Mercedes driver George Russell has won the sprint final in São Paulo and Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen spoiled the hat trick. The Englishman snatched the lead from the Dutch Red Bull driver after a furious duel over several laps and won for the first time in the new format without a mandatory pit stop and with free choice of tyres.
Russell also benefited from a wrong choice of tires at Verstappen and will start the penultimate race of the season from first place on Sunday. The world champion had won the sprints in Imola and Spielberg earlier this year.
Russell relegated Carlos Sainz to second place in the Ferrari, who was penalized five places for the Grand Prix because of an illegal engine change. Third in the sprint was Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes. Verstappen finished fourth in the 100-kilometer race.
Schumacher fights his way up eight places
After his sensational pole position, Mick Schumacher's Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen finished in eighth place and scored another point. The German, who was still worried about a new contract, worked his way up from 20th on the grid to 12th. Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel made it into the top ten in ninth place.
"We'll try to take some souvenir pictures of it and get a few points," said Magnussen about his insane pole position the previous day. "Good luck Kevin, have fun," race engineer Mark Slade wished him over the team radio.
When the red lights went out, the Dane also had reason to be happy. He was initially able to defend the top spot in front of Verstappen. On the third lap, the Dutch Red Bull driver, who was only one of two drivers to start with the medium tires, took the lead.
Sprints are supposed to bring more excitement
Schumacher, who, like the majority of the field, rode out on the soft rubber, had already worked his way up to position 15 from the very back. Vettel only made it up one place to twelfth place and was even pushed hard onto the green once by his stable rival Lance Stroll.
Formula 1 introduced the 2021 Sprint to add extra excitement to the Grand Prix weekend. In contrast to last year, the winner gets a whopping eight points and no longer just three. In 2023 there will even be six sprint races.
The show was right. In Interlagos, Magnussen kept falling behind. Verstappen stayed at the top in front of Mercedes man Russell, whose accident the day before in the onset of rain had only made it possible for the 30-year-old to take pole. The two fought a gripping duel for the lead. On lap 15, Russell von Verstappen then grabbed first place. Behind them, Verstappen, Sainz and Hamilton fought for the chasing position, while Schumacher came even further up the field.
The penultimate race of the season will be held on Sunday (7 p.m. / RTL and Sky). Verstappen has long been the driver's world champion. His Red Bull racing team also already has the constructor's title secured. In the coming week, Formula 1 will make its final stop in Abu Dhabi.