Sao Paulo Grand Prix: Max Verstappen wins sprint race from Lando Norris

Max Verstappen passes Lando Norris at the start of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix
Max Verstappen passes pole-sitter Lando Norris into Turn One at the start of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix sprint race

Red Bull's Max Verstappen drove to a comfortable victory in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix sprint race after passing Lando Norris' McLaren at the start.

Verstappen's better launch secured him the inside line for the first corner and he controlled the race from there.

Norris slipped back to third on the first lap behind George Russell's Mercedes but re-passed him on lap five.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez recovered from dropping behind Russell and team-mate Lewis Hamilton to finish third.

The Mexican, under pressure after a series of difficult races, dropped to fifth on the first lap from third on the grid, losing out to Russell at the first corner and then being passed by Hamilton around the outside at Turn Four.

Perez re-passed Hamilton at Turn Four for fourth and then set off after Russell.

They exchanged places twice on lap eight, Perez passing Russell into Turn One and then Russell retaking the position, like Hamilton on the first lap around the outside of Turn Four.

But two laps later, Perez made a move stick into Turn One and was able to secure third place.

Russell hung on to fourth place, his pace fading as the race ran its distance, but Hamilton, also struggling, slipped behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who took fifth with three laps to go.

Hamilton then had to take on Alpha Tauri's Yuki Tsunoda, who passed the seven-time champion for sixth place with two laps to go and set off after Leclerc, crossing the line right on the Ferrari's tail.

Behind Hamilton, five seconds adrift of Tsunoda, Ricciardo in the second Alpha Tauri chased Ferrari's Carlos Sainz across the line, the Spaniard securing the final point.

Verstappen said: "Initial getaway wasn't that fantastic but the second bit was very strong and I could get alongside. Twenty-four laps around here is all about tyre management. Just incredibly difficult around here. Last year we were struggling with that already in the sprint and that's why I was a bit careful."

Norris said he had been "caught napping" by Russell, adding: "He was pushing quite hard in the first few laps but then was suffering a lot later on.

"It's a tough circuit. You don't feel like you can push anywhere. You do two laps and then you have no grip. You're managing, you have one little wheelspin and it costs you 0.2-0.3secs.

"But it's a positive race. We weren't expecting to be anywhere close to the Red Bulls here. Today we were good compared to everyone except Max."

There were gripping battles throughout the field, with Hamilton holding up a train of cars for the first few laps as up to 10 drivers at times battled behind him.

One of the drivers creating entertainment in the second half of the field was Fernando Alonso, who fought up from 15th on the grid, after being hit by Alpine's Esteban Ocon in qualifying, to finish 11th, battling for 10th on the last lap with McLaren's Oscar Piastri.

Alonso passed both Haas drivers and Alpine's Pierre Gasly but just failed to overtake Piastri after some clever defence from the rookie Australian at the first corner.

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