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Russell wins at last in Brazil sprint

Russell wins at last in Brazil sprint

FORMULA ONE: George Russell is a first-time Formula 1 winner after dispatching Max Verstappen for victory in the São Paulo sprint race in Brazil yesterday (Nov 12).

Formula-One
By Michael Lamonato

Sunday 13 November 2022, 12:04PM


Mercedes driver George Russell races during the sprint qualifying at Interlagos Brazil. Photo: AFP

Mercedes driver George Russell races during the sprint qualifying at Interlagos Brazil. Photo: AFP

Verstappen and Russell started second and third behind shock pole-getter Kevin Magnussen but muscled past the Haas driver after two laps, but the battle for victory took another 10 laps to ignite.

Russell twice got a decent slipstream out of the last corner and tried to sweep around the outside of the first corner but was twice denied.

On his third attempt he adjusted his approach to maximise his turn through the first three turns to get the better launch out of turn 3 on the long run down to turn 4.

He slipstreamed his way past the Red Bull Racing car well before ethe braking zone to relieve him of first place and was subsequently unchallenged on his way to a four-second victory, his first in F1.

Russell paid tribute to his Mercedes team for the late-season development that’s put the car in contention for victories in the final races of the year.

“It was incredible,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to have that much pace.

“It goes to show to all the hard work that everyone’s putting in and the progress we and the team have made.

“These last few races since Austin the car’s been feeling really great.”

Verstappen’s challenge was doomed by his decision to start on the medium tyre while almost everyone else started on the grippier softs, but he also ran over some debris and then picked up damage in a clash with Carlos Sainz for second place late in the race.

Sainz launched a move down the inside of turn 1 for position and made tyre contact with the Red Bull Racing car’s front wing, shattering the left endplate.

It then left the stricken Dutchman vulnerable to Lewis Hamilton, who had made a superb recovery from eighth on the grid to third after snatching a place from his former title rival.

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Hamilton set his sights on Sainz to complete his recovery, the Spaniard struggling with tyre wear late in the sprint, but ran out of laps and fell 0.8 seconds short.

It won’t matter for today’s race, however, with Sainz set to serve a five-place grid penalty for an engine change, promoting Hamilton to second on the grid for a Mercedes front-row lockout.

“I think P2 was the maximum today,” Sainz said. “I was happy with the race, happy with the pace. It looks like the Mercs have picked up the pace a lot recently and are quick in the race.”

Hamilton said he was optimistic Mercedes could pull off its first grand prix victory of the year today after yesterday’s strong result.

“To be on the front row tomorrow is incredible,” he said. “From there we should be able to work as a team and hold off hopefully the guys behind.

“We’re going to try as hard as we can. If we can have some good degradation tomorrow, hopefully some good weather, we’re going to have a fight on our hands.”

Verstappen finished fourth ahead of teammate Sergio Perez despite a late request from the Mexican to swap positions to bolster his chances of finishing second in the drivers championship.

Charles Leclerc recovered from 10th to sixth after an aggressive start to the race and after both Alpine drivers, who started sixth and seventh, took each other out of the race in a series of clashes that dropped both to the back of the pack.

Lando Norris was also a beneficiary of the friendly fire, finishing seventh and getting McLaren two points on the French team, reducing the gap between them to five points on the constructors championship battle for fourth.

Pole-getter Kevin Magnussen was helpless in his Haas, sliding backwards to eighth to pick up the final point of the sprint.

The Dane finished one place ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who was almost tipped into a high-speed crash by teammate Lance Stroll, who served a 10-second penalty for dangerous driving as a result, while Pierre Gasly completed the top 10.

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