Max Verstappen thwarts Lando Norris’ bid for first F1 win with sprint victory

Lando Norris’ bid to win for the first time in Formula One was over in the blink of the eye as Max Verstappen claimed another victory in Brazil.

The British driver started from top spot in Saturday’s 24-lap dash to the chequered flag in Interlagos after edging out Verstappen in qualifying.

But Norris, 23, was out-gunned by Verstappen on the short run down to the opening corner to ensure the McLaren man’s wait for a first victory goes on.

Norris had to settle for second, crossing the line 4.2 seconds behind Verstappen. Sergio Perez took third ahead of George Russell, while Lewis Hamilton finished only seventh, 35 sec back.

Perez’s third-placed finish allowed him to extend his lead over Hamilton in the race for championship runner-up from from 20 points to 24 ahead of tomorrow’s grand prix.

The Interlagos venue in Sao Paulo has been kind to British drivers over the years. Hamilton took his first world title here 15 years ago, with Jenson Button securing his sole championship the following season.

Last year, Russell followed in the footsteps of Hamilton, Button and David Coulthard to become the fourth British winner this century after he captured his only win in the sport to date.

As the lights turned to green, Norris enjoyed a decent getaway in his McLaren, but Verstappen was also strong away from his marks.

Norris resisted the opportunity to move his left and cover off the racing line, allowing Verstappen to sling his Red Bull up the inside.

By the end of lap one, it would get worse for Norris with Russell, who breezed ahead of Perez on the run down to the opening corner, launching a fine move on his compatriot to take second.

In the other Mercedes, Hamilton was also on the move. At Turn 4, Hamilton was later on his brakes than Perez, placing his Mercedes round the outside of the Mexican for fourth.

However, it took Perez just four laps to regain the place when he re-took the seven-time world champion at the first corner.

Following his disappointing star, Norris regained his composure and usurped Russell at the start of lap five with Verstappen 1.3 sec up the road.

Russell, running in third, was slipping back into the clutches of Perez and the on lap eight, the Red Bull driver dived underneath the Mercedes to re-take third.

Russell struck back at Turn 4 with a gutsy manoeuvre only for Perez to swing back ahead on lap 10.

“The pace of those guys ahead is well fast,” said the British driver. In the other Mercedes, Hamilton was starting to struggle.

With three laps remaining, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc moved ahead of Hamilton, demoting him to sixth. That would become seventh the next time round when Yuki Tsunoda raced by in his AlphaTauri.

“I need to review my start,” said Norris. “My initial phase was good, but maybe I was too conservative and on the safe side.

“I got caught sleeping with George on lap one but the pace was good after. I tried to go after Max but he was too strong.”

Verstappen said: “It was important to get ahead at the start. The second part of my start was very good, we got alongside, and then it was about tyre management.”

The Dutch driver, who starts on pole position for tomorrow’s 71-lap race, said: “We have learned a lot and hopefully we can do something similar tomorrow.”