SAO PAULO (AP) — Three-time champion Max Verstappen led from the start and won the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday. Sergio Perez of Red Bull finished in fourth place, distancing himself from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in one of the few competitions left this season — a position for runner-up.
Perez nearly took the podium position from third-place Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin, but the Spaniard saw the checkered flag 0,053 second before the Mexican.
The two raced for the position in the three final laps of the race, with the Red Bull driver overtaking Alonso once and then losing the position. McLaren’s Lando Norris was second at Interlagos.
“For me, it was like 30 laps,” Alonso said after being chased by Perez.
Perez will leave South America 32 points ahead of Hamilton with two races left — Las Vegas on Nov. 19 and Abu Dhabi a week later.
Perez started the race at Interlagos in the ninth position and fan-favorite Hamilton in fifth after a frustrating qualifying for the Red Bull driver on Friday. He showed some improvement during the sprint race on Saturday, and said later he was more confident for the grand prix.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was going to start second, crashed during the formation lap before the start due to an engine issue.
A red flag after the second lap because of a crash involving Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Williams’ Alex Albon gave Red Bull drivers more time in seeking improvements.
Verstappen earned his 17th win and never lost the lead, while Perez had an aggressive drive to face Hamilton. In the 18th lap, the Red Bull driver overtook the Mercedes for fifth place, much to the disappointment of Brazilian fans who support the seven-time champion.
Formula One will race in Sao Paulo at least until 2030, organizers announced Friday.
“The whole race was about the management of the tires,” Verstappen said after the race. “Las Vegas will be new for everyone, full of surprises, I am sure.” ___
AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing
Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press