Mercedes driver George Russell took his maiden F1 win in São Paulo ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, the result coming as Mercedes’ first win of the season and edging the team to within 23 points of Ferrari for second in the constructors’ crown. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz completed the rostrum in third place, a meritorious fightback from the Spaniard after he started seventh following an engine penalty.
The race was all about attacking front-row starters Russell and Hamilton as soon as the lights went out on Sunday, but the Dutchman had to bide his time after Lap 1 crash between McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Haas driver Kevin Magnussen necessitated a safety car.
On Lap 7 when the race resumed, Verstappen and Hamilton came to blows at the Turn 1-2 Senna ‘S’ complex, Verstappen being found at fault for the collision and being handed a five-second time penalty, which he took at his next pit stop.
On fresher tyres, Verstappen moved up the order past his team-mate to sixth place, which he elected to retain as the cars crossed the line with Pérez four seconds behind him.
“At the end of the day we were too slow anyway so there’s not much we could have done – just way too much degradation,” Verstappen said after discussing his early-race skirmish with Hamilton.
Asked about his late-race retention of sixth place, Verstappen said “I had my reasons for that.
“We just discussed that and I think it’s good we finally sat together and talked about it, and you just move forward from here. For sure if we go to Abu Dhabi and he needs support – they are tied so it’s not the end of the world – it’s all about who finishes ahead anyway. If he needs the help, I’ll be there.”
The timing of Norris’ late-race demise was unfortunate for Pérez, who had run inside the top three for most of the race after the Verstappen/Hamilton clash and looked like a strong chance to add an 11th podium finish to what has already been his most successful F1 season.
Race winner George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 with second placed team mate Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in parc ferme. 13.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day. – www.xpbimages.com
The Mexican was in third place on the restart for the final run to the flag, but was the only car running on medium-compound tyres at the time, which left him vulnerable to the pursuing pack on faster, softer rubber. Sainz deposed Pérez from the podium on Lap 63, and he had little chance to defend against Leclerc and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso as the laps clicked down.
Verstappen was let through to attack Alonso and, more importantly for the drivers’ championship, Leclerc at the end, but Pérez had to settle for seventh on a day where more points looked a strong possibility for the majority of the race.
The biggest surprise of the weekend came in Friday qualifying ahead of the Saturday sprint race, when Magnussen took a shock pole position, his maiden pole in his 140th F1 race and Haas’ first pole ever, the American team setting a record for the most races entered before achieving pole (143).
Magnussen, who was only called back to the sport this year by Haas after losing his seat for 2021, made the most of being on the right tyre at the right time as the final period of qualifying started in the dry before the rain intensified. The Dane came home eighth in the sprint to make it three points finishes in as many sprint races this season, but contact with Ricciardo eliminated him on the opening lap on Sunday.
Elsewhere, the Saturday sprint race was notable for two incidences of friendly fire between team-mates. Aston Martin’s Stroll was given a 10-second penalty for pushing Sebastian Vettel onto the grass as the German tried to pass the Canadian on the run to Turn 4, while Alpine’s Alonso copped a five-second penalty for two opening-lap skirmishes with team-mate Esteban Ocon, the second of which broke Alonso’s front wing and necessitated an unscheduled pit stop for repairs.
The longest season in F1 history wraps up next weekend at a venue where memories for Oracle Red Bull Racing will never fade, the Yas Marina Circuit for this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (November 20), the 22nd and final round of the year.