Sao Paulo GP driver ratings: Russell in complete control, retirement beckons Ricciardo

Jon Wilde
Sao Paulo Grand Prix driver ratings 2022

A second new F1 winner of 2022 emerged – twice – at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix as George Russell added the race victory to his sprint success.

On a day when Mercedes bounced back to their best by achieving a 1-2, Red Bull finished an uncharacteristically off-key weekend with a row over team orders.

That was also an issue at Ferrari while elsewhere, McLaren were in the wars with both of their cars as they lost further ground to direct rivals Alpine.

Here’s our driver ratings for the penultimate round of the season after three days of competitive action that produced some surprises rare for this year.

George Russell: We usually reserve maximum marks for a driver who completes a ‘grand slam’, but it would be churlish to knock off anything for Russell – he was in full control throughout.

With clear strategy calls over team radio, a perfect getaway and exemplary Safety Car restarts, this was a fully-deserved maiden victory which meant he joined Carlos Sainz as those to break their duck this season.

A total of 33 points came the Briton’s way as he also took the sprint, with his qualifying ‘off’ having unwittingly turned out to be a major positive after it scuppered his rivals’ chances of demoting him down the grid. 10.

Lewis Hamilton: In the week he was made an honorary Brazilian citizen, how Hamilton would have loved a fourth Interlagos triumph at a venue that holds plenty of happy memories for him.

But he was simply unable to get ahead of his team-mate and was admirably magnanimous about what the result meant for Russell and Mercedes.

Less so, of course, about Max Verstappen, with whom the tense 2021 rivalry was restoked. The stewards’ call to penalise the reigning World Champion instead of his predecessor looked just about the right one, according to the current rules of engagement. 8.

Carlos Sainz: Stronger pace from Sainz than he has shown on some occasions in the second half of this season and a fully justified podium finish – whatever his team-mate might think.

Passing Sergio Perez on lap 63 to ensure he moved up from seventh on the grid to finish third, he was only one place short of wiping out his engine-related penalty.

It was a three-stop strategy for Sainz and although he felt that had been less than ideal, his fresher tyres after the Safety Car restart were a definite help. 8.

Charles Leclerc: His weekend was shaped by Ferrari’s strange decision to send him out on intermediate tyres at the start of Q3 and he never fully recovered – although his comeback from being in the barrier after colliding with Lando Norris was strong.

However, Leclerc’s pleas over team radio for Sainz to gift him third place towards his championship P2 battle with Sergio Perez were all a bit desperate and unseemly – perhaps a sign of his general frustration. 7.

Fernando Alonso: There were further indications of how Alonso’s relationship with Alpine is unravelling when boss Otmar Szafnauer said he and Esteban Ocon had “let the team down” with their sprint squabbles.

But it was the opposite on Sunday as the Spaniard soared from P17 to get in amongst the usual front-runners towards the end…“yes baby” indeed over the team radio as he overtook Perez for fifth. 9.5.

Max Verstappen: Tyre degradation was a problem for the World Champion all weekend, but not as big a one as the clash with Hamilton that ruined his race as well as earned a five-second penalty.

But after Perez conceded his place to allow a challenge to Alonso in the closing stages, Verstappen refused to give it back – and this is something we are bound to hear plenty more of in the next few days as Red Bull went into defensive mode off-track again. It wasn’t a good look. 5.

Sergio Perez: Running in a podium position for much of the race, Perez fell away towards the end and simply never had the pace to threaten the Mercedes duo – or Sainz, as it turned out.

He also let his feelings about Verstappen be known as the first cracks in what had hitherto been a harmonious relationship began to appear. 6.

Esteban Ocon: And here is another intra-team dynamic that is increasingly creaking under the strain, with Ocon’s history of on-track clashes having been trotted out by Alonso in the media pen after the sprint as if he was standing in a divorce court instead.

There was certainly no unqualified compliance from the Frenchman when told not to fight Alonso after the Safety Car restart, but this still has to go down as a strong riposte from Ocon following Szafnauer’s rebuke the previous day. 7.5.

