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Verstappen powers to sprint victory ahead of Norris in Brazil

Max Verstappen continued his winning habit with another well-measured victory for Red Bull on Saturday when he triumphed in the sprint race at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

The three-time world champion finished comfortably clear of McLaren’s Lando Norris. 

Verstappen snatched the lead at the start and came home 4.287 seconds clear of pole-sitter Norris with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez taking third ahead of George Russell of Mercedes and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. 

Yuki Tsunoda was sixth for Alpha Tauri, scoring their first points for the Italian team, ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes and Carlos Ferrari in the second Ferrari, taking the final point for eighth. 

It was Verstappen’s fourth sprint win of the season.

“Much better than last year,” he reported to his team at the finish. “It was important to get ahead at the start, but the launch wasn’t amazing.

“It’s a good start and we learned a lot for tomorrow.”

Norris said: “I think I had the power, but I was too conservative. My initial start was good but not the second part of it and then I tried to go after Max, but I just didn’t have enough…”

After a poor start, Perez fell to fifth but fought back to finish third. 

“I had a terrible start and had to fight hard on my tyres,” he said. “And I paid the price in the end. Without the start, I think I could have been a lot further up.”

Hamilton’s race ended in disappointment as his tyres fell off in the closing laps and he lost positions and pace. “We got it wrong today ad we have to improve,” said Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff. 

On a hot day at Interlagos, Norris made a good start from his first sprint race pole position, but Verstappen powered past him on the inside in the second start phase to lead into the downhill turn to the Senna ‘S’.

Behind him, Russell surged forward from fourth on the grid to pass Perez and then take second from Norris on the opening lap with Hamilton following to take fourth as Perez fell to fifth.

The Mexican began his recovery with a slipstream and Drag Reduction System-aided pass of Hamilton at Turn One on lap four, the Red Bull showing superior straight line power and speed as Verstappen pulled 1.5 seconds clear.

Norris also recovered to regain second from Russell into Turn One and Perez took third at the start of lap eight at the same place before the Briton re-passed him at the end of the back straight. 

The champion was 1.8sec ahead of Norris with Perez seven seconds adrift in third and the two Mercedes, of Russell and Hamilton, in pursuit. 

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