Honda celebrated the birthday of its founder Soichiro Honda in massive style Sunday, posting its first 1-2 Formula 1 finish in 28 years, as Max Verstappen earned his third win of the season while Pierre Gasly scored the first runner-up spot of his young career.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Verstappen was the class of the field all weekend, using his second pole of the year to storm away to an early lead. But the day wouldn’t be as cut-and-dried as that, as conflicting strategies and late-race contact between teammates made Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix one of the most eventful F1 races in recent memory.
The opening half of the race was a testament to Verstappen’s powerful car as he twice gave up the lead to series champion Lewis Hamilton on pit stops, only to reclaim the spot within a couple of trips around the Interlagos circuit. His Red Bull stablemate Alex Albon was also running well, stalking the leaders just outside the top five while Toro Rosso Honda’s Gasly was keeping pace close behind.
But the race was turned on its head with 20 laps left when Valtteri Bottas pulled off with engine trouble, bringing out the Safety Car. Verstappen and Albon both took the opportunity to pit for soft Pirelli tires, giving the lead back to Hamilton, who eschewed the opportunity to get new shoes. The Dutchman made that decision hurt on the Lap 59 restart as he needed just one corner to reclaim the lead while Albon sluiced past Sebastian Vettel for third behind Hamilton.
Albon was promoted to second soon after, as the Safety Car returned due to a collision between Vettel and teammate Charles Leclerc. The stoppage sent Hamilton down Pit Lane for fresh tires, dropping him behind Albon and the resurgent Gasly with just two laps left.
A potential Honda podium sweep was negated soon after the restart however when Hamilton, having slipped past Gasly to third, collided with Albon – spinning the luckless Thai driver out of contention. Gasly took full advantage of the conflict by taking the second spot and then he outsprinted the 2019 champion to the flag to claim a career-best finish and his first F1 podium.
The 1-2 finish for Verstappen and Gasly marked the first top-two sweep of a Formula 1 podium since Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger did the honors in the 1991 Japanese GP and was the first double podium for Honda since 1992. The win allowed Verstappen to climb into third place in the driver’s championship, giving him an 11-point advantage over Leclerc with one race left. Gasly vaulted into a tie for sixth with Carlos Sainz Jr. with the result, and combined with a point gained by Daniil Kyvat, who gained three positions in the final laps to finish 10th, moved Toro Rosso into sixth in the team standings.
The 2019 Formula 1 season comes to an end on December 1 with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.