He may have started 10th on the grid, but made he headlines again after a display of venturesome boldness behind the wheel.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton closed the gap on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the 2021 Formula 1 world championship, overcoming grid penalties to scythe his way through the field and take a brilliant win in Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
A capacity crowd at the Interlagos circuit was treated to yet another classic duel between Hamilton and title rival Verstappen, with the two almost coming to blows once again as they diced for the lead late in the race.
Successive penalties for a new power unit and a rear wing infringement saw Hamilton line up only tenth on the grid, while Verstappen started second and appeared likely to extend his championship lead.
But though Verstappen seized the early initiative by snatching the lead from Hamilton’s pole-sitting teammate Valtteri Bottas at the first corner, Hamilton made headway of his own and was up to third by lap five, trailing only Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Perez.
With his new power unit giving him the edge on the Interlagos circuit’s straights, Hamilton breezed past Perez on lap 19 and then set off in pursuit of Verstappen, setting the stage for the season’s latest epic battle between the two title protagonists.
While Hamilton clearly had the faster car, the Briton struggled to get close to Verstappen in the Dutchman’s dirty air in the twisty middle section of the circuit, meaning the Red Bull was just out of reach of the faster Mercedes on the straights.
Hamilton thought he had made it past around the outside of Verstappen at turn four on lap 48, but both cars ran wide onto the run-off area and rejoined the track in their original positions, prompting some commentators to suggest that the Dutchman should be penalized for his robust defense.
Hamilton would not be denied 11 laps later though, breezing past the Dutchman to take his sixth win of an enthralling season.
“I was pushing as hard as I could. Coming into this weekend I never, ever thought we would be able to close the gap like we had today. Then these things just kept going against us, but it really shows for everyone, never give up. Never, ever stop fighting and that’s how I’ve approached this weekend.
“It feels like the first [win] because I don’t feel like I’ve had a win for a long time.”
Behind the two title rivals, Bottas rounded out the podium places, with Perez finishing fourth and taking the bonus point for fastest lap.
The Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished fifth and sixth, ahead of Pierre Gasly in his AlphaTauri. Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso took eighth and ninth in their Alpines, with McLaren’s Lando Norris rounding out the top ten.
In the drivers’ championship, Verstappen still leads with 332.5 points, but Hamilton has closed the gap to 14 points. Bottas is third on 203 points.
In the constructors’ standings, Mercedes retake the lead and now have 481.5 points, two ahead of Red Bull. Ferrari are third with 269.5.
The next round of the 2021 F1 world championship is the first ever Qatar Grand Prix on November 21.