Valtteri Bottas: Two more valuable points for Alfa Romeo courtesy of Bottas which give them a slightly more comfortable cushion over Aston Martin heading into the finale.

It had looked like being more when he was running in the top six, but he had to give best to the Alpines. Still, a performance that fully earned the post-race beer the Movember-moustachioed Finn was seen quaffing. 7.

Lance Stroll: A comparatively quiet race for Stroll, but that was no bad thing considering some of the scrapes he has got himself into lately – most recently with his own team-mate in the sprint.

Who knows, this solitary point may yet be valuable in the final reckoning as Aston Martin try to hunt down Alfa Romeo. 7.

Sebastian Vettel: In his penultimate F1 race barring a comeback, Vettel was thanked by team principal Mike Krack for “moving aside to let Lance challenge for ninth place”.

The German was stuck on aging medium tyres at the time and admitted: “I don’t think we could have done much more than we did.”

He had a very strong first stint, though, running in the lofty heights of P5 and having many once again question whether he is making the right decision in retiring at the end of the season. 7.

Pierre Gasly: After driving “unnecessarily slowly”, according to the FIA, on the way to the sprint grid and then speeding in the pit lane on Sunday, it was almost as though Gasly was trying to get his potentially looming race ban out of the way before he joins Alpine.

But he will still have one more grand prix in AlphaTauri colours – even if this was another race, due to his car’s less than distinguished performance, that probably made the Frenchman wish the season was over already. 6.

Zhou Guanyu: A soft-medium-soft strategy for the Chinese driver meant a 34-lap final stint, and he also had issues with his turbo and his drink straw getting stuck in his helmet at the start of the race!

However, unlike some others, his relationship with Bottas remains hunky dory. “I want to give big thanks to Zhou for being a true team player today,” said the Finn – and from his days at Mercedes, he should know all about that. 6.5

Mick Schumacher: A better sprint than grand prix for Schumacher, but how much will this weekend have done to affect his chances of staying at Haas? Very little, if the rumours are to be believed.

The German felt he had spent too long on the medium tyres on which he started the race as he ultimately slipped back a couple of places from where he had lined up. 6.

Alex Albon: Starting on the hard tyres, Albon made a quick change to the mediums on lap five – but it was the second Safety Car period he said had been costly, lamenting: “I don’t know why it took so long to let the backmarkers through”.

This was not a conducive track for the Williams but at least Albon made it home, which he had not in the sprint and consequently lined up at the back. 6.

Nicholas Latifi: Only one more race left of his F1 career for Latifi and it may come as a blessed relief when he sees the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi.

The best that can be said is that he kept a low profile at Interlagos, staying out of trouble, while a slow pit-stop did not help his cause. 5.

Yuki Tsunoda: Rarely does a race go by without a story attaching itself to Tsunoda and it happened again, as he found himself in among the front-runners at the last Safety Car restart after initially looking to unlap himself.

He said later he had been told to stay where he was, but it was a confusing end to an inauspicious race he had started from the pit lane. 5.

Did not finish

Lando Norris: The first time Norris has raced in F1 on his birthday and unfortunately he will remember his 23rd for the wrong reasons – not least due to still feeling the effects of a stomach bug that had afflicted him all weekend.

He received a five-second penalty for an early collision with Leclerc and had dropped down the order by the time he was forced to park up with a suspected electrical issue. Better birthdays will be ahead, no doubt. 5.

Kevin Magnussen: Clipped from behind by Daniel Ricciardo and as he spun around, Magnussen took them both out of the race.

A sad way to end a weekend that had started perfectly with his and Haas’ first ever F1 pole position. For that qualifying achievement alone… 10.

Daniel Ricciardo: Just when he needs to be showing he will be a viable option for 2024, Ricciardo may have inadvertently pushed himself closer to retirement.

The mistakes are occurring frequently now, he has zero consistency and as painful as it is to write it, he looks more and more like yesterday’s man. 3.