Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclrec collide with just five laps to go in Brazil, the emerging future overtaking the fading present.
So the German, his dignity hurt, sprung alongside the youngster and, with a slight turn in, grazed the side of the other red car.
Both Ferraris retired, Vettel’s left rear tyre shredded, Leclerc’s machine sliding along the floor, lit up like a sparkler on Bonfire Night.
The pyrotechnics at Ferrari – an emblem of their troubled, self-destructive season – was but one moment of high drama on this great bear pit of an undulating track.
The victory went to Max Verstaippen with a smart and sometimes daring drive. He twice passed six-times champion Lewis
Hamilton, who was later demoted from third to seventh for catching Red Bull’s Alex Albon on the penultimate lap.
Hamilton could never quite find the speed or unlock the strategy to mark the first race of his title parade with victory in the city where his hero, Ayrton Senna, was born and buried.
In second place came Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, of all people. And behind that bare fact obviously lies a tale or two.We shall get to all that but first more of Ferrari, where these sores are becoming too regular.
The last big ruck was in Russia over team orders. Binotto, sticking his ostrich head in the sand at the time, called the friction a ‘luxury’.Ha-ha to that.
As the sparks flew at Turn Four, Vettel let rip over the radio: ‘What the hell is he doing?’ His next epigram was a scream of unintelligible angst.
Leclerc, waving his hands, matched his team-mate almost word for word. ‘What the hell?’ he asked.
Clearly one of them could not see reason through the scarlet mist. To my mind, that man was clearly Vettel, not for the first time.
The stewards, however, Decided neither was predominantly culpable.
Leclerc said afterwards to the TV cameras: ‘He started to squeeze me a little bit. It all happened fast. We touched and then I had a puncture.’
The two drivers were withdrawn from their scheduled newspaper briefings, with Binotto facing the flak on his own.
He was not convincing. He shrugged and havered. He said he had not even reviewed the footage. He will call his squabbling pair to Maranello to hear their explanations but has – strangely – already ruled out fining or disciplining them. Or so he claimed.
‘A small crash with big consequences,’ he said.
On other matters. Victory in Brazil was overdue for Verstappen after he was denied the prize when he and backmarker Esteban Ocon collided a year ago.
The Dutchman fought tenaciously on track, having started on pole. One race-defining move came during the opening bout of stops.
Having gone in a lap later than Hamilton, he was impeded on his way out of the pit straight by Williams’ unsafe release of Robert Kubica.
It meant he was now behind Hamilton. Ears pinned back, Verstappen initially followed the champion past Leclerc, who had yet to stop, and then swept beyond his real prey in the Mercedes.
There followed two safety car periods, the first when Valtteri Bottas’s engine gave up on him, the second brought about by the Ferrari tangle.
Both threw up commotion. The earlier stoppage saw Verstappen come in for new tyres – softs – while Hamilton stayed out on his older, slower mediums.
So when the race was restarted, Hamilton was a sitting duck. Verstappen zipped his way in front of him.
Second time, Hamilton peeled off for new, soft tyres. When the race restarted, he roared straight past Gasly to go into third.
Then, on the penultimate lap while chasing second, he ensnared Albon, who suddenly had his first podium finish ripped from him. He slipped to 14th.
Hamilton crossed the line third before the stewards intervened, promoting McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, though the decision was too late to allow the Spaniard to climb the podium steps.
Hamilton took full responsibility for denying Albon his deserved place in a Red Bull one-two. ‘I massively apologise to Alex,’ he said. ‘The gap was there but it closed at the end. It was totally my fault.’