Sao Paulo GP Sprint: George Russell wins as Max Verstappen struggles after collision with Carlos Sainz

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George Russell finally snatches the lead from Max Verstappen in the Sprint race of the Sao Paulo GP

George Russell finally snatches the lead from Max Verstappen in the Sprint race of the Sao Paulo GP

George Russell triumphed in a thrilling Sprint to lead a locked-out Mercedes to the front row for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix on Sunday, as world champion Max Verstappen struggled to take fourth after a collision with Carlos Sainz .

Verstappen took the lead from shock pole sitter Kevin Magnussen in the early stages as the Haas quickly fell back, but Russell, who started third for Mercedes, had too much pace for Red Bull and forced his way into head on lap 15 forward. winning the first victory of his career.

Verstappen, who was one of only two cars not to start the race on soft tyres, then suffered damage when passed by Carlos Sainz for second place, allowing Lewis Hamilton to overtake the Dutchman a lap later to take third place.

With Sainz facing a five-place grid penalty for taking on a new engine this weekend, Mercedes locked down the front row for Sunday’s race, giving the team a huge opportunity for a maiden win. of the season.

George Russell beats Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton to win Sprint race at Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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George Russell beats Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton to win Sprint race at Sao Paulo Grand Prix

George Russell beats Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton to win Sprint race at Sao Paulo Grand Prix

Hamilton had to wait for his front row place to be confirmed, with the seven-time world champion belatedly cleared of any wrongdoing following an investigation into a grid infraction at the start, which related to his position in his grid box.

Sergio Perez came home behind his team Red Bull Verstappen in fifth, with his rival for second place in the Drivers’ Championship Charles Leclerc a place further in sixth.

Lando Norris, who started fourth, overcame his struggles with illness to finish seventh, while pole-sitter Magnussen took the last offered point in eighth.

Max Verstappen endures tough Sprint race at Sao Paulo GP as Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton pass him

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Max Verstappen endures tough Sprint race at Sao Paulo GP as Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton pass him

Max Verstappen endures tough Sprint race at Sao Paulo GP as Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton pass him

Russell takes eight points for winning the 24-lap race, with the reward for the top eight going down one point per position.

Sao Paulo GP sprint result: Top 10
1) George Russell, Mercedes (8 points)
2) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari* (7 points)
3) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (6 points)
4) Max Verstappen, Red Bull (5 points)
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull (4 points)
6) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari (3 points)
7) Lando Norris, McLaren (2 points)
8) Kevin Magnussen, Haas (1 point)
9) Sebastien Vettel, Aston Martin
10) Pierre Gasly, Alpha Tauri

* faces a five-place grid penalty after taking a new engine

Sao Paulo offers an action-packed Sprint

When Formula 1 introduced sprint racing last season, Saturday’s jaw-dropping spectacle in Brazil was exactly what the sport’s governing body had in mind.

All in action for each of its 24 laps, the brilliant contest reiterated the importance of giving Sprint races to host circuits where overtaking is possible.

The run was helped by a wet qualifying on Friday, which saw Magnussen take a shock perch for Haas and Hamilton, Perez and Leclerc from midfield.

Spectacular first lap sees Kevin Magnussen retain Sprint race lead at Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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Spectacular first lap sees Kevin Magnussen retain Sprint race lead at Sao Paulo Grand Prix

Spectacular first lap sees Kevin Magnussen retain Sprint race lead at Sao Paulo Grand Prix

There was cause for intrigue before the start of the race as it was revealed that Williams’ Verstappen and Nicholas Latifi were the only drivers not to start on soft tyres.

Red Bull would explain after the Sprint that the decision had been made to save two sets of fresh soft tires for Sunday, but the call no doubt backfired in the short term.

Verstappen came under immediate pressure from Russell at the start, and although he was able to hold off the Mercedes before passing Magnussen, the Dutchman couldn’t get out of DRS reach.

