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Russell a winner at last in São Paulo GP

Russell a winner at last in São Paulo GP

FORMULA ONE: George Russell saw off a late challenge from Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to win his first race at the São Paulo Grand Prix yesterday (Nov 13).

By Michael Lamonato

Monday 14 November 2022, 12:26PM

Russell celebrates his first podium win in Brazil yesterday (Nov 13). Photo: AFP

Russell celebrates his first podium win in Brazil yesterday (Nov 13). Photo: AFP

The young Briton, who joined the frontrunning team this season, controlled the race with the composure of a driver with the reputation of a future world champion to deliver Mercedes its first win of the season and lead the German marque’s first one-two finish in more than two years.

Russell started the race from pole ahead of Hamilton and Max Verstappen, but the race was put behind the safety car after only a handful of corners when Daniel Ricciardo rear-ended Kevin Magnussen, putting both out of the race.

The crashes didn’t stop when the race restarted six laps later, with Verstappen and Hamilton crashing side by side into the downhill turn 2. Hamilton gave his 2021 title rival the bare minimum of room on the apex, but the stewards penalised Verstappen five seconds for carrying an uncontrollable amount of speed into the corner and causing the collision.

It dropped Hamilton to the back of the frontrunning pack, but Verstappen had to pit for a new front wing.

Lando Norris then crashed into Charles Leclerc in a clumsy overtaking attempt at turn 6, with the Briton serving a five-second penalty for sending the Ferrari into the barriers and a forced early stop for repairs.

It left Russell leading Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz as the last drivers standing among the frontrunners.

Sainz was forced into an early pit stop with a brake duct blockage, putting himself in the recovering Hamilton’s orbit. Perez then stopped to try to undercut Russell for the lead, but he rejoined the track in traffic, scuppering his chances.

Sainz and Hamilton later capitalised on the Mexican’s lost time by undercutting him themselves to take second and third.

Russell led easily throughout, building a comfortable buffer for what was looking like a comfortable race win, but a late safety car to recover Norris’s stopped McLaren on track turned the race into a 10-lap dash to the flag.

Hamilton had slightly fresher tyres than his teammate and kept himself within about a second of the leader, but Russell’s pace through the twisty middle sector kept him at arm’s length through the long back straight and into the circuit’s best overtaking opportunity at turn 1.

Hamilton kept up the pressure but was never genuinely close enough to challenge, and Russell took the chequered flag with a 1.5-second margin to record the first grand prix victory of his career.

“What an amazing feeling,” he said. “I felt in control. Lewis was super-fast, and then when I saw the safety car I thought, ‘Jeez, this is going to be a really difficult ending’.

“He put me under so much pressure, but I’m so happy to get away with the victory.”

Hamilton praised the one-two as a team triumph after a year of hard work to return Mercedes to the top of the podium in a hitherto winless season.

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“Huge congratulations to George,” he said. “What an amazing drive he did today. He truly deserves it.

“To my team, I’m so proud of everyone back at the factory and here. This is an incredible result.

“We worked so hard this year to get a win, so this is hugely deserved”

Sainz claimed third place to limit the damage done to Ferrari’s lead over Mercedes for second in the constructors standings, though he admitted he was concerned by how fast the German marque was in Brazil.

“I think overall it was a good race,” he said. “Good podium after starting P7.

“Merc were untouchable today. They were simply the quickest car, quicker than Red Bull and quicker than us.”

His teammate, Charles Leclerc, finished fourth ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen recovered from his early crash to finish sixth after controversially slamming his team for asking him to swap places with teammate Perez behind him to bolster the Mexican’s claim to second in the drivers championship.

The Dutchman had been waved past by Perez to attack Alonso on the condition they’d swap back if he couldn’t pass the Spaniard, but the reigning champion said he had “reasons” for not wanting to cooperate with his teammate, though refused to say what they were.

“After all I have done for him, it is a bit disappointing, to be honest,” Perez said.

Perez slipped to third in the standings as a result of Verstappen’s non-cooperation.

Esteban Ocon finished eighth which, combined with Alonso’s fifth place, Alpine has moved 19 points ahead of McLaren in the battle for fourth in the constructors standings.

Valtteri Bottas finished ninth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in 10th.

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