The gamble to use soft tyres for Valtteri Bottas paid off as the Finn took the lead in the sprint in Turn 1 to never give it away anymore. Verstappen was second and Sainz third while Hamilton finished 5th, gaining 15 positions in 24 laps.
The sprint race at Brazil promised to be an exciting affair following the disqualification of Lewis Hamilton from qualifying due to a technical issue with his car’s rear wing. As Max Verstappen started from the front, ahead of Bottas, Perez, Gasly, Sainz and Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton faced an uphill battle from the very back.
About half the grid opted to start with medium tyres, the other half on the soft. Bottas, Gasly and Sainz were the top starters on softs.
As the lights went out, Bottas immediately took the lead and comfortably went first into Turn 1. Verstappen didn’t make the greatest start and got challenged and passed by Sainz on Turn 3. Sainz however soon lost the soft tyre advantage from the first lap and got re-passed for second place on the third lap.
Perez followed up in 4th, followed by Leclerc, Norris, Gasly, Ocon, Vettel and Ricciardo. Alonso had a troubled start and fell back to 14th initially, but then saw Giovinazzi bump Raikkonen off the track.
Hamilton also didn’t wander around and by lap 5 he was already 12th, right behind Alonso who had recovered some lost places towards 11th place.
Halfway into the sprint, Verstappen had returned to challenge Bottas for the lead as the soft tyre runners were clearly starting to suffer from degradation. The Dutch Red Bull Driver didn’t get a move in immediately and was then seemingly taking it easier, tailing Bottas at around 1s.
Hamilton kept on pushing ahead, first needing 3 laps to get past Hamilton, then a single one to take 9th from Vettel. A single lap later, Ocon lost 8th, immediately launching Hamilton into striking distance to Gasly who was slowly losing ground to Leclerc due to his soft tyres. At the end of that lap, the Frenchman got easily passed on the straight, leaving Hamilton to reduce a 3.5s gap to Leclerc in 6th.
As Hamilton got past Leclerc on lap 19, Verstappen remained behind Botas and Perez continued to punch on Sainz at the end of the main straight but was always just a bit too far away to make a pass stick.
The final laps were more of the same story as neither Red Bull made progress but Hamilton, on his last possibility, passed Norris for 5th in Turn 1 of the final lap.