By Robert Haile
Then there was three.
São Paulo was going to be a turning point in the season for either Red Bull or Mercedes and for most of the weekend it seemed to be going Red Bull’s way.
After Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole for the sprint he was disqualified for a breach of the technical rules with a damaged rear wing and sent to the back of the grid.
From there he fought through to finish the sprint in fifth and would start the main event in tenth after taking a new power unit.
After his superb drive Hamilton said: “I am so, so grateful for the incredible support I’ve had this weekend from the people of Brazil – I’ve not had this kind of support since Silverstone.
“To hear the crowd throughout the weekend has been really humbling. I’ve just been saying ‘Obrigado Brasil’ all weekend. What a race.
“The Team here and at the factory did an amazing job, and Valtteri (Bottas) did a great job today to get as many points as possible.
“I was pushing as hard as I could from last on grid yesterday, and then with another 5-place penalty today.
“This was, I think, the hardest weekend I’ve had. But my dad said ‘you reminded me of 2004’ when I was in Formula 3 in Bahrain – I started last and I finished 10th and then I finished 1st so, this one is for my dad.
“Coming into this weekend I never, ever thought we’d be able to close the gap like we have today. And then things just kept going against us, but I think it really shows, just never give up.
“Whatever you’re facing, you’ve just got to keep pushing, keep tumbling away, keep fighting. Never, ever stop fighting.
“That’s how I’ve approached this weekend. It feels like a first because I don’t feel like I’ve had a win for a long time.”
From the start Hamilton was on a mission and by the end of lap one had gained four places to sixth.
Teammate Valtteri Bottas had dropped to fourth after he had been ordered to let Hamilton through by lap four.
It was then chasing down the two Red Bulls.
A safety car brought Sergio Perez into Hamilton’s clutches and on lap nineteen it would be the duel everyone was waiting for.
Hamilton vs Verstappen.
The pit stops came and went and Verstappen was still leading on tyres three laps older than Hamilton.
It took until the forty eighth lap for Hamilton to make his move.
It provided more controversy as Hamilton led into the corner with Verstappen going for the inside forcing both cars off the track.
Biding his time Hamilton waited eleven laps before his chance came again.
This time he made it stick though it took almost a lap to complete.
The win cuts Verstappen’s lead back to fourteen points as they head to Qatar for the Ooredoo Qatar Grand Prix.
In the battle for third in the constructors championship Ferrari opened up a thirty one point gap on McLaren.