George Russell blasted his way to victory in the third and final F1 Sprint of the 2022 season in Brazil, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, ensuring he will start the Sao Paulo Grand Prix from the first place.
Friday’s rain-battered qualifying session set up the grid for the Sprint, with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen claiming a surprising pole position to start in P1 ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, Russell’s Mercedes and the McLaren man, Lando Norris.
After the paddock caught its breath from the drama, the main question leading up to the Sprint was which tire compounds the drivers and teams would choose over the 24 laps, or 100km, race. Who would go with the softer tires and who would play it safe with the medium ones?
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As the tire covers were removed on the grid amid hot and bright conditions, those questions were answered. Interestingly, Verstappen was one of only two riders to opt for the mediums, along with Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, with the rest opting for the red-marked softs.
As the lights went out, Magnussen made good use of his soft tires as he rocketed off the line to defend his pole lead over Verstappen, who came under intense pressure from Russell during the opening sequence of corners but managed to hang on. to P2.
red bull racing
red bull racing
Behind, Sainz came close to making a move on Norris, who was still feeling unwell after his bout of suspected food poisoning, while Alpine pairing Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso went wheel-to-wheel and made contact at Turn 4, before of another closing moment in the pit lane, which will be investigated by the stewards.
“I lost the front wing, thanks to our friend. He pushed me into turn 4 and then down the straight,” Alonso said in a couple of frustrated radio messages, as he pitted for repairs. Speaking to Sky Sports F1 from the Alpine pit wall, team boss Otmar Szafnauer admitted Ocon “could have given him a little more space”.
Having failed on the first try, Sainz led Norris into the Senna Esses at the start of Lap 2, and Verstappen was again forced to position his car carefully to keep Russell, on the softer rubber, at bay while Magnussen clocked in. the first lap Haas had taken. led in F1.
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However, Magnussen’s time in front would be short-lived, as Verstappen built up some more temperature in his tires to close in and zip along the main straight on lap 3 – Russell and Sainz did the same one lap later.
Further back, Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc set out to make up for their lackluster qualifying results by taking out a number of rivals in the opening laps to run P4, P5 and P6 respectively, further demoting Magnussen.
After the fight between the Alpine drivers, another battle of the teammates saw Lance Stroll receive a 10-second penalty for an aggressive defensive move against Sebastian Vettel in the race between Turns 3 and 4, forcing the German to lie on the grass. .
Getting back up front, it was Russell’s turn to try to pass as he got within DRS range of Verstappen, who was struggling to get his medium tires to work, leading to several side-by-side moments between the two as the Sprint reached half the distance.
After an initial attempt on lap 12, and a slight delay in his attack when Alex Albon parked his Williams, Russell finally passed Verstappen on lap 15, getting into the Red Bull wake of the Senna Esses and positioning his car expertly. the outside of turn 4.
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From there, Verstappen fell into the clutches of Sainz, who forced his way past the Dutchman and into Turn 1 on lap 19, only for the rear of the Ferrari to hit Verstappen’s front wing midway through. curve, dealing damage that also opened the door for Hamilton. to get ahead
Russell kept his composure up front to take victory in Sprint and P1 on the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix, with Sainz managing late tire degradation to beat Hamilton to P3 (although before his engine penalty of five grid positions), with the Red Bull pair Verstappen and Pérez in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Leclerc made it to P6 after his qualifying struggles, and Norris also moved in front of Magnussen, who claimed the last point offered under Sprint’s revised scoring format for 2022.
Vettel was ninth after his encounter with Stroll, followed by the AlphaTauri leader of Pierre Gasly, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, the other Haas of Mick Schumacher and Alfa Romeo pair Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas.
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Hamilton, Ricciardo and Zhou are set to be investigated after the race, with possible infringements in the start procedure to be flagged, meaning there could still be a change in the scoring positions if the Mercedes driver is penalized.
Alonso took a humble 15th place after his incidents with Ocon and trip to the pit lane, as Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Stroll, Ocon and Nicholas Latifi (Williams) rounded out the order, with Albon the only retirement.
However, the stewards later ruled that Alonso had been at fault for the second incident with Ocon, handing him two penalty points and a five-second penalty that relegated him to 18th on the grid for Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix: Tsunoda, Stroll and Ocon all moving up one spot.
“It was unbelievable. I didn’t expect to have that much pace, but I think it shows all the hard work everyone is putting in and the progress we’ve made as a team. These last three races since Austin, the car has felt really good. Obviously, it’s tough. knowing how Max would have done if he had been on the soft tyre, but still being here is a great feeling,” said Sprint winner Russell.
“It is crazy to think that both [Mercedes cars will be] starting in the first row. Lewis did a great job from P8, so it’s going to be exciting. I’m sure Max will fly tomorrow, beating the pack, but we’re in a super position where maybe we can split the strategy and go for the win.”
Russell’s decisive move for the lead on Lap 15 of 24 when he raced Verstappen off the Senna Esses and around the outside of his rival at Turn 4.
While Magnussen made headlines in qualifying, his teammate Schumacher took the most places in the Sprint, gaining eight places from his starting P20 position. Hamilton was next on the list as he moved up five positions from P8 to P3, which becomes P2 for the Sao Paulo GP after Sainz’s suspension.
The Alpines were the biggest losers after their clashes, Ocon falling from P6 to P17, as Alonso finished at a P18 penalty, a drop of 11 places each, with Albon (losing nine places when he retired) and Magnussen (losing seven places) the others to lose significant ground.
Drivers and teams will now switch their focus to the 71-lap Sao Paulo Grand Prix, which is scheduled to start at 15:00 local time on Sunday. Visit the dedicated CAREER CENTER for more information.