Sunday’s grand prix in Sao Paulo continued what was certainly one of the best weekends of Formula One action during the 2022 season. With Mercedes starting on the front row after a dominant performance in Saturday’s sprint race, the team looked to win their first race of the season and make a real push for second in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
Soon after the lights went out, chaos struck the track as Mclaren’s Daniel Ricciardo clipped the rear of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, sending him spinning out and taking out both drivers for the day.
The accident caused a safety car to be deployed and tightened up the cars with the two Mercedes in the lead, followed closely by both Red Bulls.
When racing resumed, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen immediately attacked Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for second place, but the two would soon collide, causing significant damage to Verstappen’s car and sending him down the order.
Hamilton also took some damage and lost a few places, but his car did not lose any pace, and he quickly set out about climbing back up the order. Race control would eventually penalize Verstappen with a five-second stoppage at his next pit stop for causing a collision, although commentators were split on who was more responsible for the incident between the two champions.
Almost immediately after the incident with Verstappen and Hamilton, Mclaren’s Land Norris tagged Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc while trying to take the inside line of a corner for an overtake. The contact sent Leclerc into the wall, but amazingly he was able to get his car running again quickly and back on track in an effort to salvage his day.
The race stabilized from here with Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton battling for the victory with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
With less than twenty laps to go, Norris’ car came to a rolling stop on the track, losing power and causing another safety car situation. With the cars slowed down as race control cleared Norris’ car, many cars dove into the pit lane for cheap pit stops for fresh tires and one last push to the finish.
Under the safety car, pit stops are ten seconds quicker than they are during normal race conditions.
As the safety car came in, multiple teams gave their drivers orders on how to proceed with the final stint. With both Alpines stacked in 8th and 9th, the team ordered both drivers not to fight one another. Meanwhile, Mercedes gave orders that their drivers, in the lead, were free to race one another.
As the final laps ticked down, a truth from Saturday’s sprint race became apparent again: the soft compound tire was a vastly faster tire than the medium. The top of the order all set themselves up for the final stint on the soft, while Perez, in third, was on mediums.
Within a handful of laps of racing resuming after the safety car, both Ferraris and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso passed Perez with relative ease. Soon after, Perez’s teammate Verstappen also passed him with the Dutchman also on soft tires.
It would be Mercedes’ day as George Russell was first to see the checkered flag, followed by his teammate Hamilton. The victory would be Russell’s first in Formula One and Mercedes’ first of the 2022 season, marking a triumphant return to form for the decade’s most dominant team.
Ferrari’s Sainz took third even as his teammate pleaded with their team to allow him to move up from fourth in order to maximize his points and his pursuit of second in the Driver’s Championship.
Alonso finished fourth with Verstappen and Perez in tow.
The final race of the season is next in Abu Dhabi.