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F1: Chequered Flag - Brazil GP Review

As dead rubbers go they don't get much more dramatic and exciting than the Brazilian Grand Prix.

George Russell claimed his first career victory and Mercedes' first of the season, surviving two safety car restarts as chaos and controversy unfolded behind him. 

Teammate Lewis Hamilton followed Russell home to record the Silver Arrows' first 1-2 finish since 2020.

Ferrari bounced back from a disappointing showing in Mexico with Carlos Sainz third and Charles Leclerc fourth, although their lead over Mercedes for second place in the constructors' championship has been trimmed to 19 points ahead of next weekend's season finale in Abu Dhabi.

And what of Red Bull, the dominant force of Formula 1 2022? 

Their nine-race winning streak came to a dramatic end with world champion Max Verstappen sixth and Sergio Perez seventh, after the Dutchman refused to allow Perez to pass him on the last lap to repay the favour the Mexican had done for him earlier in the race.

Unusally, Verstappen is odds-against to claim what would be his 15th win of the season in Abu Dhabi, while Hamilton is 5/2 for his first of the year and Russell 7/2 to follow up his Brazilian triumph. 

Weekend of firsts in Sao Paulo

The F1 teams arrived in Brazil amid forecasts of torrential rain which threatened to play havoc with the schedule, but in the end there was only a shower on Friday which served to spice up the action nicely.

Having been the only driver to complete an error-free lap before the rain arrived in the final segment of qualifying, Kevin Magnussen claimed a shock pole position for Saturday's Sprint race. 

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Brazil GP Preview

The Dane, in his 141st appearance, earned his and Haas' first pole having been as big as 2,000/1 to top qualifying.

Behind him, a largely mixed-up grid lined up, although with Verstappen starting second, the result of the 24-lap dash looked a foregone conclusion. 

However, Red Bull made a rare strategic error in starting the world champion on medium tyres, believing the faster softs on everyone else's car would not last the distance.

Magnussen gradually dropped down the pack but Russell, from third on the grid, was able to keep up with Verstappen before eventually finding a way past and going on to grab his first win in an F1 car and the right to start from the front in the Grand Prix.

Sainz was next to pounce on the Red Bull, with Verstappen suffering a broken wing as the two tussled. The Dutchman moved back to fourth by the end of the sprint behind Hamilton, who had recovered from eighth on the grid.

With Sainz taking a five-place grid drop for an engine change, that left the Mercedes locking out the front row for Sunday's full-length race ahead of Verstappen.

A perfect race for Russell

The leading drivers held their positions off the start line, but further back delight turned to despair for Magnussen, who was knocked out of the race in a first-lap collision with McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo.

The pack were tightly bunched when the race resumed, and while Russell pulled away, Verstappen looked to make a move on his old foe Hamilton. The famous rivals came together at the opening Senna-S bends. 

The Mercedes driver lost positions but was able to continue, while Verstappen had to take to the pits for repairs.

Russell pulled away from Perez, now in second, while Hamilton recovered through the field, eventually regaining second place before the safety car was called out again, after Lando Norris stopped on track on lap 53.

Having recently pitted, the Mercedes led the field on soft tyres but potentially vulnerable to Perez on fresher mediums behind, followed by Sainz on new softs. 

However, over the final 11 laps Perez dropped back through the field while the Mercedes were able to maintain the gap behind and end their winless run.

Ferrari bounce back

Last time out in Mexico, Ferrari were never in contention and suffered their least competitive showing of the season, but they were much stronger in Sao Paulo, despite having to overcome adversity.

Leclerc started 10th in the Sprint after a strategic error in qualifying and began the Grand Prix in fifth, just ahead of Sainz who dropped down the grid due to his penalty.

In the race, Sainz, on a different strategy to most, was forced to make an extra pitstop to remove a blockage from his brake duct, while Leclerc dropped to the back of the pack after being pitched into the barriers by Norris after the first safety car restart.

Whether they would have been able to challenge Mercedes in a less incident-packed race is open to question, while Red Bull can't be expected to have another such sloppy outing in Abu Dhabi. 

The Scuderia will be a bit more hopeful of ending the season as they started it, with a win in the Middle East next week.

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