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Verstappen wins Sao Paulo F1 sprint race

Red Bull's triple Formula One world champion Max Verstappen has  won a Sao Paulo sprint race after seizing the lead from McLaren's Lando Norris at the first corner.

Norris, who had lined up on pole position with Verstappen alongside, was second and 4.287 seconds behind with Red Bull's Sergio Perez starting and finishing third after dropping to fifth on the opening lap.

The win, in the sixth and final sprint of the season on a hot and dry day at Interlagos after Friday's wind and rain, was Verstappen's fourth in the Saturday race.

"The initial launch wasn't amazing but the second part of the start was very good so we got alongside," said Verstappen, no fan of the sprint format, of the key moment.

"Then it was all about management."

The Dutch 26-year-old will be chasing a record-extending 17th grand prix win of the season from pole position on Sunday to take his career haul to 52, one short of retired four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.

He and Red Bull have already wrapped up both championships.

Norris said he lacked the pace at the end due to tyre degradation.

"Max had that little bit extra always in the bag, the Red Bull's race pace and Max's race pace is just a little bit too strong for us" said the Briton.

"I tried and for a few moments thought 'I could be close here' but then just didn't quite have enough."

Lando Norris and Max Verstappen.
Max Verstappen (r) and Lando Norris (l) finished one-two in the sprint shootout in Sao Paulo.

George Russell, last year's sprint winner in Brazil, finished fourth for Mercedes with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc fifth and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda sixth for his team's first sprint points.

Mercedes's seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was seventh, falling back in his chase of Perez for runner-up in the championship, and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz took the final point in the standalone 24-lap 100km race at the Interlagos circuit.

"Everything went against us today. We need to really scratch our heads hard over what we can do for tomorrow, and improve," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said.

AlphaTauri's Australian Daniel Ricciardo fought Sainz for the final point, passing the Spaniard twice and then losing a position to rookie compatriot Oscar Piastri, Norris's teammate, before taking it back to finish ninth.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso was also busy, going from 15th to 11th, with teammate Lance Stroll 12th after starting 17th.

The pair will start on the second row in Sunday's race.