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Russell clinches thrilling sprint as Hamilton secures all-Mercedes front-row

Russell clinches thrilling sprint as Hamilton secures all-Mercedes front-row

Russell clinches thrilling sprint as Hamilton secures all-Mercedes front-row

Russell clinches thrilling sprint as Hamilton secures all-Mercedes front-row

George Russell will start the São Paulo Grand Prix from the front after taking victory in a scintillating sprint at Interlagos.

The Mercedes driver bettered Max Verstappen to take the chequered flag at the front of the pack for the first time in his career.

Carlos Sainz finished second for Ferrari ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen held on for fourth after picking up damage, whilst Kevin Magnussen held on for a point having led from pole for the opening two laps.

Magnussen made the perfect start to lead into turn one whilst Russell put Verstappen under pressure around the outside.

Lando Norris was most under attack as both Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon fancied a move into turn four.

Verstappen came under further pressure on his medium tyres as Russell pressed to get ahead of the Red Bull.

Norris could not hold Sainz back for long, whilst Lewis Hamilton made his way past both Alpines before Fernando Alonso pitted to change his front wing, the Spaniard having made contact with his team-mate during the opening exchanges.

Magnussen could only hold onto his lead until the start of lap three before Verstappen made his way through, with Russell and Sainz surging past a lap later.

Interlagos was handed its second sprint event due to the circuit having played host to the most overtakes of any grand prix last season and the action kept coming as Hamilton made his way into fourth with moves on Norris and Magnussen to move into striking range for the grand prix proper.

More team-mate trouble came with the Aston Martin duo on lap 10, with Sebastian Vettel squeezed onto the grass by Lance Stroll on the run to turn four before the German eventually secured 11th at the end of the lap.

The Canadian was handed a 10-second penalty for his actions.

Vettel's next victim was Ocon as the AMR22 streamed past with DRS assistance, the Frenchman dropping out of the top 10.

F1 treated to stunning lead battle

By lap 12 Russell was all over the back of Verstappen and the Mercedes driver dummied to the outside at turn one.

The Dutchman defended nicely and committed to the inside early on the run to turn four, easing his rival out of the attack.

An almost identical scene followed a lap later, with Russell this time able to run side-by-side on the drive up top turn six, though again Verstappen had his measure.

But at the third attempt, Russell set Verstappen up through the Senna S and out-dragged the RB18 into turn four, taking the lead.

Mercedes' hopes for the grand prix will be piqued by Hamilton's pace, the seven-time champion chasing down Sainz for third, though Verstappen's slow pace after reporting a collision with debris gave the Spaniard DRS.

With six laps to go, Sainz made his move down the inside at turn one. But the Ferrari's right-rear tyre clipped the Red Bull's front-wing, with the shredded component making Verstappen easy-pickings for Hamilton.

The dicing left Russell to ensure he would start first for Sunday's grand prix, though behind the battle continued.

Sainz reported his tyres to be struggling with degradation, allowing Hamilton to close in. But the Spaniard held on, though he will take a five-place grid penalty for an ICE change.

Verstappen finished fourth ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, who fought back from ninth on the grid, despite the Mexican's calls for a position switch to help in his quest to secure second in the drivers' standings.

His rival Charles Leclerc managed sixth from 10th on the grid, ahead of Norris who is continuing his battle against illness.

Magnussen held on to a point for Haas, ahead of Vettel, who pushed Pierre Gasly into 10th in the closing stages.

Daniel Ricciardo improved position to 11th in the second McLaren, ahead of Mick Schumacher who brilliantly scythed his way through from the very back of the grid.

Zhou and Valtteri Bottas came next for Alfa Romeo, ahead of a furious Alonso.

Yuki Tsunoda was 16th ahead of Stroll, who lost five places with his penalty, with Ocon compounding a difficult day for Alpine by slipping to the back.

Nicholas Latifi was the last of the finishers for Williams, with team-mate Alex Albon retiring midway through the sprint, undoing the work he did to qualify 11th on Friday.

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