Max Verstappen has completed an emphatic victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix after Australian Daniel Ricciardo escaped injury when his car was struck by a flying tyre.
Lando Norris finished second for McLaren in Sunday’s race, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso holding off Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez by just 0.053 seconds for third.
But it was an abysmal afternoon for the two Australian drivers, Ricciardo (13th) and Oscar Piastri (14th), who brought up the rear of the field after being caught up in a chaotic start.
Mercedes had a bad time too, with Lewis Hamilton eighth and George Russell forced to retire his car with an engine failure 12 laps from the end. Hamilton crossed the line an eye-watering 63 seconds behind.
The race in Sao Paulo was suspended following a worrying start when a loose tyre hit Ricciardo’s rear wing following a collision between Alex Albon and Nico Hulkenberg.
The pair’s cars made contact, with Albon also hitting Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and the impact tearing the left-rear off Albon’s Williams, with the bouncing tyre flying over the top of Ricciardo’s head and smashing into the back of his AlphaTauri.
“I tried to miss it, but the tyre was in the air and it clipped my rear wing,” Ricciardo told his team.
Piastri was also caught up in the drama, as his McLaren was rear-ended by Magnussen’s spinning vehicle.
Both Australians were able to return for a restart after a 25-minute red flag delay but were relegated to the back of the field, both being penalised a lap because they didn’t do a lap under the Safety Car and went straight into the pits before the red flag.
When the race restarted, Norris, now second, put the pressure on Verstappen but the Dutchman, as ever, responded brilliantly, leading from start to finish and eventually beating Norris by 8.2 seconds.
Verstappen, now on 52 career wins, clinched the title in Qatar last month while Red Bull have also retained their constructors’ title. The champions have won 19 of the 20 races so far.
While the Dutch driver’s victory always looked inevitable, Alonso provided the late thrills with a dramatic battle with Perez in which he showed all the attacking fire and defensive skill of a double world champion.
The Spaniard crossed the finish line just 0.053 seconds ahead of the Mexican after Perez passed him on the penultimate lap and Alonso, the oldest man in the race at 42, grabbed the place back on the last circuit.