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Russell wins sprint, on pole for Brazil GP

George Russell of Mercedes after winning the sprint race to claim pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

George Russell of Mercedes after winning the sprint race to claim pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Photo: Getty

Mercedes driver George Russell has for once got the better of world champion Max Verstappen to win the sprint race and secure pole for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

It will be the first time the two Mercedes have begun a grand prix from the front of the grid this season, with Lewis Hamilton in second spot.

“It’s crazy to think we’re both starting on the front row. We’re in a luxury position where we can maybe split the strategy and go for the win,” Russell said.

Kevin Magnussen of usual strugglers Haas had surprisingly topped Friday’s qualifying session ahead of Vestappen amid the rain to seize pole for the sprint race.

The Dane got away well at the start on the undulating Interlagos track in São Paulo but Red Bull’s Verstappen soon got past Magnussen from second, with Briton Russell also speeding past the Haas in fine weather.

Russell nearly overtook Verstappen twice midway through a thrilling battle but the Dutchman defended superbly, only to give up the lead on lap 15 when the Mercedes man pounced again.

The medium tyre choice looked to backfire on Verstappen’s Red Bull and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Hamilton later also overhauled the world champion to finish second and third on the softs.

Sainz has a five-place grid penalty because of an engine change, pushing Hamilton up to the front row on a week where the seven-times world champion was awarded honorary Brazilian citizenship.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was fifth behind Verstappen, with Charles Leclerc finishing sixth in his Ferrari and McLaren’s Lando Norris seventh. Magnussen clung on for a point in eighth.

Australia’s Daniel Riccirado was 11th in his McLaren.

The sprint race over 24 laps saw points awarded for the top eight finishers and its result determined the grid for Sunday’s grand prix, which is the penultimate race this season. The calendar concludes in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Three sprint races have been held this season with six taking place next year as F1 plays with its formats.

Verstappen long ago sealed the drivers’ championship and his Red Bull team have already clinched the constructors’ title.

– AAP

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