Russell takes maiden victory as Mercedes celebrate 1-2 finish at Brazil

By Steven De Groote on

The Brazilian Grand Prix was dry but that didn’t make it any less spectacular than the sprint or qualifying earlier this weekend. The eventful race was controlled by the Mercedes drivers, followed by the Ferrari duo and Alonso who fought back from 18th on the grid.

When the lights went out Russell launched like a rocket and gave Hamilton no other option but to follow up in second. Verstappen and Perez also maintained position while Norris gained one on Leclerc. The McLaren driver looked threatening on Perez as well but the latter held on round the outside of Turn 1.

Leclerc and Sainz followed up in 6th and 7th as both were the only ones in the top 10 to start on the medium Pirelli tires. Vettel, Gasly and Schumacher completed the top 10.

Worse off were Ricciardo and Magnussen. In the sharp right hander it was Ricciardo who slightly bumped Magnussen, causing the Haas to spin around and hit Ricciardo backwards leaving both cars stranded with terminal damage. Both drivers were fine but a Safety Car was necessary to clear the cars.

On lap 8 the race kicked off again with Russell opting to get back on the throttle very late, in fact near the pit entry. This brought Hamilton into trouble as he had to defend both Red Bulls who were very close. Verstappen went round the outside on the left hander that is Turn 1 but then was so aggressive into Turn 2 that he bumped into Hamilton. The incident broke Verstappen’s front wing, forcing him into a 10s pitstop while Hamilton seemed to have no damage and went on from 8th place, soon overtaking Schumacher and Gasly to recover.

Verstappen was later also handed a 5s penalty for causing that collision, as well as Norris for causing a collision. The latter punted Leclerc off the track at Turn 5, leaving the Ferrari driver to pit as well and start a recovery race like Verstappen.

By lap 17 Hamilton had moved up into 4th place after a bit of trouble getting past Vettel as he was enjoying DRS from Norris just ahead. In lap 20 he moved up another spot when Sainz pitted to change his mediums to a fresh set of soft.

On lap 27 Vettel was one of the last ones to pit, leaving only Stroll to continue on mediums from the start in 5th place and Hamilton out in front with soft tires from the start. Hamilton then pitted at the end of lap 29, returning to the track in 4th. Stroll also pitted that same lap and returned in 15th place, just ahead of Verstappen.

Meanwhile Alonso moved up into 5th but then again was pitted as one of the first. Having already been the first to make a first stop, his second stop on lap 38/71 is a switch from medium to medium. The Spaniard rejoined in 15th place, enabling Bottas to move up into 5th with Vettel and Ocon reasonably close behind him.

Varying degradation on the soft and the medium tires caused a large difference in tire strategies across the field. Some seemed to aim for two stops like the Mercedes and Ocon, Sainz and Alonso are on three stop strategies and Leclerc actually already made three stops by lap 47.

In lap 48 then Bottas, Vettel and Norris pitted simultaneously, followed by Hamilton and Verstappen the next lap. Hamilton loudly reported his tires were good but still obeyed his race engineer when asked to box again. Hamilton later inquired again why he had to pit and got told they wanted to prevent the undercut from behind while the soft tires were the better tire.

Russell pitted the next lap and just like Hamilton switched to used set of soft. Russell maintained first place, followed by Sainz, Hamilton, Perez and Alonso.

One lap later Norris crashed out, resulting in a virtual safety car. Alpine immediately called in Alonso who managed to make a quick stop and returned to the track in 9th place, just behind Ocon and ahead of Verstappen. Sainz also pitted and returned to the track in 4th place.

As it appeared Norris’s car was stuck the safety car was sent out, bringing the entire pack together.

When they restarted the top 6 maintained their positions while Ocon immediately passed Vettel. Alonso did the same in Turn 4 and towards the end of the lap also passed Ocon after the latter had been told by his team “Esteban, I don’t want to see you fight with Fernando”.

While Sainz got past Perez, Alonso was catching up with Leclerc to try to get that sixth place. Perez was obviously in a difficult position as he ran mediums compared to soft tires all around him. Leclerc passed the Red Bull in the next lap while Alonso followed that up the next lap ahead of Turn 4.

Meanwhile Verstappen made similar progress and ran about 2s behind Alonso, similarly passing everyone that Alonso cleared. In the closing laps Alonso had trouble getting close enough to Leclerc while Verstappen got closer and closer to Alonso, even getting into DRS range of Alonso.

Eventually Verstappen finished behind Alonso, ignoring his team’s request to let Perez by if he couldn’t make it past the Alpine driver.

As Alonso sealed a recovery drive from 18th to 5th, George Russel secured his first Formula One victory, crossing the finish line 1.5 seconds ahead of his team mate to make this an unbelievable success for the Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Results

Pos. Pts
1 63 George Russell Mercedes 71 1:38:34.044 26
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 71 +1.529s 18
3 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 71 +4.051s 15
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 71 +8.441s 12
5 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 71 +9.561s 10
6 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Rbpt 71 +10.056s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Rbpt 71 +14.080s 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 71 +18.690s 4
9 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 71 +22.552s 2
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 71 +23.552s 1
11 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 71 +26.183s 0
12 10 Pierre Gasly Alphatauri Rbpt 71 +26.867s 0
13 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 71 +29.325s 0
14 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 71 +29.899s 0
15 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 71 +36.016s 0
16 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 71 +37.038s 0
17 22 Yuki Tsunoda Alphatauri Rbpt 70 +1 lap 0
NC 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 50 DNF 0
NC 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 0 DNF 0
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 0 DNF 0

Note – Russell scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.


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