George Russell secured his first ever F1 win in an eventful Brazilian Grand Prix as Mercedes takes its first 1-2 since Imola in 2020; here’s the Sao Paulo F1 GP report.
Words by: James Roberts for Motorsport News.
The first-ever playing of God Save the King rang out over the Sao Paulo podium to herald George Russell’s maiden win in Formula 1 last Sunday. At his 81st attempt, the Norfolk man calmly withstood the pressure to beat his seven-time world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton in a chaotic and eventful 71 laps around Interlagos.
This was Mercedes’ first one-two since Imola 2020 and the first British one-two since the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix — and a well-deserved victory for Mercedes after its torrid season.
After winning the Saturday Sprint race, George Russell started from P1 and beat Hamilton into Turn 1. Afterwards he brilliantly controlled the race, calming dealing with Safety Car restarts and his team-mate breathing down his neck in the closing stages.
“It’s an incredibly emotional feeling as it’s been such a journey that my family and I have been on,” said a tearful Russell. “From my struggles at Williams, the highs and lows. Even this year, when you have Lewis as a team-mate it’s difficult. He’s really pushing me and I know how fast he is — and I was driving the race of my life. I was so happy when I crossed the finish line in first.”
Behind the race winner, there were plenty of incidents and anger building up between team-mates at a number of teams up and down the pitlane. The race also featured another on-track clash between Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
On the opening lap of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo attempted to pass Kevin Magnussen at Turn 9 in the midfield, but after slightly misjudging his braking he tapped the Haas into a spin. The Dane then rolled backwards and hit the McLaren putting them both out of the race. The Safety Car appeared as the two cars were cleared away. It was a disappointing end for Magnussen who earlier in the weekend had brilliantly secured his and Haas’ first pole after rain on Friday meant he couldn’t be beaten in qualifying.
When the Safety Car peeled in, Verstappen attacked Hamilton for second and as the pair rounded the first corner they were side-by-side. The gap narrowed between them and Verstappen wouldn’t concede the place. Contact and a broken front wing — and a five-second time penalty — for Max. Hamilton lost places but was able to also continue.
Further around the lap, birthday boy Lando Norris (who had been suffering with food poisoning all weekend) hit Charles Leclerc sending the Ferrari spinning into the wall. He too was able to continue and pitted for a new front nose, meanwhile 23-year-old Norris was given a five-second penalty.
Up front, Russell had a comfortable lead from Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz, although the Ferrari driver had to pit early after a visor tear off was blocking his right-rear brake duct causing a small fire. As the tyre strategies were playing out mid-race, Hamilton was making up ground, coming through the field — with the Brazilian crowd wildly cheering his every move, adopting the British driver as one their own. Russell led from Sainz, Hamilton and Perez but 19 laps from the end another Safety Car was deployed.
Norris had suffered an electrical issue and his McLaren cut out on track. Sainz pitted and as the field closed up, Russell was curious to know how the team wanted to act with Hamilton now behind him.
“What are we doing? Are we racing or securing a one-two?” he asked his team. “Racing — but be respectful,” was the reply. It probably wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear, but when the Safety Car came in with 11 laps to go — he judged the restart to perfection and always kept more than a one second margin to Hamilton on his way to the chequered flag.
Behind the focus was on second place in the championship and the points battle between Leclerc and Perez. The Ferrari driver was asking whether there was any chance Sainz would relinquish his podium to help his cause. The answer was negative, much to Leclerc’s displeasure.
Meanwhile, Perez was struggling and Verstappen passed him for sixth with four to go. If he couldn’t improve his position, he was asked by the team to return the place to his team-mate on the final lap. But Verstappen put down a significant marker. He refused to concede the place igniting a unnecessary row in his Red Bull team. “I gave you my reasons why. Do not ask me again,” said Verstappen. “It shows who he really is,” said Checo in reply.
The inference is this was revenge for Monaco when Perez crashed in the dying seconds of qualifying to secure the win the next day. The impact of Max’s actions at Sao Paulo means Perez and Leclerc are tied on 290 points each as they head to Abu Dhabi this coming weekend. This season has one final throw of the dice left…
Sao Paulo F1 GP 2022 Images
Sao Paulo Grand Prix Results
Where: Interlagos, Brazil. Laps: 71. Speed: 186.194km/h
1. George Russell Mercedes 1h38m34.044s
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.529s
3. Carlos Sainz Ferrari +4.051s
4. Charles Leclerc Ferrari +8.441s
5. Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +9.561s
6. Max Verstappen Red Bull +10.056s
7. Sergio Perez Red Bull +14.080s
8. Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +18.690s
9. Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +22.552s
10. Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +23.552s
11. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin-Mercedes) +26.183s; 12. Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) +29.899s; 13. Mick Schumacher (Haas-Ferrari) +29.899s; 14. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +31.867s; 15. Alexander Albon (Williams-Mercedes) +36.016s; 16. Nicholas Latifi (Williams-Mercedes) +37.038s; 17. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) -1lap; 18. Lando Norris (McLaren-Mercedes) -50laps/electrics; 19. Kevin Magnussen (Haas-Ferrari) -0laps/accident; 20. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren-Mercedes) -0laps/accident.
F1 Drivers’ Championship 2022
1 Verstappen 429 points; 2 Leclerc 290; 3 Perez 290; 4 Russell 265; 5 Hamilton 240; 6 Sainz 234. Constructors’ Championship: 1 Red Bull 719 points; 2 Ferrari 524; 3 Mercedes 505; 4 Alpine 167; 5 McLaren 148; 6 Alfa Romeo 55.