Russell takes first F1 win in Sao Paulo sprint

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George Russell caught and passed Max Verstappen to take Mercedes’ first win of 2022 in a thrilling sprint race at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Verstappen and Russell found themselves in a close scrap for the lead after quickly dispensing with shock polesitter Kevin Magnussen’s Haas in the early laps.

Russell stayed with Verstappen from the start and, after several laps of wheel-to-wheel dicing, took the lead just after half distance.

Verstappen then slipped back behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton to finish fourth.

It was a remarkable result at the end of a gripping race, which sets the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Not only was it Mercedes’ first win at the end of a long and difficult season, but it was the first time Verstappen had been passed and lost a race since the Austrian Grand Prix back in July.

Since then, a Red Bull driver has won all nine grands prix, eight of them going to Verstappen as he romped to a second consecutive world title.

Verstappen did complain about running over some debris – which might have damaged his car – but Russell’s pace was impressive throughout the race from the beginning.

Lewis Hamilton (left) and George Russell

Verstappen was the only front runner to choose the medium tyre, while everyone else in the top 10 chose softs, and there will be questions as to whether that was a mistake.

Verstappen was past Magnussen on lap three, with Russell following him through three corners later.

Given Red Bull’s pace this season, the expectation was that the Dutchman would then waltz away with the race – but that is not what happened.

Russell stuck with Verstappen, only more than a second behind for two laps, and by lap 11 of 24 the Mercedes was right with the Red Bull.

Russell attacked hard, Verstappen defending just as robustly, for three laps, as the Mercedes driver attacked into Turns One and Four looking for a way by.

He finally managed it on lap 15, when he got a run on Verstappen through the first three corners, slipstreamed his down the back straight and passed before Turn Four – in very similar fashion to the way Hamilton passed Verstappen for victory in his sensational drive in the grand prix last year. (BBC)

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