George Russell battled his way to victory in the third and final F1 sprint of the 2022 season in Brazil, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, ensuring he will start the Sao Paulo Grand Prix from first place.
Friday’s rainy qualifying session set the grid for the Sprint, with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen taking a shock 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 after the drama, the main pre-Sprint question was what tire compounds drivers and teams would opt for for the 24 laps – or 100km – race. Who would go with the softer tires and who would play it safe on the medium ones?
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When the tire covers were removed on the grid in bright, warm conditions, those questions were answered. Curiously, Verstappen was one of only two riders to opt for the mediums, with Williams rider Nicholas Latifi, the rest going for the red-marked softs.
When the lights went out, Magnussen made good use of his soft tires as he came off the line to defend his pole position advantage over Verstappen, who came under intense pressure from Russell in the opening corner sequence, but just managed to hang on. P2.
Running of the red bulls
Running of the red bulls
Behind, Sainz nearly fired at Norris, who was still feeling unwell after his bout of suspected food poisoning, while Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso went wheel-to-wheel and made contact at Turn 4, before another moment tight on the pit straight, which will be examined by the marshals.
“I lost the front wing, thanks to our friend. He pushed me into Turn 4, then down the straight,” Alonso said in a pair of frustrated radio messages, as he pulled over for repairs. Speaking to Sky Sports F1 from the Alpine pit wall, team boss Otmar Szafnauer admitted Ocon “could have given him a bit more space”.
Having failed on the first attempt, Sainz cleared Norris into the Senna Esses at the start of lap two, Verstappen again being forced to place his car carefully to keep Russell – on the softer rubber – at bay as Magnussen saved the first round Haas ever. led in F1.
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Magnussen’s time up front would be short-lived, however, as Verstappen built up a little more temperature in his tires to close in and pass along the main straight on Lap 3 – Russell and Sainz followed suit one turn later.
Further back, Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc set about making up for their low-key qualifying results by knocking out a host of rivals in the opening laps to run P4, P5 and P6 respectively, further demoting Magnussen.
Following the scuffle between the Alpine drivers, another battle of teammates saw Lance Stroll pick up a 10-second penalty for an aggressive defensive move against Sebastian Vettel in the race between Turns 3 and 4, which forced the German to take the grass. .
Back in front, it was Russell’s turn to attempt a pass as he came within range of Verstappen’s DRS, who struggled to get his medium tires to work, prompting several side-by-side moments between the pair as the Sprint was reaching halfway.
After a first down on lap 12 and a slight delay in his attack when Alex Albon parked his Williams, Russell finally got ahead of Verstappen on lap 15, entering the slipstream of Red Bull out 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 smashed his way past the Dutchman into Turn 1 on Lap 19, only to have the rear of the Ferrari clip Verstappen’s front wing mid-corner. , inflicting damage that also opened the door for Hamilton. go forward.
Russell kept his composure up front to take the Sprint and P1 grid victory for Sunday’s Grand Prix, Sainz managing late tire degradation to beat Hamilton in P3 (albeit before his five-point penalty). places on the engine grid), with Red Bull pairing Verstappen and Perez fourth and fifth respectively.
Leclerc managed to fight their way to P6 after their qualifying struggles, with Norris also edging out Magnussen, who won the final point offered under the revised Sprint scoring format for 2022.
Vettel was ninth after his clash with Stroll, followed by leading AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, Mick Schumacher’s other Haas and quarrelsome Alfa Romeo pair Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas.
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Hamilton, Ricciardo and Zhou are all set to be investigated after the race, with potential breaches of starting procedure flagged, meaning there could still be a change in the scoring positions if the driver Mercedes is penalized.
Alonso took a modest 15th place after his incidents with Ocon and his trip to the pit lane, as Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Stroll, Ocon and Nicholas Latifi (Williams) completed the order – Albon being the only retirement.
However, the stewards later ruled that Alonso was responsible for the second incident with Ocon, handing him two penalty points and a five-second penalty, which dropped him to 18th place on the grid at the Grand Sunday’s Sao Paulo Prize – Tsunoda, Stroll and Ocon all move up one place.
“It was amazing. I didn’t expect to have that much pace, but I think it shows all the hard work everyone has done and the progress we’ve made as a team. These last three races since Austin, the car felt really good, obviously it’s hard to know how Max would have handled if he had been on soft tires, but nonetheless, being here is a great feeling,” said Sprint winner Russell. .
“It’s crazy to think that the two [Mercedes cars will be] starting in the first row. Lewis has done a great job coming from P8, so it’s going to be exciting. I’m sure Max will fly tomorrow, he’ll get through the peloton, but we’re in a luxury 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 as he got a run on Verstappen leaving the Senna Esses and rounded the outside of his rival at Turn 4.
The biggest movers
While Magnussen made headlines in qualifying, his teammate Schumacher took the most places in the Sprint, moving up 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 penalty.
The Alpines were the biggest losers after their clashes, with Ocon dropping from P6 to P17, while Alonso ended up penalized P18 – a drop of 11 places each – with Albon (losing nine places on retirement) and Magnussen ( down seven places) the others to lose ground.
Drivers and teams will now focus on the 71-lap Sao Paulo Grand Prix, which is due to start at 3:00 p.m. local time on Sunday. Visit the dedicated RACE HUB for more information.
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