vettel came across to try and block Leclerc but it resulted in a double DNF for the Scuderia.
Bizarrely, Hamilton pitted under the safety car despite there being a threat of no green flag racing if the safety car went on for several laps.
He came out behind not only Alexander Albon but Pierre Gasly as well and was now running in fourth position.
With two laps to go, the safety car period ended and all hell broke loose.
Gasly was immediately overtaken by Lewis Hamilton into turn 1, which seemed to have ended hopes of a dream podium for the Frenchman.
However, later on in the lap, Hamilton tried to overtake Albon but the two made contact and Albon was sent spinning around. This promoted Gasly to second position!
In the final few hundred metres of the race, Pierre Gasly won the drag race between himself and Hamilton for the line to claim second position and his first podium in Formula One.
Hamilton finished third on the track but was later given a five-second time penalty for causing the collision with Albon and so Carlos Sainz was promoted to the final podium place, his first in F1.
After his fantastic result, Gasly said, “It’s my first podium in Formula One and, for sure, I will never forget it. That’s what I love about motorsport, the emotions and the fights.”
It definitely was a great day for Formula One with an action-packed Brazilian Grand Prix. The record books may say that Verstappen won from pole but that certainly was not the full story.
The final race of the season takes place at the Yas Marina Circuit with the traditionally anti-climactic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.
Classification (as of 7am Monday)
1: Max Verstappen: 1:33:14.678: 25pts
2: Pierre Gasly: +6.077s: 18pts
3: Carlos Sainz: +8.896s: 15pts
4: Kimi Raikkonen: +9.452s: 12pts
5: Antonio Giovinazzi: +10.201s: 10pts
6: Lewis Hamilton: +11.139s: 8pts
7: Lando Norris: +11.204s: 6pts
8: Sergio Perez: +11.529s: 4pts
9: Daniil Kvyat: +11.931s: 2pts
10: Kevin Magnussen: +12.732s: 1pt
11: George Russell: +13.599s
12: Romain Grosjean: +14.247s
13: Alexander Albon: +14.927s
14: Daniel Ricciardo: +15.541s
15: Nico Hulkenberg: +18.059s
16: Robert Kubica: +1 lap