In Focus

F1: Lewis Hamilton’s astonishing victory in Brazil 

British driver’s win at Interlagos is surely up there with the finest of his career

Lewis Hamilton has done many extraordinary things in his long career, said Rebecca Clancy in The Times. But his thrilling victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday is surely up there with the finest. For this was a race the seven-time F1 champion really had no right to win. As if beating Max Verstappen weren’t challenging enough, he faced the additional disadvantage of being handed two separate penalties over the weekend, said Nate Saunders on ESPN. On Friday, a fault with his car’s drag reduction system caused him to be “disqualified from qualifying” – which meant he started Saturday’s sprint qualifying race at the back of the field, in 20th position. And though he drove heroically in that 24-lap contest, passing 15 drivers, it still only earned Hamilton tenth place on Sunday’s starting grid thanks to the second sanction imposed on him: a five-place grid penalty Mercedes had incurred for changing Hamilton’s engine. 

Such circumstances “might have left a lesser man bowed”, said Giles Richards in The Guardian. Not Hamilton. Drawing on every ounce of his fighting spirit, he again “launched himself through the field”, overtaking seven drivers in the first five laps. When he passed Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, Sergio Pérez, on the 19th lap, the race became a riveting two-car spectacle, as “Hamilton hunted Verstappen”. Passing the Dutchman was never going to be straightforward, and one attempt briefly led to “both drivers going off the track”. Finally, on lap 59, Hamilton made his “decisive move” – after which he “stretched his legs” and finished a remarkable ten seconds in front.

For a man hoping to regain his title, this victory could hardly have been more opportune, said Tom Cary in The Daily Telegraph. Hamilton arrived in São Paulo trailing Verstappen by 19 points – and with only another three races to go, he couldn’t have afforded to let that lead stretch any further. As it is, he is still 14 points behind the Dutchman, but should he win the remaining three races, he is guaranteed to take the title. His fans will also take heart from the “quantum leap” that Mercedes have apparently made, said Oliver Brown in The Daily Telegraph. Throughout the season, Verstappen’s car has clearly been faster. But in Brazil, it was Hamilton’s Mercedes that held the advantage in straight-line speed: “on the lap where he passed the Dutchman, he was moving almost 19mph quicker”. The cause of this improvement is something of a mystery – and Red Bull’s technicians wasted no time in questioning whether it was strictly legal. But assuming nothing untoward comes to light, it sets the season up for a riveting finale – one where Verstappen holds the points advantage, but where the momentum lies with Hamilton.

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