SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Red Bull's Max Verstappen won a thrilling Brazilian Grand Prix ahead of Pierre Gasly, who took advantage of a chaotic final few laps to secure a surprise second place for Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso.
Newly-crowned champion Lewis Hamilton finished third on the road, but faced a five-second penalty after admitting full responsibility for a collision with Red Bull's Alex Albon while battling for second place on the penultimate lap. That promoted Caros Sainz to third, but he is also under investigation for using his Drag Reduction System (DRS) under yellow flags, which could result in a penalty that drops him down the order and promotes the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen to the podium.
The race had been a fairly routine battle between Verstappen and Hamilton until the final 12 laps, which included:
• Verstappen overtaking Hamilton for the lead
• The Ferrari drivers colliding as they battled for fourth place, resulting in a double retirement
• Gasly coming from sixth place to secure second at the chequered flag
The race was blown wide open by a Safety Car on lap 54, which was required to allow marshals to remove Valtteri Bottas' car after it became wedged on a grass verge following an engine failure. The incident essentially hit the reset button on the grand prix, opening up an opportunity to fit fresh tyres for what was expected to be an 11-lap sprint to the finish.Race leader Verstappen was among those who took the opportunity to pit behind the Safety Car, while Hamilton was told to do the opposite of the Red Bull -- giving him the lead of the race but older tyres to defend it with.
Albon, in fourth, and Leclerc, in fifth, were also among those fitting fresh rubber behind the Safety Car, which also gave them a pace advantage when racing resumed on lap 60.Verstappen immediately regained the lead from Hamilton despite the Mercedes driver doing his best to back up the pack and get a better run to the first corner. Behind the leaders, Albon took third place from Sebastian Vettel at Turn 1, who then fell into the clutches of his Ferrari teammate Leclerc and the most controversial moment of the race.
On lap 66, Leclerc made a clear pass on Vettel at Turn 1, but made a slower exit from the Senna Esses, allowing Vettel to fight back. The Ferraris were wheel-to-wheel on the run down to Turn 4, but Vettel edged across on Leclerc ahead of the braking zone, resulting in a collision. The incident punctured Leclerc's right front tyre and Vettel's left rear, resulting in both drivers retiring from the race in shower of sparks and expletives.The stewards are investigating the incident, but the internal debrief at Ferrari is the one that is likely to be the most frosty.
There is already existing needle between the two drivers after Leclerc -- 10 years Vettel's junior -- emerged as the quicker of the two in the second half of the season and caused a spat in Monza when he failed to offer Vettel a slipstream in qualifying. A team orders debate then emerged in Russia after the two drivers failed to adhere to a pre-race agreement in the opening laps. 8:31 PM
As the Ferrari pit wall tried to understand how a likely podium finish in Interlagos had turned into a double DNF, the rest of the field were subject to a second Safety Car to clear up the on-track mess. This time Hamilton took the opportunity to pit for fresh tyres and emerged in fourth to try to attack Gasly in third, Albon in second and, perhaps, Verstappen in first. But with the Safety Car lasting four laps, the lap count was clicking down and he only had two laps in which to make up three positions.
Hamilton quickly dispatched of Gasly when racing resumed on lap 70 of 71, but as he tried to make a move on Albon at Turn 10 he clipped the Red Bull into a spin. That dropped Albon to 14th and gave Gasly second place, as Hamilton, with a damaged front wing, carried on. He nearly re-passed Gasly at the line, but the Honda-powered Toro Rosso held off the world champion by less than two metres at the finish.
Meanwhile, Verstappen cruised to his third victory of the season and, with Gasly in second place, engine supplier Honda's first one-two victory since the 1991 Japanese Grand Prix.