The 24-year-old Briton, on his 81st Grand Prix weekend, took third on the grid behind Haas’ first poleman Kevin Magnussen and Red Bull’s two-time champion Max Verstappen, but claimed a thrilling triumph in a breathless 24. – tower competition.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finished second ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes, which was investigated after the race over a breach of starting procedure.
Sainz is set to pick up a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s full Grand Prix race after switching engines.
It’s a move that could see Hamilton join Russell on the front row of the grid with the sprint result shaping the starting line-up for the penultimate race of the season.
Your front row for the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix 😊@LewisHamilton 🤝 @GeorgeRussell63 #BrazilGP #F1 @MercedesAMGF1 https://t.co/bQ9gffGUcQ
— Formula 1 (@F1) 1668294300000
Verstappen, who passed Magnussen at the start of lap three, was the only leader on medium tires and couldn’t resist Russell’s pace, then fell back to fourth after contact with Sainz.
He finished ahead of his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari.
Lando Norris finished seventh for McLaren ahead of Magnussen, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri.
“That’s how we roll, baby,” an elated Russell told team radio. “That’s how we ride! Very well done. Big points for tomorrow – let’s go.”
His victory was Mercedes’ first success this season.
Russell got eight points for his win, Sainz taking seven and Hamilton, subject to any penalties, six. “Great job guys,” Hamilton said. “Congratulations to George – that’s brilliant.”
STARTING GRID 🇧🇷A front row lockout for @MercedesAMGF1 👊Fernando Alonso abandons order following penalty… https://t.co/yyxB840Lw1
— Formula 1 (@F1) 1668293042000
The newly adopted Brazilian citizen added that he was hoping for a victory on Sunday to preserve his winning record in every season of his career.
In hot and dry conditions, Magnussen got off to a perfect start from his first pole position and led for the first two laps as Verstappen defended against Russell.
The world champion then took the lead at the start of lap three while behind him Fernando Alonso and Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon battled and collided, with the two-time champion coming to a stop after damaging his front wing.
“He pushed me into turn four, then finally into the straight,” the Spaniard reported, referring to Ocon as “our friend” in a sarcastic radio message. “Well done.”
Verstappen remained in control, failing to deliver convincing pace, until lap 15 when Russell passed him in the race to turn four, after four laps in fierce competition produced thrilling battles of pushing and defending between them .
Once in the clean air, Russell showed his Mercedes’ potential as Magnussen dropped back to seventh and Hamilton moved up to fourth in the second of the ‘Silver Arrows’.
On lap 20, with four to go, Russell led Sainz, who had fought his way past Verstappen at turn one a lap earlier, leaving the Dutchman with a damaged front wing, and Hamilton, up to third with a clean pass from Red Bull. .
In an all-action race, the two Aston Martins also clashed when Lance Stroll defended hard against Vettel, forcing the four-time champion off the track onto the grass.
“Okay,” Vettel muttered about the incident which resulted in a 10-second penalty for the Canadian. In his penultimate race, he regained his old spark and raced to ninth place as an excited crowd roared their approval.