Max Verstappen took a controlled São Paulo Grand Prix victory, fending off an early challenge from fast starting Lando Norris to power to his 17th win of the season. With Norris a comfortable second, late-race drama was provided by Fernando Alonso who beat Sergio Pérez to the final podium spot by less than a tenth of second at the end of a thrilling drag race to the flag.
There was drama ahead of the race start at Interlagos, with front-row starter Charles Leclerc exiting with a hydraulics issue on the formation lap. The Ferrari driver managed to pull into an escape road, allowing the remaining cars to form up on the grid.
There were more incidents when the lights went out. Verstappen got a good start from pole position to take the lead. Further back, Norris reacted to the lights superbly and passed the of slow-starting Fernando Alonso to jump from sixth on the grid to second as the leaders went into Turn 1.
At the rear of the grid through there was contact. Williams’ Alex Albon went to the outside on the run to Turn 1 and he was clipped by the Haas’ of Nico Hülkenberg. The Williams driver was pitched into the side of the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen and both spun into the barriers. In the chaos, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri was also hit and sustained rear wing damage, while Daniel Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri was hit by a loose wheel from Magnussen’s car and also sustained rear wing damage.
The Safety Car was immediately released but with debris all across the track in Turn 1 and with the barriers damaged, the red flags were soon flown.
When the lights went out for the second time, Max again got away well to take the lead ahead of Norris. Hamilton, who had taken third ahead of the red flag, tried to go around the outside of the McLaren but locked up and that allowed Alonso to tuck in behind the Mercedes and then use the slipstream to steal P3 from the Mercedes driver on the run to Turn 4. Behind them, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was passed by Mercedes’ George Russell and the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez.
Norris then began to close on Verstappen and on lap 8 the McLaren driver went on the attack, attempting a pass on the outside of the first corner. He followed that up with a look at Turn 4, but Verstappen defended well and the McLaren driver then had to back off having used the best of his tyres.
Pérez was soon on the attack and on lap 14, he powered past Russell into Turn 1. The Mercedes driver then used DRS on the Reta Oposta to try to retake the position, but Pérez position his car well and held position as they exited Turn 4. Freed from the DRS train, Pérez next targeted Hamilton and on lap 18 he powered past the slower Mercedes into Turn 1.
That was the cue for Mercedes to pit Hamilton and he was followed on the following tour by Russell, with both switching to Medium tyres. That sparked the first round of stops and Peerez pitted from P4 at the end of lap 20. Hamilton’s undercut was powerful, however, and the Mexican emerged behind the Mercedes once more. Pérez was flying, however, and he soon passed the seven-time champion once more.
Verstappen made his first stop at the end of lap 27, with Norris pitting right behind him and the pair held their positions as they too moved to Medium tyres.
Behind the top two, Pérez began to edge closer to Alonso and at a little after half distance he was just 1.3s behind the Spaniard. The Mexican’s pace on the Medium tyres wasn’t as good, however, and over the remainder of the second stint he slowly dropped back from the Aston Martin.
However, after his final stop for Soft tyres, on lap 47, the Pérez’s found his pace again and he once again began to chase Alonso down.
At the front, Verstappen was firmly in control and after briefly surrendering the lead to Norris following his final switch to Softs, on lap 56, he returned to the front three laps later and began to manage his march to the flag.
Pérez, though, was deep into a tense cat and mouse battle with Alonso for the final podium place, with the Mexican using DRS to draw close and Alonso deploying battery to defend hard through the final 20 laps.
And as the laps ebbed away, it look like Alonso would comfortably hold on. However, on lap 70, Pérez at last got an opportunity. The Red Bull driver closed in at the end of the lap and with aid of DRS dived to the inside of the Aston on the run to Turn 1 to get the move done. Alonso, though, fought back and with DRS on his side on the long straight battled his way through to retake the position. Pérez wasn’t giving up, though, and he tucked in behind the Spaniard for a final-lap lunge.
It came right at the end of lap 71. As Verstappen crossed the line to take his 17th win of the season, Pérez got DRS at the exit of Junçao to kick off a stunning drag race to the flag. And though the Mexican drew alongside the Aston Martin, Alonso had just enough pace to nose across the line in third as they took the flag.
Behind the top four, Stroll was fifth in the second Aston Martin, with Sainz sixth ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly. Hamilton slid to eighth at the flag with Yuki Tsunoda taking two points for AlphaTauri in P9. The final point went to Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine.
2023 FIA Formula 1 São Paulo Grand Prix – Race
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 71 1:56’48.894
2 Lando Norris McLaren 71 1:56’57.171 8.277
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 71 1:57’23.049 34.155
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 71 1:57’23.102 34.208
5 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 71 1:57’29.739 40.845
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 71 1:57’39.082 50.188
7 Pierre Gasly Alpine 71 1:57’44.987 56.093
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 71 1:57’51.753 1’02.859
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 71 1:57’58.774 1’09.880
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine 70 1:56’58.735 1 lap /9.841
11 Logan Sargeant Williams 70 1:57’15.102 1 lap /26.208
12 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 70 1:57’18.854 1 lap /29.960
13 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 70 1:57’58.855 1 lap /1’09.961
14 Oscar Piastri McLaren 69 1:56’52.530 2 laps /3.636
George Russell Mercedes 57 1:40’53.898 Retirement
Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 39 1:17’30.833 Retirement
Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 22 55’50.383 Retirement
Kevin Magnussen Haas 0 – Accident
Alexander Albon Williams 0 – Accident
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0 – Not started