The drama started even before the start of the 30-minute race in Interlagos, as, just under three hours before the Sprint, Hamilton’s car was excluded from Friday’s qualifying due to an irregularity with the DRS system in his Mercedes W12, and therefore had to start the “qualifying race” from the back of the grid. His teammate Valtteri Bottas had no such problems, and reigned supreme in the 24-lap sprint to the flag in São Paulo. Hamilton himself made a superb recovery to secure P5 on the sprint, which will turn into a 10th place start on Sunday.
At the first lap, Valtteri Bottas made a good start on his shiny, soft compound tyres, to overhaul Verstappen’s Red Bull on mediums, and he stayed there for the whole race. Verstappen lost a position to Carlos Sainz going into turn 4, but recovered his P2 by lap 4.
The Alfa Romeo duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi got too close together on lap 2, with Raikkonen being spun around by his teammate and ending the day P18, ahead of only the Haas pair of Schumacher and Mazepin.
Hamilton made up several positions in the early laps of the Sprint, as he recovered to 11th place already by lap 9.
Behind the top two, Carlos Sainz held his nerve and absorbed the pressure Sergio Perez put on him throughout the 24 laps, after his soft tyres degraded more than Perez’ mediums, and finished an excellent P3 for Ferrari, scoring one championship point.
Behind them, Lando Norris was set for a P5 finish after a superb move on Leclerc's Ferrari.
But an even better move from Hamilton saw the Briton move up to P5 on the final lap and demote Norris to P6 in the end:
Completing the top 10 were: Norris, Gasly, Ocon and Vettel. One of the big losers of the Sprint was Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian finished P11 after starting the sprint from P8, as he was stuck the whole race behind the Alpine of Ocon and the Aston Martin of Vettel on a classic “DRS train”. Fernando Alonso was another driver who lost positions, the Spaniard going from 9th to 12th after the 24 laps.
Elsewhere, Lance Stroll made some progress from 15th, as he secured P14 in his Aston Martin, after a difficult qualifying session for the Canadian on Friday.
The Sprint made its final appearance in 2021 and set the grid for what should be a thrilling São Paulo GP.