- Ferrari looked to be struggling during the race but it was Mercedes suffering
Lando Norris’s hopes of victory vanished in the blink of eye. The Briton started the Brazilian sprint race on pole, but you-know-who came right through to lead at the first corner.
So victory to Max Verstappen, the bullet that can’t be deflected.
There was just a slight chance of it being otherwise, or at least of the race for first spot being sustained for more of this entertaining 24-lap dash around Interlagos’s undulating amphitheatre, but Norris failed to close the path of Verstappen, who started second.
The pair of them launched perfectly and were evenly matched in those few yards. Had Norris immediately moved to his left to claim the inside line around the first bend, who knows?
Norris’ McLaren possessed real pace, which was a surprise to him. On Thursday he had written off all hope of success – too many second and third-gear corners for the characteristics of his car, he reckoned.
Lando Norris would have been hoping for a win today, but Vertsappen proved to be too much
The 23-year-old was made to fight for second place, being passed by his compatriot George Russell on the first lap, a strong move down the inside. Four laps later, Norris reasserted himself ahead of the Mercedes, and so it was to stay.
Sergio Perez, who started and finished third but made a poor start. Russell finished fourth, 25 seconds back, and Lewis Hamilton seventh, an astonishing 34 off the pace. In the final analysis, the Silver Arrows did not possess anything like the poke they would have expected.
But both Russell and Hamilton had looked stronger in the early phases. Hamilton was brave and late breaking in passing Perez on the first lap, charging through the outside of Turn 4. Most of the afternoon’s passes occurred there.
Hamilton was passed by Perez three laps later. The seven-time world champion almost slipped further back as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc tried to force himself through in the melee. He did not manage to do so then, but he did three laps from the end.
Worse came, with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda passing him.
Perez, fighting for his place at Red Bull after some woeful recent form, also saw off Russell mid-race after exchanging positions as each alternatively fell into the other’s DRS zone.
The Mexican can take delight in having extended his lead over Hamilton in their fight for second place in the world championship table by four points to 24, with only Sunday’s grand prix here and those in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi to come.