By Gabriel Araujo
SAO PAULO (Reuters) -A teary George Russell celebrated the first Formula One Grand Prix victory of his career in Brazil on Sunday in a one-two finish with Mercedes team mate and seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Russell also set the fastest lap at Interlagos and his triumph, after winning a Saturday sprint to set the starting grid, was a first of the season for Mercedes after nine successive wins by newly-crowned champions Red Bull.
“This is just the beginning,” Russell shouted over the team radio after being told he was a Formula One winner, the 113th in the history of the sport.
“I knew we could do this. I might need some tissues — I’m crying.”
Hamilton, winner of a record 103 races and three in Brazil, congratulated his team mate.
“He did an amazing qualifying yesterday, so he truly deserves it… this is an incredible result,” said the 37-year-old after the first British one-two finish since 2010 when he was at McLaren and beat team mate Jenson Button in Canada.
The race was also the first time since the championship started in 1950 that ‘God Save the King’ was played as the British national anthem for an F1 podium ceremony.
The lively penultimate round of the season saw two safety car periods, with honorary Brazilian Hamilton overcoming an early collision with Red Bull’s double world champion Max Verstappen to race back in front of a cheering crowd.
Mercedes are now only 19 points behind second-placed Ferrari, who had Carlos Sainz third and Charles Leclerc fourth.
Ferrari decided not to impose team orders despite Leclerc’s battle with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez for second in the championship.
Verstappen, who has already won a second title, helped Leclerc by refusing to give back sixth place to Perez — who had let him through — despite the team asking him to do so if he could not pass Alpine’s Fernando Alonso for fifth.
Russell led away cleanly from the start, with Hamilton slotting in behind, but the safety car was deployed when McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen collided on the opening lap.
Magnussen, who took his first pole position in Friday qualifying and scored a point in the Saturday sprint, was hit from behind by the McLaren and smashed back into it after spinning around. Both retired on the spot.
Verstappen and Hamilton then made contact at the re-start on lap seven as they fought for second place, with the pair dropping to eighth and ninth respectively.
Race stewards decided the Red Bull driver was the offending party and handed him a five-second penalty.
“Where did they expect me to go?” exclaimed Verstappen. “He just closed the door on me.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris also collected a five-second penalty for sending Leclerc spinning into the tyre wall, without serious damage.
Hamilton was third by lap 18 and led on lap 25 when Russell pitted, staying there until the end of 29 when he switched from soft to medium tyres and returned in fourth.
Verstappen was 15th at the half distance after two pitstops in which he had a new front wing, served his penalty and suffered a further delay with a slow rear tyre change.
There was late drama when the virtual safety car was deployed on lap 53 after Norris stopped on track, and it then became a full safety car.
“So what are we doing?,” Russell asked over the radio as the field bunched up again with Hamilton close behind. “Are we racing or are we securing the one-two?”
“You are racing, just be respectful,” came the reply from the pit wall.
Russell managed the re-start well and pulled away to take a chequered flag waved by Brazil’s retired double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi.
Esteban Ocon was eighth for Alpine, who consolidated fourth place overall in the constructors’ championship and are now 19 points clear of McLaren thanks also to Alonso’s storming drive from 17th on the grid.
“If yesterday was a low point in our season, today is certainly up there as a high,” said team boss Otmar Szafnauer, whose drivers collided in the sprint.
Valtteri Bottas was ninth for Alfa Romeo and Canadian Lance Stroll 10th for Aston Martin.
(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis and Clare Fallon)