Max Verstappen is a dick, but in today’s Brazilian Grand Prix he certainly had the fastest car on track this weekend. Red Bull spent all of their efforts in qualifying attempting to finalize their in-race setups rather than focusing on their grid position. As a result the two Red Bull drivers started behind the Ferrari and Mercedes duos. It wasn’t long before Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo were fighting at the sharp end, however.
Verstappen put a very well orchestrated pass on Hamilton for the lead at the start of his second stint, and was pulling away from the pack on pace. As Verstappen was coming up on lapped traffic in the form of Force India driver Esteban Ocon, it was clear that Ocon wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Verstappen went to the inside at turn 1, moving left. Then, assuming the lapped traffic ceded the position as is customary, Verstappen went for the apex of the right-hand turn 2 as normal. Only, Ocon was still there, attempting to make a dive up the inside of Max to prevent himself going a lap down.
On the one hand, Ocon should not have put himself or the leader in that position. Backmarkers don’t fight for position with the leader, it’s just not done. On the other hand, Max certainly had much more to lose by forcing the issue at the turn 1 and turn 2 complex, rather than waiting another corner or two to make the pass stick without contretemps. Hamilton mentioned such when probed in post-race interview, showing his champion’s maturity a bit. Max is young and makes low-percentage moves for minimal gain.
Following the incident, Max was able to recover from the spin just behind Hamilton, giving a choice finger to Ocon on his way back into the race. Being that Hamilton was on much older and harder tires, Verstappen was able to cut into Hamilton’s lead as the race continued, but ended up falling just over a second short as the checkered flag fell. The spin damaged his car’s floor and he was forced to deal with less than perfect aero for the remaining laps.
Sebastian Vettel struggled with tires this weekend, and at one point allowed teammate Kimi Raikkonen through to attack Mercedes’ #2 driver Valterri Bottas, who also pitted twice with blistering tires. Because of this inadvisable two-stop strategy, Bottas and Vettel rounded out the best of the rest, while Ricciardo fought Raikkonen—unsuccessfully—for the final step on the podium.
Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel had a nice little scrap for a few laps on pace, with Vettel ultimately winning out. I personally hope that this is a sign of things to come for next year when Monégasque Leclerc joins Ferrari as Vettel’s teammate.
It’s also worth noting that this was Lewis Hamilton’s 50th victory in the turbo hybrid regulation era, which accounts for half of all those races. That’s a 50% win rate for Hamilton since the beginning of the 2013 season. It’s pretty fair to say he’s a dominant force in the sport these days.
Oh, and just for good measure, Max Verstappen is definitely out to prove he’s a dick.