Verstappen takes the last sprint of 2023, ahead of Norris and Pérez

The sprint format said goodbye this Saturday until 2024, when small modifications are suspected, and it did so with Max Verstappen as the winner in Brazil. Without knowing what happens this Sunday, the three-time Formula 1 world champion had a comfortable victory against Lando Norris, whose morning pole position lasted just a few meters.

Verstappen arrived at the first apex of the 24 laps of the sprint race already in first position, because the desire to win got the better of him. Lando Norris, who had taken advantage of his opportunity in the shootout in the morning, realized very quickly that his fight was going to be with George Russell for second position rather than for victory, something that was much more realistic.

Behind, the fight between Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Pérez to hunt for the podium area put spice in the upper area, while behind Fernando Alonso tried to make up positions. The Asturian started from a poor 15th position because of Esteban Ocon, who attacked him and left him without time, so he had to grit his teeth to come back. At the start he did not have many options and began a great fight with the Haas, both with medium tires, although as soon as he passed them he headed towards the points zone, which in the sprint opens in eighth place. To highlight the area where Alonso decided to overtake Magnussen, in the improbable turn 4.

Alonso knew he had a chance to fight at least for the ‘top 10’. Pierre Gasly, with whom the guy was playing for 11th place, noticed firsthand what it means to have the Spaniard on the wheel for several laps. The Spaniard’s strength, even if it was for an inane 11th place, was evident in this sprint race, not only in that fight with his replacement in Alpine, but also in knowing how to read what was happening ahead in the fight between Daniel Ricciardo and Oscar Piastri.

The tension also remained constant in the upper area. Pérez’s fight to get on the podium made him throw the car at Russell until he took third place, while Carlos Sainz had to cover the loss of performance in which the degradation ended up taking its toll. Both him and his teammate Charles Leclerc, who found himself out of the ‘top 5’ until Hamilton’s wheels dictated that fifth place was for the Monegasque and he sank.

Pirelli ruled in the final stretch of the race and, like ripe fruit, several drivers lost options as the finish line approached for everyone. The usual one, Verstappen, was the only one who could afford not to manage too much. He simply took a look in the rearview mirror.

Learning career

Although it was an intense race for 24 laps, there wasn’t much else to tell. A tense series of laps in which it became clear that, in dry conditions, no one can beat Verstappen, that Norris is still the second best to reach this final stretch and that if Pérez knew how to do a proper classification, it wouldn’t cost him so much reach the podium. In his favor is the balance of five points that he obtained against Hamilton in their fight for the runner-up position. Carlos Sainz, eighth, added one more point, which has already surpassed Fernando Alonso in the general classification of the World Cup pending what happens in the final race.

It was a short learning race for everyone and it sent a warning to sailors. Although a lower temperature is expected and there is even a certain probability of rain, degradation can again be judge and part in the final result. Surprising was the final drop that George Russell and Lewis Hamilton gave, which suited their rivals very well and could be key in the fight they will have with the Aston Martins. And any similarity with what happens this Sunday, especially in the first laps, will be a coincidence: Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso will have the mission of defending third and fourth position, respectively.

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