George Russell secured pole position for the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix after coming out on top in an epic battle with Max Verstappen to win the F1 Sprint Race in Sao Paulo.
Kevin Magnussen started on pole for Haas but was quickly passed by Verstappen and Russell, who continued their duel until Lap 15, when the combination of the slipstream and DRS proved decisive for the Mercedes driver into Turn 4.
Rather than mount a comeback, Verstappen struggled for pace on the harder medium tyres and Carlos Sainz took advantage on Lap 19 to claim second, while Lewis Hamilton took third – which will become second for Sunday’s race – as the world champion turned in an unusually scrappy performance.
“It was incredible, I wasn’t expecting to have that much pace,” Russell said after the Sprint Race. “It goes to show how much progress we’ve made.
“I’m not sure how Max would have done on the soft tyres but we’ll never know. I was dying to get the victory but I didn’t want to take too much risk but I made it stick. Third-time lucky.
“It’s crazy to think we’re starting on the front row. Lewis did a great job to come back from eighth, we’ll give it everything tomorrow to make it stick.”
In the end, Verstappen had to settle for fourth ahead of his teammate, with Charles Leclerc taking sixth after a qualifying gaffe saw him start 10th. Lando Norris laboured to seventh ahead of Magnussen, who picked up the final and well-deserved point on offer.
Can Mercedes win the Brazilian Grand Prix?
The pace of the W13 during Saturday’s Sprint Race will have raised hopes that Mercedes can finally land a first victory of the 2022 season.
Russell will start first on the grid alongside Hamilton, who benefits from Sainz‘s penalty.
The seven-time world champion started eighth but surged through the pack to take third as the Mercedes car looked the star of the field for the first time during what has been a disappointing campaign.
“It was a difficult day yesterday but I’m so glad to come back today. Congratulations to George, for us to be on the front row is incredible. Hopefully we can hold off the guys behind tomorrow.
“I’m hoping for good weather tomorrow, a win here for Brazil would be incredible.
Squabbling Alpines on the back foot
In the battle for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, the Alpine cars were once again battling for the same bit of tarmac and ultimately came to blows.
Esteban Ocon appeared to squeeze his teammate at Turn 4 on the opening lap before contact was made on the start straight a couple laps later that left Alonso needing to pit for a new front wing.
The Spaniard did his best to recover but finished 15th, while Ocon crossed the line 18th. With Norris in seventh and Daniel Ricciardo 11th, the French outfit are on the back foot for Sunday’s race.
On the pitwall, team principal Otmar Sczaufner was democratic, absolving both of absolute blame, but it was another clumsy incident that could so easily have been avoided.