George Russell wins Brazilian sprint race; Lewis Hamilton second for Mercedes

George Russell sprint Mercedes
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

SAO PAULO — Formula One team Mercedes had a day to remember in the Brazilian Grand Prix sprint race Saturday with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Alpine had a day to forget.

Russell will start Sunday in pole position after winning the sprint race at Interlagos – his team’s first win of the season – with teammate Hamilton also in the front row, while Alpine drivers Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon had a high-profile clash on the track.

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

Seven-time champion Hamilton, who will race for the first time as an honorary citizen of Brazil, was also excited about the 1-2 start.

“This is an amazing result. So from there we should be able to work as a team and hold off hopefully the guys behind,” Hamilton said.

Max Verstappen will start in third place. He and his Red Bull team have already been crowned F1 champions.

Alonso tried to overtake Ocon on the opening lap. It didn’t go well for Alonso who was later deemed by stewards to have been at fault.

“Just lost the front wing. Thanks to our friend,” Alonso said sarcastically on team radio. “He pushed me in Turn 4 and then finally in the straight. Well done.”

Alonso later had more to say on the clash – a lot more.

“Last year we saw this many times. This year he almost took me against the wall in Saudi Arabia, in Hungary. Now here,” the two-time F1 champion said. “I am already laughing about it.”

The 41-year-old Alonso is counting down the races.

“It’s one more race and then it’s over finally,” said Alonso, who will compete next season for Aston Martin.

Ocon, who topped the afternoon’s free practice, said it was “not the way one likes to finish a race” and gave his version of the clash.

“We need to work together. Alonso came from the outside and I touched him,” the Frenchman said. Asked about Alonso’s comment, he replied: “That’s his opinion, my opinion is different.”

Stewards said Alonso was at fault for the incident, gave him a five-second penalty and dropped him to 18th place. Ocon will start in 17th.

On a day to forget for Alpine, Ocon’s car caught fire while being weighed.

“The whole bodywork is quite damaged, I don’t know what the consequences are going to be,” Ocon said.

Sebastian Vettel, who will retire at the end of the season, was more restrained in his reactions after Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll closed a gap aggressively.

“OK,” the German driver said on team radio. Minutes later race organizers gave Stroll a 10-second penalty for a dangerous maneuver. Vettel finished ninth, Stroll will start from 16th place.

“I think today, in the end, we could have done better,” Vettel told Sky Sports. “Both of us.”

Hamilton finished third but will take advantage of a five-place penalty for Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who ended second on Saturday. Sainz has added a new internal combustion engine for the weekend, a penalty-inducing sixth of the season.

Sainz’s overtake of Verstappen included his right rear tire touching the Dutchman’s front wing. The Ferrari driver agreed he was “on the limit” but said it was a fair move. The incident was not investigated by stewards.

“I’m sorry if I had a bit of contact, but that’s racing and sometimes you need to go for it if you want to make it stick,” Sainz said.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who started on the pole position after topping Friday’s qualifying, was eighth. He led the sprint race for only one lap.

The Brazilian GP is the penultimate race of the season ahead of Abu Dhabi on Nov. 20.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”