Sao Paulo Grand Prix: George Russell pole a ‘milestone’ for Mercedes

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George Russell said his victory in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix sprint race was a “milestone” for Mercedes – and that he and Lewis Hamilton would work together to try to repeat it in Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Russell’s win at Interlagos on Saturday was Mercedes’ first this year, for most of which the car has been uncompetitive and unable to challenge at the front.

The 24-year-old admitted he was surprised to be able to catch and pass Red Bull’s Max Verstappen – the first time anyone has done that in a straight fight to the runaway world champion since Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc won the Austrian Grand Prix in July.

Hamilton finished third in the ‘sprint’ event behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz but will start second alongside Russell on the front row for Sunday’s Grand Prix as the Spaniard has a grid penalty for using too many engine parts.

Verstappen finished fourth and will line up for the grand prix third on the grid.

Russell said his win underlined how much progress Mercedes had made since the start of the season, drawing a comparison with the first ‘sprint’ event back at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in April, which he and Hamilton finished 11th and 14th.

  • How to follow the Sao Paulo Grand Prix
  • Full Sprint Race Results

“It’s a pretty big milestone for the whole team when we look back at the very first sprint of the year,” Russell said.

“And here we are going to be lining up one-two tomorrow. It is really exciting. I’m so proud of the whole team to keep on delivering with the car.

“This is the first time we have crossed the finishing line first in a race.

“It is a little bit of a shame that this wasn’t the race tomorrow, but it really goes to show the work we’ve done and we are definitely going to be excited for tomorrow.

“And having Lewis and me one-two on the gird is going to give us some options on the strategy and I think we are going to have to work together to do something different for one of us to get the win for the team.”

Hamilton, whose record of winning a grand prix in every season of his career is under threat this year, backed Russell’s view.

The seven-time champion was made an honorary citizen of Brazil earlier this week and said it would be the “greatest dream” to win on Sunday to mark the occasion.

But he added: “It will be tough to race George. We will hopefully have a bit of a battle but either way we have to make sure we get a one-two and get the points for the team.”

Russell said there would be no team orders at Mercedes but said he expected the drivers to run different strategies to give the team the best chance of a victory.

He contrasted that approach with the last race in Mexico, when he and Hamilton started second and third behind Verstappen but ran the same strategy as each other and lost out.

Russell said: “We don’t know what the right strategy is going to be. We will race each other fairly for sure, and I am sure we will probably be splitting the strategies to try and cover all options.

“Hopefully one of us comes away happy but we both recognise, based on recent experience, we are going to have to go two separate ways.”

Hamilton, who worked his way up from eighth on the grid in the sprint, added: “Getting a one-two either way I will be happy. George has done an amazing job this year and we will of course drive carefully and clean.

“You’ve just always got to have at the core of it, at the front of our mind, is the team getting the result. But of course individually we will do our best to try and get the best result.”

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