Max Verstappen dominates in São Paulo as Alonso pips Pérez to third place | Formula One

Even before the São Paulo Grand Prix had begun, Lewis Hamilton had expressed his longing to see the back of this year’s Mercedes. By the close of the race, won with the usual untroubled ease by Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, he would have been forgiven for entreating someone, anyone to rid him of this turbulent car. Nor, it would appear, would he have had any shortage of volunteers from his team as they too roundly dismissed what even the team principal, Toto Wolff, called a “miserable” and “inexcusable” performance at Interlagos.

The contrast between Verstappen and Red Bull and Mercedes in Brazil could not have been more stark and could not have made for more uncomfortable viewing, either from Hamilton’s cockpit as it toiled round to manage only eighth place, from the garage or from the team’s Brackley HQ.

Verstappen delivered a controlled, dominant run from pole to flag, untroubled in Brazil as he swept to another victory. He comfortably beat the McLaren of Lando Norris into second and the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso in third after the Spaniard delivered the highlight of the race in a mighty tussle at the death with Sergio Pérez, who was fourth.

In their wake were Mercedes, their recent resurgence proving to be something of a false dawn as Hamilton once more struggled with their car, with the tyres being eaten up, with straight line pace, and with pace through the corners. So pretty much every area where a car needs to be strong.

An ashen-faced Wolff was almost shockingly critical and unforgiving. “This car does not deserve a win,” he said. “An inexcusable performance, there are no words for it. That car finished second last week and the week before, whatever we did to it was horrible.

“I can only feel for the two driving such a miserable thing. It shows how difficult the car is, it’s on a knife’s edge. We have to fix that for next year. The performance today I have no words for.”

It was particularly striking after the optimism of Hamilton claiming second in the previous two races. Brazil was a different matter, however. After struggling in the sprint race he had pointedly noted on Saturday that he would be pleased to bid farewell to the W14. “Only a couple more races with this car then it’s gone so I’ll be happy,” he said.

Clearly he felt the same with even greater vehemence after this GP. “Thank God, thank God, two more races with this thing and hopefully no more driving it. The car, there are moments it works and moments doesn’t, it is so inconsistent throughout the lap, we have to work out why that is. We are slow on the straights and slow in the corners. It’s one to forget.”

Max Verstappen saw off the challenge of Lando Norris to win in Brazil. Photograph: Clive Mason/Formula 1/Getty Images

His frustration was part of a Greek chorus echoing round the Autódromo José Carlos Pace from Mercedes. A mournful dirge that indicated just how disheartening the afternoon had been. In the closing third the team were hopeful the soft rubber of the final stint would return some performance but were to be disappointed. Hamilton was passed by the Alpine of Pierre Gasly, the seven-time champion impotent against a team struggling in the midfield.

His teammate George Russell, who took Mercedes’ only win of the season in Brazil last year, was suffering similarly and was about to be faced with the ignominy of being lapped by Verstappen when he was forced to retire with an oil temperature problem.

“We got something wrong this weekend and we are not sure what that was,” he said with a countenance that brooked no dissent. “We need to regroup and try and understand it. Twelve months ago this was our strongest race of the year, 12 months later this was our weakest race of the year. We need to understand what happened.”

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After the optimism of the Mercedes’ pace in the US and Mexico, this was a shockingly blunt reminder that this year’s car is still lacking a reliable and solid benchmark of performance on differing tracks and in different conditions. The confidence in how it handles and works its tyres was once more lacking in Brazil and will be a major focus for next year’s car if it is to match the Red Bull which has proved strong at almost every variation of circuit this season.

Indeed, in front of them Verstappen had delivered an object lesson in how far Mercedes have to go. He was very much in a class of his own. Once he held his lead from pole through turn one, the race was in his hands and as he has done repeatedly this season he proceeded to exploit his pace ruthlessly and with precision.

Norris did his best to keep the world champion honest at Interlagos but after an initial attack early in the race had no answer to Verstappen’s speed. The McLaren was quick nonetheless but still finished eight seconds in arrears to a car Red Bull ceased developing some time ago.

Which is an even more ominous indicator for Mercedes to consider. They have a mountain to climb and for all the small steps they have made this season, Brazil was an undignified tumble back to base camp, leaving them battered and bruised and not a little confused. A long debrief awaits.

Lance Stroll was fifth for Aston Martin, Carlos Sainz sixth for Ferrari, Gasly and Esteban Ocon seventh and 10th for Alpine and Yuki Tsunoda ninth for AlphaTauri.

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