Russell continued to apply pressure and nearly passed Verstappen twice before finally getting the shot on the third attempt.

Max Verstappen reflects on decision to run medium tires in Sao Paulo Sprint race

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Max Verstappen reflects on decision to run medium tires in Sao Paulo Sprint race

Max Verstappen reflects on decision to run medium tires in Sao Paulo Sprint race

As the Mercedes pulled away comfortably, Verstappen fell into the clutches of Sainz, who was being chased by Hamilton, unsure if the world champion was losing extra speed due to running over debris on the track.

Verstappen, who earlier in the week described the Sprints as ‘not fun’ due to a lack of risk-taking and action, tried valiantly to hold off Sainz but was passed in the first corner by the Spaniard , before the pair made contact as they walked out.

With his front wing looking like it had suffered damage, Verstappen saw 2021 rival Hamilton overtake him on the next lap, and might have lost a further place had it not been for the friendly face of his Red Bull team-mate Perez behind him.

Alpine and Aston Martin teammates go head-to-head

While the action up front was thrilling, there was a lot more going on behind, including a pair of skirmishes between teammates.

It was the Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, who started sixth and seventh respectively, who faced off in the first round.

Ocon forced Alonso out of the way as the Spaniard attempted to pass him at Turn 4, with the Spaniard barely managing to maintain control of his car as he crossed the kerb.

Karun Chandhok analyzes the clashes between Alpine riders, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon during the Sprint at the Sao Paulo GP

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Karun Chandhok analyzes the clashes between Alpine riders, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon during the Sprint at the Sao Paulo GP

Karun Chandhok analyzes the clashes between Alpine riders, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon during the Sprint at the Sao Paulo GP

They would then come into contact at the end of the lap as Alonso tried again to pass Ocon on the home straight, which damaged both cars and ultimately condemned them to finish 15th and 18th respectively.

Alonso, who is leaving Alpine for Aston Martin at the end of the season, expressed his displeasure with his team-mate after the race but it was the Spaniard who was handed a five-second penalty for the second incident.

When asked if he spoke to Ocon after the Sprint, Alonso replied: “No, not really.”

“I don’t need it. It’s one more race and then it’s over.”

Esteban Ocon says it's unfortunate for the team that there was a clash between the Alpine riders, while Fernando Alonso says

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Esteban Ocon says it’s unfortunate for the team that there was a clash between the Alpine riders, while Fernando Alonso says ‘it’s one more race’ as teammates

Esteban Ocon says it’s unfortunate for the team that there was a clash between the Alpine riders, while Fernando Alonso says ‘it’s one more race’ as teammates

There is no guarantee of greener pastures next year for Alonso, with future team-mate Lance Stroll handed a 10-second penalty for forcing Sebastian Vettel’s other Aston Martin off the track as the German was trying to overtake.

Vettel, who is retiring at the end of the season, clearly had too much pace for Stroll and passed shortly after, before finishing just two seconds behind Magnussen in the final points position.

Vettel was more diplomatic than Alonso after the race, saying it was a “fine line” when you’re “fighting for your place” in the sport.

Lance Stroll forces his Aston Martin team mate Sebastian Vettel onto the grass during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix Sprint race.

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Lance Stroll forces his Aston Martin team mate Sebastian Vettel onto the grass during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix Sprint race.

Lance Stroll forces his Aston Martin team mate Sebastian Vettel onto the grass during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix Sprint race.

There was further drama after the Sprint as Pierre Gasly faced the threat of a one-race ban, as he was under investigation by the stewards for driving unnecessarily slowly during his reconnaissance laps before the race.

The Frenchman is just two penalty points away from incurring a one-race ban and could have incurred a penalty that would have seen him breach the 12-point limit.

However, the stewards announced after the race that Gasly would only receive a warning for the incident.

Gasly had wondered earlier this week if the infractions he’d committed to rack up his 10 penalty points over the past year merited such a serious penalty as a ban.

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