Russell revels in 'crazy' Sprint win as Hamilton says Mercedes 'have to' take 1-2 in Sao Paulo Grand Prix
After securing a one-two start for Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix, George Russell said Mercedes had achieved a "crazy" result in the Sprint – while Lewis Hamilton said the team must convert this to a one-two in tomorrow’s race.
Russell, who started the Sprint from third, got away on softs while Max Verstappen leapt off P2 on the grid on medium tyres. Both drivers made easy work of pole-sitter Kevin Magnussen and then delivered a stunning wheel-to-wheel battle, with Russell coming out on top and retaining his lead after Verstappen picked up damage in contact with Carlos Sainz.
"I mean, it’s crazy to think that [both Mercedes are] starting on the front row, Lewis did a great job coming from P8, so it's going to be exciting," said Russell as he looked ahead to Sunday. "I’m sure Max is going to be flying tomorrow coming through the pack but we are in a luxury position that we can maybe split the strategy and go for the win.
"I think it's really exciting, and I’m so proud of the whole team to keep on delivering with the car. It’s going to be interesting tomorrow – obviously Max is the main man at the moment, and those medium tyres didn’t seem to work," he added.
Russell added that he had considered Verstappen to be a shoo-in to lead the Sprint until the end, and revealed his satisfaction at passing the reigning champion.
“I think we were confident that we could finish second, and we thought Max would probably have quite an easy run, to be honest; we knew that if we weren’t ahead of him at Turn 1 it was going to be very difficult to stay ahead of him. I started attacking in the early laps and thought, once he gets some temperature in his tyres, he’ll be away,” said Russell.
“As much as I wanted to win this race today, it’s only [eight extra points] and it’s obviously setting you up [on the grid] for tomorrow. So, you have to be a little bit careful and I knew Max has got nothing to lose, so he was going to be driving aggressively. Definitely, it was pleasing to get the move done in the end.”
Hamilton finished third in the Sprint but will be promoted to second on tomorrow's grid as Carlos Sainz drops five places for taking a new engine. The seven-time champion echoed his team mate after securing a front-row lockout for the team.
“Congratulations to George,” said Hamilton. “As George was saying, this is such an incredible result for us as a team – we’ve all worked so hard for this through the year. Did we think that we’d be at the front, starting on the front row in the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of the year? Not at all. That’s what everyone’s worked towards. I’m just incredibly proud of everybody and incredibly thankful to everybody…
As for whether Mercedes can hold on to their starting positions and take a one-two finish in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Hamilton said: “Yeah, we have to! We’ll work together as a team tomorrow and this is about the team, to get this result for the team, I think it’d be incredibly special. And obviously we’re chasing the red guys [Ferrari, in the constructors' standings] – it could be good.
“Getting a one-two either way, I’m going to be happy, personally, just because of how hard everybody’s worked,” added Hamilton.