George Russell took his maiden Grand Prix victory in some style at Sao Paulo, Mercedes taking their first win and one-two of the season with Lewis Hamilton finishing second over Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
Courtesy of their Sprint result and Carlos Sainz’s five-place grid penalty, Russell led Hamilton away at the start, with the Safety Car quickly deployed for a collision between Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen that sent both cars out at Turn 8, bringing out the Safety Car.
The Lap 7 resumption saw Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collide at Turn 2 before Charles Leclerc was sent into the Turn 7 barriers by Lando Norris. Neither of the four cars retired but Verstappen and Norris both took five-second penalties for their incidents.
Hamilton recovered soon after his scrap with Verstappen and the seven-time champion ran second behind Russell when a stoppage for Norris, on Lap 52, brought out a VSC-turned Safety Car.
Under immense pressure, Russell retained his lead over Hamilton on the Lap 60 restart and delivered his first win by a margin of 1.5 seconds over the seven-time champion.
Carlos Sainz was made to work for the final podium spot as, despite being on medium compounds, Perez defended his podium spot for a number of laps after the Safety Car restart. Charles Leclerc asked his team to swap positions with P2 in the championship at the fore of his thinking, but Leclerc was told to settle for fourth.
Perez’s final stint on medium tyres not only cost him a podium, but saw him drop to seventh as the team allowed soft-shod Verstappen ahead in P6. Despite that, Verstappen could not catch P5 finisher Fernando Alonso – though he also declined to hand the place back to his team mate.
Esteban Ocon, who was told not to fight team mate Alonso at the final Safety Car restart, ended up eighth having passed Valtteri Bottas (P9) late on. Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 ahead of his medium-shod team mate Sebastian Vettel by the chequered flag.
Zhou Guanyu declined to pit for softs in the final Safety Car restart and ended up 12th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Mick Schumacher – both drivers promoted as Pierre Gasly took a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane and ended up 14th for AlphaTauri.
Williams were next up, with Alex Albon ahead of Nicholas Latifi, while Yuki Tsunoda started in the pit lane and ended the race 17th.
"What an amazing feeling," said Mercedes' race winner George Russell. "Just a huge thank you to the whole team for making this possible. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster this season.
"This race, a really tough race. I felt in control, Lewis was super-fast and when I saw the Safety Car, I thought, 'Oh Jesus, this is going to be a really difficult end', and he put me under so much pressure – but [I'm] so happy to come away with the victory."
The 2022 season finale is set to take place in Abu Dhabi next weekend, on November 18-20. Mercedes have their win, but who will end the year with the final say?
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Photo: Formula 1 / George Russell / Mercedes / Bell