Sprint: Bottas beats Verstappen, Hamilton recovers to P5

Mark Scott
Valtteri Bottas takes the lead at the start of the sprint. Formula 1 Sao Paulo November 2021.

Valtteri Bottas dives past Max Verstappen at the start of sprint qualifying. Sao Paulo November 2021.

Valtteri Bottas took pole position from Max Verstappen in Sao Paulo sprint qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton fighting back to come home fifth.

Hamilton impressively charged up from last on the grid after being disqualified from qualifying on Friday, making 15 passes on his way to P5, but he will take a further five-place drop for a previous engine penalty, meaning the Mercedes man will start tenth on Sunday.

Verstappen added two points to his World Championship lead, meanwhile, and he will start alongside Bottas on the front row.

The pre-sprint conversation was dominated by the respective punishments for Hamilton and Verstappen after qualifying, and the pair started at opposite ends of the field over the 24-lap dash around Interlagos as a result.

And after getting promoted to P1, Verstappen quickly lost that at the start as Bottas, on softer tyres, got the jump on the Red Bull as the lights went out and swiftly took the lead.

But Sainz was not far behind, and the Ferrari driver got an excellent run out of the Senna S to put himself in prime position to strike, as he moved to the inside and made his way past into second at Turn 4 – with Verstappen blaming an issue with his gear synchronisation for his poor start.

Further back, Hamilton jumped up four places at Turn 1 alone, before he managed to get past two more cars on the pit straight, moving the World Champion up to P14 by the time the second lap started.

There was also a tangle between the two Alfa Romeos, with Antonio Giovinazzi tagging Kimi Raikkonen as he made a half-hearted move down the inside at Turn 1 – much to the chagrin of the Finn.

Having been held back at the start, Verstappen quickly moved past Sainz once more when he had the assistance of DRS, but he had lost several seconds to Bottas, who had moved clear of the chasing pack.

Hamilton continued to pick his way through, however, as he moved past Fernando Alonso and towards the edge of the top 10 – although he spent several laps stuck in a DRS train behind Daniel Ricciardo, before getting past at the halfway point.

It was a contrasting afternoon for the McLaren drivers, with Ricciardo having dropped places and Lando Norris making headway into the top five, coming out on top in a ding-dong battle with Charles Leclerc, where the Ferrari man had defended aggressively before eventually losing out at Turn 4.

At the front, Verstappen’s medium tyres were starting to allow him to close up behind Bottas, whose soft rubber was appearing to drop off somewhat – as the Red Bull got itself to within DRS range of the Finn.

Meanwhile, Hamilton was continuing his charge by picking off Sebastian Vettel, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, putting him P7 on the road and still with eight laps to make up ground to Leclerc, who was almost four seconds in front.

He swiftly made his way past, though, as the Mercedes man was clearly on a mission on Saturday.

It looked improbable that the Briton would chase down compatriot Norris in his McLaren, but he moved up to the back of the 22-year-old in time for the final lap, and he made a brave lunge down at Turn 1 to get himself into the top five in the pick of his overtakes in sprint qualifying.

“It’s not over yet,” came the message to his team from the seven-time World Champion, and it’s all set up for a fascinating race at Interlagos on Sunday.


Sprint qualifying classification

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 29:09.559 24 laps
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull +1.170s
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +18.723s
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull +19.787s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +20.872s
6 Lando Norris McLaren +22.558s
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +25.056s
8 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +34.158s
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine +34.632s
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +34.867s
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +35.869s
12 Fernando Alonso Alpine +36.578s
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing +41.880s
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +44.037s
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +46.150s
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams +46.760s
17 George Russell Williams +47.739s
18 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing +50.014s
19 Mick Schumacher Haas +61.680s
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas +67.474s


Brazilian Grand Prix preview

As F1 heads to Brazil, will Lewis Hamilton close the gap to Max Verstappen and can McLaren take back P3?