SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 13: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W13 leads the field at the start during the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 13, 2022 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Mercedes drivers fight for dominance at the São Paulo Grand Prix
Find out what happened in the penultimate race of the 2022 season
George Russell took his maiden victory in Brazil this weekend and secured a Mercedes 1-2 finish.
Lewis Hamilton finished behind his teammate as Ferrari cars secured third and fourth in an action-packed race at Interlagos.
It was a clean start for the drivers, as Sprint winner George Russell led Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. But there wasn’t a full lap of racing before McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo spun pole winner Kevin Magnussen. Both drivers were taken out of the race and retired, bringing out the Safety Car on lap 1.
On Lap 5, still under Safety Car conditions, Alex Albon became the first driver in the race to make a pit stop and put on medium tyres.
The Safety Car brought a brief respite, but when it ended on Lap 7, chaos broke loose again. Russell maintained his lead, but Hamilton behind him was immediately under pressure from the Red Bulls behind him. Verstappen made contact with the Mercedes going into Turn 1, and they both lost places. Verstappen, who received a five-second time penalty for that move, had to pit with damage and dropped all the way down the field.
Just a few corners later, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris made contact that ended in Leclerc’s Ferrari hitting the wall. He managed to keep the car going, and also pitted with damage. Norris was the one to receive a five-second time penalty for that incident.
Despite both of these incidents, any major disruption to the race was avoided.
Battle for the top five
Russell had pulled a safe gap by the time DRS was enabled and sat comfortably out in front. But further back, the battles were just beginning.
By Lap 9, Sergio Perez had passed Sainz and Norris, coming up to second place. Meanwhile, Hamilton, who dropped to sixth after his contact with Verstappen, was fighting to get his Mercedes car past Sebastian Vettel. But by Lap 14 he managed to make the pass and secure fifth place. Just one lap later he gained another place, taking fourth from Norris.
The top five still refused to settle down, with Vettel overtaking Norris on Lap 17 and making the order Russell, Perez, Sainz, Hamilton, and Vettel.
Plenty of pit stops
By this point, drivers began to make their first scheduled pit stops. Sainz was the first of the top five to pit, switching from the medium tyres to the softs and coming out in 12th. The soft tyres worked well for him, and he made up ground quickly. Four laps later, on Lap 22, Ferrari pit Leclerc again as well.
Two laps later, Perez pitted from second place, putting on the mediums and coming out behind Valtteri Bottas in sixth. Right behind him in the pits was Verstappen, who served his time penalty before putting on another set of soft tyres.
Russell, still leading comfortably, came into the pits on Lap 25 as Hamilton inherited the lead. By the following lap, the only drivers left to pit were Hamilton, Vettel, and Lance Stroll.
Vettel, running third, dropped to ninth after switching to the medium tyre. Hamilton, who did the same a lap later, dropped from the lead to fourth place. By the time all the pit stops had ended, Russell had regained his lead and was ahead of Perez, Sainz, Hamilton, and Alonso.
For a while, things calmed down in the race. Verstappen was down in 15th place and very slowly making up ground. Bottas and Vettel battled for fifth place, and Hamilton made his way past Sainz for third.
Leclerc was also gaining places, creeping his way into the top ten. After Hamilton passed Sainz he started closing in on Perez. By Lap 44 he was right behind the Red Bull, but a strong defence from Perez meant the Mercedes had to wait a lap longer to actually make the move.
Leclerc made his third pit stop on Lap 45 and dropped back to 14th. Four laps later, Hamilton pitted for softs to hold off Perez. Just after him, Russell made his final pit stop, retaining his lead as comfortably as ever.
Just as things looked to be calming down, Norris lost power and stopped on the side of the track. The Virtual Safety Car came out, and Sainz pit, dropping from second to fourth.
Not long after, the full Safety Car was deployed, and the marshalls rushed to recover Norris’ car. Mercedes was now running 1-2, and the drivers were assured that no team orders would be taking place. They were free to race each other, Hamilton for his first win this season, and Russell for his maiden Grand Prix win.
Russell led the restart on Lap 60, with Perez under pressure from both Ferrari drivers. Russell did his best to pull a one-second gap to Hamilton by the time DRS was enabled and managed to do so successfully. Meanwhile, Perez was overtaken by both Sainz and Leclerc, on Lap 63 and 64 respectively.
But it wasn’t just the Ferraris who made it past Perez, as just one lap later Alonso passed him and secured fifth place. Now, Verstappen was the driver behind his Mexican teammate.
Perez let Verstappen past, having been assured that if Max couldn’t make up ground that he would give the place back. But as Russell and Hamilton crossed the line to make it a Mercedes 1-2 finish, Verstappen refused to let Perez by and took sixth place behind Alonso.
In the end, the Ferraris finished third and fourth after a respectable recovery drive, and Alonso sat as the lone driver wedged between the top three teams in the Constructor’s standings.
Feature Image Credit: Getty Images
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