After his gala in São Paulo, Formula 1 premiere winner George Russell, still wearing his helmet, jumped into the arms of his mechanics as if unleashed.
"I knew we could do it, I knew it. I need some tissues," said the overwhelmed Englishman with tears of joy in his eyes.
After a chaotic start with a safety car phase, the impressively driving Russell even kept his rushing team-mate Lewis Hamilton at a distance and gave Mercedes its first Grand Prix success of the year in Brazil. Russell was just 1.5 seconds faster than the second Silver Arrow at the finish.
"It was so hard in the end, he put so much pressure on," admitted Russell, who received congratulations over the phone from Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who was absent from Interlagos. "It's such a fantastic result. Congratulations to George. I'm really happy for him," said Hamilton, who has to wait for his 104th career win.
Third in the Interlagos thriller was Carlos Sainz in a Ferrari. An early crash with Hamilton meant that Max Verstappen, who had long been world champion, was unable to get past sixth place in the penultimate race of the season. The fact that the Dutchman didn't let his team-mate Sergio Perez, who is still fighting for second place in the world championship, past him caused heated emotions in the Red Bull box. A provocative statement of power by Verstappen even more from the car.
No points for Vettel and Schumacher
Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel missed the points in eleventh place in the penultimate Grand Prix of his career. Mick Schumacher's weekend was an emotional roller coaster. 20th place in qualifying, in which his teammate Kevin Magnussen raced to a sensational pole position. Then the 23-year-old, whose future at Haas is to be officially clarified next week, fought his way up to twelfth place in the sprint. After a subsequent time penalty against Alpha Tauris Pierre Gasly, Schumacher was 13th - again no points.
"Usually, victory is not there, but I still hope so," said Verstappen a few minutes before the red lights went out. Complaints about the balance of his Red Bull and the wrong tire choice in the sprint only allowed him to start from third place.
The two-time world champion had the silver duo in front of him for the first time this season. Sprint winner Russell and Hamilton in second hopes for the silver victory coup. "I love it here," said Hamilton, recently also an honorary citizen of Brazil, in front of the fans. "I hope we can give you a good race."
As so often, Interlagos had it all. A contact between Magnussen and McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo alerted the safety car after just a few bends. Russell led the field ahead of Hamilton, Red Bulls Verstappen and Sergio Perez. Vettel improved by one place to eighth, Schumacher in tenth place.
Russell also won the restart. Hamilton and Verstappen, on the other hand, collided in turn two. Car particles flew into the air after the impact. "He didn't leave me any space," complained the Dutchman, who also attacked the Englishman uncompromisingly. There had already been a crash between the two pilots in Brazil last year. Hamilton even crowned a crazy catch-up race over the entire weekend with the Grand Prix success.
Verstappen gets a five-second penalty
Verstappen got a new front in the pits and a five-second penalty for the accident. "Where should I have gone?" the Red Bull star complained. Hamilton, on the other hand, was able to continue. Vettel was even on course for the podium at times, while Schumacher was just in the points.
Russell extended his lead over Perez to almost 3.7 seconds before the Mexican pitted on lap 24, leading the pack and putting on medium tires. Verstappen with a botched stop and the Mercedes frontman followed.
Hamilton stayed outside and took the lead. "It's getting dark out here, is rain to be expected?" he asked his crew. No, nothing to see. On lap 30, the seven-time world champion also pulled in to change tires. He then took up the pursuit of his compatriot Russell in fourth place.
Russell: "This is just the beginning"
Hamilton worked his way up. On lap 45 he grabbed Perez and was his teammate's first hunter. Hamilton was still missing about ten seconds. In the 49th lap he got the soft tires in the pits. "Why, what the hell...?" Foamed Hamilton, who actually wanted to stay outside. Russell came in one lap later.
Lando Norris had to park his McLaren on the course due to a defect. Again, the safety car was used to recover the car. The field contracted, fresh tension for the final phase!
"You drive against each other, but please be respectful," was the Mercedes announcement to Russell and Hamilton for the last laps. But there was no longer a tricky duel between the two. Crowning his race with a Grand Prix victory, Russell announced: "This is just the beginning."