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Interlagos will always bring a smile to George Russell's face. It was at São Paulo last season where he drove to his first Formula One victory — with Lewis Hamilton 1.53 seconds behind for a Mercedes 1-2 — en route to a fourth-place finish in the 2022 drivers' standings. 

Fast forward to 2023, and Russell returns to this happy hunting ground looking to capture some of that magic again. Not that 2023 has been horrible -- it just hasn't been as good as 2022. Russell currently sits eighth, while Hamilton -- who finished sixth overall in 2022 -- is third and only 20 points behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez for second. Third is the best Russell has finished in 2023, and that's happened once, at the Spanish Grand Prix in June, compared to eight finishes on the podium in 2022. 

So Sunday at Interlagos will bring not only special memories, but also belief that he can turn things around. That is to not to say Russell has lost any confidence, but it is to say that stringing strong finishes over these final three races (Interlagos, Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi) will do a world of good for how he feels heading into 2024.

Helping Russell is the fact that Interlagos is one of those tracks Mercedes seems suited for — Hamilton won the 2016, 2018 and 2021 races — as they have put a driver on the top step six times at São Paulo since 2014. Red Bull has won five times at the circuit, the last being 2019 with Max Verstappen, but seems to run into gremlins or trouble in Brazil, which will be the final event on the calendar that sees the sprint format in play.

Adding up all the previous success and the recent strong performances by the team, one may assume Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is flying high into the weekend. 

Well, not so much.

"You know, only fools are optimists. I'd rather stay with both feet on the ground, do the best job, qualify in the front and hopefully we can challenge [Verstappen]," Wolff told "We've shown encouraging pace in recent races so [we] head to Interlagos with cautious optimism, although we know the W14 [racecar] can prove unpredictable. … We came away from Mexico with our advantage over Ferrari in the fight for second in the Constructors' intact. That is an important battle for us and one we are focused on winning. Coming away from Mexico with a second-place [finish], given the challenging start to the weekend and our grid positions, was positive. … We've got one last race in this triple header and it's in Brazil. We know we've taken a good step forward in recent races, but Mexico showed the W14 can still prove tricky to master."

How to watch the Formula One São Paulo Grand Prix

  • Date: Sunday, Nov. 5 
  • Location: 2.681-mile, 15-turn Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace (Interlagos), Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Time: Noon ET
  • TV: ESPN2
  • Stream: fubo (try for free

What to watch for

Interlagos is a high-downforce track that will challenge the drivers and their cars physically, particularly as the drivers will be going counter-clockwise rather than clockwise as most F1 circuits go, putting the strain on the right side of the driver's neck instead of the left. It is also a hilly track, particularly from Turns 6 through 12. The cars will come down the front straight to the Senna "S" curves and onto a sweeping left-hander known as the "Curve of the Sun." This brings the cars to the "Reta Oposta" (opposite straight), the longest straight-line stretch at Interlagos and the first of two DRS zones. Drivers will then brake as they dive into a pair of downhill left-handers ("the Lake's Descent") and make a short climb before entering the slowest, narrowest section of the track at Turns 6 and 7 ("the Horseshoe"). Then they will negotiate a series of lefts and rights before exiting this section at Turn 12 with a hard left-hander. It's a short climb uphill before they enter the second DRS zone and fly down one of the highest-speed sections on the calendar, usually taken at full throttle, and a return to the front straight.

Pirelli will be bringing the C3 hard (white), C4 medium (yellow) and C5 soft (red) compounds to Interlagos, which are medium to soft overall in the range. A two-stop strategy worked last year for Russell (who pitted at Laps 24 and 49) and it is likely that will be the winning path again Sunday.