The Ferraris pressed the self-destruct button, Lewis Hamilton lost his spot on the podium, and there were champagne moments for Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jr.
How did it all happen? Well, with the championship settled last time out in Austin, Texas, it was time to just go racing.
The race around the Interlagos circuit in São Paolo effectively became a 12-lap dash to the flag when Valtteri Bottas triggered the safety car after he pulled his Mercedes over with engine trouble.
And what a frantic, head-spinning dash it was.
Race leader Verstappen pitted for fresh tires, putting Hamilton into the lead.
The pair, who had toyed with each other all afternoon, went wheel-to-wheel at the restart and Verstappen passed the six-time world champion to retake the lead at Turn One.
“It was not easy,” Verstappen told Sky Sports. “Lewis was giving me a hard time. It was a good fight.”
Just a little further down the road, Alexander Albon followed his Red Bull teammate through round the outside to pass the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel and poach third spot.
As Verstappen hit the gas and headed for home, Hamilton found himself under pressure from Albon, who was also being hustled from behind by Vettel.
With five laps to go, Leclerc seized his chance and went down the inside of his Ferrari teammate to snatch fourth place.
But Vettel fought back and, as he steered his Ferrari around Leclerc, the red cars made contact. It looked like a glancing blow, but it was enough for the Ferraris to collide with a spew of burst rubber and bodywork — and enough to put the dueling drivers out of the race.
When the safety car came out again, Hamilton, who was running comfortably in second, chose to pit for new tires and dropped back to fourth.
At the second race restart, he had just two laps to get himself back onto the podium and immediately set about his task by passing Gasly’s Toro Rosso.
But when Hamilton tried to overtake Albon, now in second behind Verstappen, he clipped the Red Bull and sent him spinning all the way down to 15th place.
Gasly had steered clear of trouble to jump Hamilton into P2 and held off the world champion by a car’s length in the fight to the flag.
After a rollercoaster season, which saw him first promoted to Red Bull and then demoted back to Toro Rosso after the summer break, Gasly was rewarded with his first podium.
“Best day of my life”
“You dream a lot about being in F1, you dream about your first podium, but then when it happens all of the emotions coming through me are just unpredictable,” said Gasly.
“It’s just the best day of my life right now!”
Hamilton joined the Frenchman and race-winner Verstappen on the podium but was later handed a five-second penalty for causing a collision, a decision that dropped him back to seventh.
“It looked like there was an opportunity,” Hamilton told reporters after accepting the decision. “But I apologize to Alex and I put my hands up.”
Hamilton’s demotion handed McLaren driver Sainz Jr. his first career podium in F1,and McLaren’s first since 2014.
Sainz’s podium was particularly satisfying as the Spaniard had started 20th on the grid after failing to take part in qualifying because of an engine issue.