Former Williams Racing driver George Russell recorded his first win in Brazil tonight with some great racing aided by a bit of luck. As a result of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen colliding in Sao Paulo, Verstappen was fined, giving George Russell his first Grand Prix victory and a first for Mercedes in 2022.
Verstappen and Hamilton collided while fighting for second position during the early stages of a safety car restart, and Russell maintained control of the race the entire time.
After colliding with his 2021 title rival, Hamilton fell to ninth place, but he later recovered to secure a Mercedes one-two and complete the team’s comeback after a challenging season that the eight-time winners started with an inferior car.
In addition to surviving a late safety car that backed up the field and put Hamilton directly behind him going into the last 10 circuits, Russell had a successful drive. Even though the Mercedes drivers had been told they were allowed to race, Russell held the lead at the restart and resisted Hamilton until the very finish.
And to suggest the accident was the sole reason is unfair on Russell, as he started the race in pole and also got the fastest lap.
Behind them, several drivers who had had challenging races rekindled their afternoons during the final 10 laps, making it a tense battle.
Among them were Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who had fallen to the back after Lando Norris of McLaren shoved him off the track at Turn Five shortly after the Verstappen-Hamilton collision.
Leclerc overcame the fading Sergio Perez of the Red Bull after the restart to finish fourth behind his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz. Fernando Alonso of Alpine passed the Mexican and moved up to fifth place after starting 18th.
Verstappen was able to climb up from tenth to sixth place thanks to the late caution period, narrowly missing out on passing Alonso in the final sprint.
Verstappen had been allowed to pass Perez a few laps earlier to chase Alonso but was told heading into the final lap that he should let his team-mate back ahead if he did not pass Alonso by the final corner. But he did not comply.
Verstappen was advised coming into the final lap that if he did not catch Alonso by the final corner, he should let his teammate go back in front, but he refused to do so. Verstappen had been permitted to pass Perez a few laps earlier to pursue Alonso.
Verstappen was asked after the race what happened, and he said: “I told you already last time, you guys don’t ask that again to me, OK? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”
A great first victory for Russell
Mercedes had a front-row lockout going into the race after Russell’s victory in the Sprint race on Saturday and a grid penalty for Sainz, who finished second ahead of Hamilton, but they were worried about Verstappen’s potential pace. They maintained their positions from the start, but after a few circuits, the safety car forced them to restart.
Verstappen had a run on Hamilton and swerved for the outside into Turn One after Russell handled the re-start flawlessly. When Hamilton attempted to navigate Turn Two side by side, they collided.
Verstappen argued that Hamilton had not given him enough room. Still, the officials decided otherwise and gave Verstappen a five-second time penalty, saying he was “predominantly at fault” for the incident.
Perez was then Russell’s sole viable challenger for the victory, but after controlling his speed for the opening few laps, the Briton complied with the team’s request to pick up the pace and widen the lead, to which Perez was unable to respond.
It was unclear how far Hamilton could move up the pack during his comeback as Russell gained charge of the race, but it quickly became apparent that he had a chance to finish second.
To offset his pace, Hamilton ran farther on his first set of tyres. He came to a stop six circuits after Perez and came out of the pit stop in fourth, just behind Sainz.
With 26 laps remaining, Hamilton caught and passed Perez when Sainz forced an early pit stop because a visor tear-off became stuck in a rear brake duct early in the race.
More danger was brought about eight laps later when Norris’ McLaren broke down on the track, resulting in the deployment of the virtual safety car and then the actual safety car. The outcome then depended on who had the most recent rubber because none of the front runners stopped for new tyres.
Perez was vulnerable since he had done his last stop sooner than the others and had chosen medium tyres over soft ones. As a result, he lost to Sainz, Leclerc, and then Verstappen, whom he was told to let pass so the world champion could attempt to gain points from those in front of him.
Verstappen did not gain any further positions on the track, leaving the Red Bulls sixth and seventh, in front of Esteban Ocon of Alpine, Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo, Lance Stroll of Aston Martin, and Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin.
Williams Racing Performance
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance:
Another difficult day and we struggled for pace throughout the race. With the early safety car, we were able to switch Alex to an effective 2-stop race using only Medium tyres. With the 2nd safety car coming shortly after Alex had made his final stop, most of the tyre advantage we were accruing for the final stint was lost. At the restart Alex suffered with a loss of power, which took us a couple of laps to recover and he was unable to make any further progress.
Nicholas ran a short stint on the Hard compound, but this was a poor tyre today and, coupled with a slow pit-stop, dropped him off the back of the pack. The 2nd safety car gave him a chance to recover and to race Alex over the final laps, but it was otherwise a frustrating day.
Our race was okay, but we got unlucky with the safety car, with everyone in front of us getting a free pitstop, ultimately compromising our whole race. We did a good job and in terms of the race, I was happy how I was driving, and it looked like we were optimising the race. I do think we may have made an error with our start tyre as everyone else was on the softs and mediums, but the safety car gave us an opportunity to immediately swap to a 2-stop Medium race. It’s unfortunate but we’ll look forward to the next and last race of the season.
The car was better today in the race. We had damage yesterday on the floor, which we repaired overnight and so the car was feeling better today. I had a big flat spot on the first lap which affected the first stint pace. It was then unfortunate we had a slow pitstop and struggled on race pace from there. The safety car gave us a little bit of hope at the end, but I wasn’t able to catch up to the pack.
Brazil Grand Prix Results
|TRACK: Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Brazil||Lap Length: 4.309 km|
|POS||DRIVER||TEAM||TIME/GAP (FASTEST LAP)||GRID|
|15||A. Albon||Williams Racing||+36.016|
|16||N. Latifi||Williams Racing||+37.038|
2022 FIA Formula One World Championship Schedule
|1||20-Mar-22||Bahrain Grand Prix||Bahrain IC, Sakhir|
|2||27-Mar-22||Saudi Arabia Grand Prix||Jeddah Street Circuit, Jeddah|
|3||10-Apr-22||Australian Grand Prix||Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne|
|4||24-Apr-22||Emilia Romagna Grand Prix||Imola|
|5||08-May-22||Miami Grand Prix||Miami International Autodrome, Miami|
|6||22-May-22||Spanish Grand Prix||Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona|
|7||29-May-22||Monaco Grand Prix||Monte Carlo, Monaco|
|8||12-Jun-22||Azerbaijan Grand Prix||Baku City Circuit, Baku|
|9||19-Jun-22||Canadian Grand Prix||Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal|
|10||03-Jul-22||British Grand Prix||Silverstone|
|11||10-Jul-22||Austrian Grand Prix||Red Bull Ring, Spielberg|
|12||24-Jul-22||French Grand Prix||Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet|
|13||31-Jul-22||Hungarian Grand Prix||Hungaroring, Mogyorod|
|14||28-Aug-22||Belgian Grand Prix||Spa-Francorchamps, Francorchamps|
|15||04-Sep-22||Dutch Grand Prix||Zandvoort|
|16||11-Sep-22||Italian Grand Prix||Monza|
|17||02-Oct-22||Singapore Grand Prix||Marina Bay, Singapore|
|18||09-Oct-22||Japanese Grand Prix||Suzuka|
|19||23-Oct-22||United States Grand Prix||Circuit of the Americas, Austin|
|20||30-Oct-22||Mexican Grand Prix||Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City|
|21||13-Nov-22||Brazilian Grand Prix||Interlagos, Sao Paulo|
|22||20-Nov-22||Abu Dhabi Grand Prix||Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi|