Double blow and victory found for Mercedes! Briton George Russell won his first Formula 1 victory on Sunday at the Brazilian Grand Prix, ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton, and gave the German manufacturer its first success of the season.
“I’m speechless, in the return lap to the pits a lot of memories came to the surface”, reacted, very moved, the poleman at the finish of the penultimate round of the season.
The Mercedes are ahead of the Ferraris of Spaniard Carlos Sainz, 3rd, and Monegasque Charles Leclerc.
Russell, 24, won at the end of a GP punctuated from the start by a safety car, then the clashes of Max Verstappen (Red Bull) with Lewis Hamilton, and that of Charles Leclerc with Lando Norris (McLaren) at the resumption of the race.
Starting 3rd on the grid, Verstappen, already assured of his second world championship title this year, finished in an unusual 6th place.
The Dutchman was notably found guilty of his collision with Hamilton, and like Leclerc, he was forced to go back to the pits to repair his car, losing many places on the Interlagos track in Sao Paulo.
– First double since 2020 –
Mercedes has come a long way since the German manufacturer has long sought to get rid of the problems linked to the new regulations of the season, which prevented it from competing with Red Bull, titled last month at the manufacturers.
“We went through a very difficult phase,” admitted Hamilton. “But we never gave up hope of getting back to winning ways.”
How does he explain this return of Mercedes to the forefront? “We haven’t made any improvements over the last few races, I just think we’ve gradually started to understand the car.”
“We wasted so much time trying to solve the porpoising problems (phenomenon linked to the new rules of this year and which makes the single-seaters bounce, editor’s note), it really harmed our development,” recalls Russell.
“We then stopped focusing on that and focused on performance (…) and that is why, in my opinion, we have seen a jump in performance over the last eight races.
For the German team, it is the first success since the Saudi Arabian GP in December 2021, and the first double since 2020, with Valtteri Bottas instead of Russell.
However, warns Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, “we are not back to the peak of dominance, on paper Abu Dhabi is much more difficult for us, we are still too far behind and we know why.”
– Alpine winner –
In the constructors’ championship, this double allows him to return to 19 lengths behind Ferrari, still second before the last race of the season, next weekend in Abu Dhabi.
Among the drivers, behind Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and the Mexican Sergio Pérez (Red Bull), in the fight for second place overall, leave Brazil with a perfect equality of points on the clock (290). Pérez, struggling late in the race, finished 7th in Brazil.
Neither of the two drivers, who finished behind their respective teammates, could benefit from the favors of Sainz and Verstappen to grab points.
“After everything I’ve done for him, it’s a bit disappointing to be honest. I’m really surprised,” Pérez said.
“I had my reasons,” defended the Dutchman.
The Brazilian GP was the third and last in 2022 to offer the format with qualifying on Friday, qualifying sprint race on Saturday and GP on Sunday.
Dane Kevin Magnussen, who took the first pole position of his career on Friday in his Haas, had to retire after a collision with Australian Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren at the start of the race.
Lando Norris’ other McLaren also retired, which is Alpine’s business.
In the championship, the French team gave themselves a little air in front of the Briton in their battle for 4th place, thanks to the 5th and 8th positions of the Spaniard Fernando Alonso and the French Esteban Ocon. 19 points now separate the two teams.