George Russell headed Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes one-two finish at a dramatic 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Russell led comfortably from pole position and survived an early Safety Car from which Hamilton was rammed off-track by Max Verstappen on the restart on Lap 7, yet the seven-time champion mounted a recovery drive to finish second behind his teammate.
For Russell, this is his maiden Grand Prix win in F1 after he won the Sprint Race yesterday and marked the first time that a British driver has won in any of the top three FIA single-seater categories, since King Charles III became monarch in September.
Mercedes meanwhile ended a two-year wait for their first one-two finish since Imola in early November 2020.
Carlos Sainz meanwhile bounced back from a five-place grid penalty to finish third for Ferrari ahead of Charles Leclerc, as the Monegasque recovered from a spin to finish fourth in front of Fernando Alonso.
Verstappen defied a last-lap order to allow Sergio Perez back through as he took sixth ahead of his Red Bull teammate, as Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll rounded out the top ten.
In the drivers’ stadings, Verstappen is already champion but Perez conceded second to Leclerc ahead of the season finale next weekend, whilst Russell sits fourth but now mathematically in with an outside shout at finishing second if he gets maximum points in Abu Dhabi plus Leclerc and Perez don’t score points.
Mercedes meanwhile reduced their deficit over second-placed Ferrari to 19 points in the constructors’ standings, whilst Alpine benefitted from a double retirement at McLaren to pull a 19-point gap in the fight for fourth.
Prior to race start, Alpine opted to change Esteban Ocon’s power unit due to a fuel leak and fire post Sprint Qualifying, although he won’t take a grid penalty due to the replacement power unit having already been used at previous races, whilst damaged chassis parts have also been replaced.
At lights out, Russell made a clean start on soft tyres to lead from Hamilton and Verstappen but further behind the front runners, Daniel Ricciardo tagged Kevin Magnussen into a spin at Turn 8 which eliminated both drivers as the Dane collected his Aussie rival mid-spin.
The Safety Car consequently was deployed and upon its withdrawal at end of Lap Six, Russell again made a clean start as Verstappen swept round outside of Turn 1 on Hamilton, only to ram into his former title rival which dropped the pair down the order.
Norris meanwhile spun Leclerc into the barriers at Turn 6 but the Monegasque was able to avoid heavy contact with the barriers, and was able to recover to the pits along with Verstappen as the pair set about recovery drives.
Up front, Russell comfortably dictated the pace ahead of Perez as Hamilton charged through from eighth to lead the race from Lap 25 when Russell pitted, before he made his own stop at end of Lap 29 for medium tyres which gave Russell the lead once again.
Hamilton meanwhile quickly set about hunting down Sainz who made his second stop on Lap 37 which unleashed the Brit to chase down Perez who ultimately was unable to prevent Hamilton passing him for second into Turn 1 on Lap 45.
Although Hamilton could of gambled on an one-stop to the checkered flag, Mercedes had other ideas as they pitted him on Lap 49 before following suit with Russell a lap later as the pair were put on used softs for their final stints.
McLaren’s Lando Norris however encountered a hydraulic failure on Lap 51 which caused him to stop at Turn 10, with the Virtual Safety Car initially deployed under which Sainz made his final stop from third on the road just before the Safety Car was deployed as others also pitted again.
Under the Safety Car, Russell was told that he was “racing” Hamilton for victory with Mercedes not issuing team orders.
Once the race restarted on Lap 60, Sebastian Vettel – who ran third at one stage – lost seventh to Ocon and Alonso, as the Spaniard then passed his teammate for seventh prior to passing Bottas a lap later for sixth.
Up front, Russell fought off Hamilton for his maiden Grand Prix victory in F1, whilst Perez on medium tyres lost third to Sainz on Lap 63 and quickly slipped down the order across the next four laps to seventh, as Leclerc, Alonso and Verstappen all passed him.
Controversy however hit Red Bull at the checkered flag as Verstappen snubbed an instruction to allow Perez through into sixth after failing to pass Alonso, as he cited that he had already informed his team of why he wouldn’t obey instructions to help Perez out.
Perez consequently conceded second in the championship to Leclerc to leave both drivers locked on 290 points with one race left, whilst Russell sits fourth and now need victory plus fastest lap in Abu Dhabi next weekend to take second should Leclerc and Perez both fail to score points.
|1||George Russell||Mercedes||71||1h 38m 34.044|
|2||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||71||+ 1.529|
|3||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||71||+ 4.051|
|4||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||71||+ 8.441|
|5||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||71||+ 9.561|
|6||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||71||+ 10.056|
|7||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||71||+ 14.080|
|8||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||71||+ 18.690|
|9||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||71||+ 22.552|
|10||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||71||+ 23.552|
|11||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||71||+ 26.183|
|12||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||71||+ 26.867|
|13||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo||71||+ 29.325|
|14||Mick Schumacher||Haas||71||+ 29.899|
|15||Alex Albon||Williams||71||+ 36.016|
|16||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||71||+ 37.038|
|17||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||70||+ 1 Lap|