Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has won a thrilling Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix after the Ferraris collided and Mercedes’ six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton was demoted from third to seventh.
In a race of safety cars and surprises at Interlagos on Sunday, Pierre Gasly crossed in second place for Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso in a rare Honda-powered one-two.
Hamilton chased the Frenchman across the line for third but post-race was handed a five-second penalty for tangling with Red Bull’s Alex Albon in a frantic finale to the season’s penultimate round.
Hamilton’s demotion lifted Carlos Sainz to the podium, Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi upgraded to fourth and fifth respectively, and Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo up to sixth.
“I fully accept responsibility,” said Hamilton, who apologised to Albon for costing the rookie a likely first podium and Red Bull a one-two.
Ricciardo himself recovered from an early five-second penalty which saw him drop back to last position, and then storm through the field in his Renault to finish in the points.
The 30-year-old was involved in a lap eight collision with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who spun off the track and was heard on team radio angrily labelling the West Australian a “f***ing idiot”.
Two former F1 drivers were divided in analysing the punishment on British television.
“I don’t think he (Ricciard) has anything to complain about there,” Martin Brundle said on Sky Sports.
While Jolyon Palmer told the BBC: “No way is that a five-second penalty … it’s actually unbelievable isn’t it. Every time you wonder what on earth they’re looking at sometimes.”
A late collision between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc when fighting for fourth position cost both Ferrari drivers, as they failed to finish.
“What the hell is he doing?” Vettel said on his team radio, protesting his innocence.
“What the hell,” yelled Leclerc, before he delivered a number of bleeped-out expletives on his team radio.
The stewards reviewed the accident, but took no further action, as they found “neither driver is predominantly at fault”.
Verstappen led from start to finish to claim the eighth victory of his career, his third of the season but first from pole.
It also made amends for last year’s race in Sao Paulo where he was heading for victory before a coming together with French backmarker Esteban Ocon dropped him to second.
“Redemption Max, absolute redemption from last year,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner told the 22-year-old over the team radio.
“The way we fought for it was even better,” Verstappen replied.
Victory lifted the Dutchman to third overall in the drivers’ championship.
Hamilton had already secured the title in the previous race in the United States while his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who did not finish at Interlagos, is guaranteed the runner-up spot.
The F1 season wraps up in Abu Dhabi on December 1.