Brazilian Grand Prix: Lando Norris takes Sprint pole after big Ocon-Alonso collision

Henry Valantine
Lando Norris at the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix.

McLaren driver Lando Norris took pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix Sprint on Saturday.

Lando Norris beat Max Verstappen to pole position for the Sprint at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Saturday, after a fine lap in SQ3.

The McLaren driver beat the reigning World Champion by six hundredths of a second on his pole lap, with the session having faced a half-hour delay following a huge collision between Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso in SQ1.

Sergio Perez, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top five on the Sprint grid, which is to come later on Saturday.

Lando Norris storms to first P1 grid slot since Sochi 2021

After the weather frighteningly turned towards the end of qualifying on Friday, no such change was expected this time around on Sprint day as the sun beamed down on Interlagos as the drivers went out for SQ1 to set the grid.

Medium tyres were mandatory for the first two parts of the Shootout, with the drivers opting for multiple runs in SQ1 as the track had been washed of all rubber following Friday’s late downpour.

Verstappen reported over radio his concerns that he was overtaken by his Red Bull team-mate, after Sergio Perez swept around the outside of him at Mergulho winding up for a lap, which race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase confirmed was not an expected move on his part.

But with the opening gambits in the bag, the red flag would put paid to anyone looking to improve on their times after Esteban Ocon suffered a big crash on the exit of the Senna S.

He was sent spearing towards the barrier and took a couple of minutes to climb out of his car, but he did so after he suffered a touch of oversteer on the exit, but with Fernando Alonso on the outside of the Senna S, the Alpine driver collided with his former team-mate’s front wheel as he went past at full speed, which sent him spinning into the barriers.

Ocon branded Alonso a “f***ing idiot” for seemingly not moving far enough away from the racing line for his liking, while Alonso confirmed contact was made and added: “A lot of damage I guess, he went into me I think.”

This delayed the start of SQ2 and Alonso pulled back into his garage with his AMR23 dragging along the ground with a punctured front left, and those to fall at the SQ1 stage were Ocon, Lance Stroll, Zhou Guanyu, Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, without the chance to improve at the final stage.

A half-hour gap followed as marshals made the necessary repairs to the tyre barriers and cleared debris from the track surface, but the remaining drivers would head back on track for the 10-minute second split of the Sprint Shootout at Interlagos – though it would be without Alonso, as the damage on his car proved too great for him to take a further part in the session.

The track began to improve as times ramped up towards the end of the session, with Daniel Ricciardo putting himself quicker than both Mercedes drivers in his AlphaTauri to make it through to SQ3, just two tenths behind session topper Lando Norris, with Perez 0.009s behind in what looked set to be a tight finale to the Shootout.

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SQ3 arrived with the drivers seemingly looking at only tackling one run in the session, as none of the remaining 10 drivers emerged for the first half of it until suddenly, they all came out at once to jostle for track position.

A mixture of new and used softs were available to the drivers, but the red-marked tyres were the new mandatory tyre for that part of qualifying.

And when the times started to arrive, Verstappen could not beat Norris but Perez was still to come, with a purple first sector eventually petering out into a time good enough for third on used tyres for a fine effort from the Mexican.

The two Mercedes drivers rounded out the top five on the grid for the Sprint, which will take place later on Saturday.

Brazilian Grand Prix 2023: Sprint Shootout classification

1 Lando NORRIS McLaren 1:10.622
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull +0.061
3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +0.134
4 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.235
5 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.318
6 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +0.397
7 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.455
8 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +0.500
9 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.504
10 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.567
11 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas 1:11.727
12 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +0.025
13 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.095
14 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +0.145
15 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin NO TIME
16 Esteban OCON Alpine 1:12.388
17 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.094
18 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +0.109
19 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.137
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams +0.227

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