Passing zones make for exciting Sao Paulo course

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The 2.6-mile Anhembi Park circuit at Sao Paulo, Brazil — site of this Sunday’s Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle (11 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) — is a sprawling street course that is punctuated by multiple straightaways that lead into passing opportunities.

It all starts at the Sambadromo main straightaway, which is shorter than the other straights on the circuit but is still long enough to provide a passing attempt if the driver is close enough. They’ll have to be quick about it, however, as the Sambadromo leads into a left/right complex known as the S of Samba. It’s a narrow spot and there’s been plenty of mayhem there in recent races, particularly on starts and restarts when everyone’s bunched up.

The next major passing zone comes at Turn 5, which follows a longer jaunt down the Avenue Olavo Fontoura that gives drivers more time to draft, set up, and pass for position at the right-hander.

But the biggest opportunity this course has to offer comes as drivers roar down the nearly one-mile-long backstretch. That extended sprint culminates with a sharp right-hand hairpin at Turn 11. Expect plenty of side-by-side jockeying through this particular corner; also, don’t be surprised to see the driver that gets passed going into Turn 11 attempt a crossover move that can help get the position back as they head down the Sambadromo.

Over the years, we’ve heard complaints of street circuits being too narrow and providing very little chances for passing outside of pit road. There are no such problems with this course, and you can expect Sunday’s event to be an exciting one.

F1: Max Verstappen provides late-lap thrills at U.S. Grand Prix

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Leave it to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to provide some late-race thrills at the U.S. Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s key block on Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton late in Sunday’s race denied Hamilton a chance to maybe chase down Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to win. And it helped deny Hamilton’s bid for the season championship.

Verstappen’s defensive skills allowed the Red Bull driver to finish second, his best result yet at the U.S Grand Prix, his fourth podium in six races. By keeping Hamilton third, it kept the season championship alive, even if just another week to the Mexican Grand Prix.

Last season, Verstappen had surged past Raikkonen on a final-lap pass to finish third. It was the kind of aggressive move that earned him the “Mad Max” nickname. Before he could even reach the podium, race officials declared Verstappen’s move illegal and bumped an angry Verstappen down to fifth.

The Circuit of the Americas this week installed a new curb on the same corner, dubbed “Verstoppen,” to punish drivers who tried anything similar this year. It worked when Verstappen hit it hard enough in qualifying to knock his car out of the session with a damaged suspension and gear box. He started Sunday’s race 18th.

The Dutch driver launched a furious attack through the field and found himself in the thick of things late Sunday. His move to block Hamilton wasn’t on the same corner with the curbs, and it came with him playing defense instead of being the aggressor.

Verstappen had to make multiple moves to keep Hamilton behind him and finally drove the Mercedes wide, forcing Hamilton to finally concede the position and the race.

“I was trying to get close to Kimi but at the same time keeping an eye on Lewis in my mirror. It was close, but we managed to hang on,” Verstappen said. “It is safe to say today went a lot better than expected.”

Knowing Verstappen’s aggressive nature, Hamilton said there was too much at stake to risk a collision.

“The key to me was to make sure I finished ahead of Seb. I don’t care when you win a championship, just that you win,” Hamilton said. “”For Max, to come back from so far, he did a great job.”

Verstappen has been just as aggressive at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

In 2016, race officials ruled he improperly left the track to gain an advantage on Vettel to finish third and he was bumped from the podium. Last season, Verstappen’s strong start sent him into the lead out of the first turn, while Hamilton and Vettel bumped each other. The collision ruptured one of Hamilton’s tires.

Verstappen won the race while Hamilton limped home in ninth place, but still won the season championship.