Brazil GP: Max Verstappen beats mighty Interlagos storm to bag pole position

Jamie Woodhouse
Singapore: Red Bull's Max Verstappen engages with the media at Marina Bay.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen engages with the media.

The anticipated rain finally arrived, and it was Max Verstappen who beat the clock in Q3 to secure Brazilian Grand Prix pole.

With only one Q3 run possible before the Interlagos track received a serious soaking, Verstappen got the job done as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc joins him on the front row for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

It is a much-needed second-row lockout for Aston Martin, Lance Stroll ahead of Fernando Alonso.

Max Verstappen defeats the Interlagos storm

Qualifying got underway 15 minutes later than planned, with Pirelli requesting a sweeping away of debris from the track, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso having suffered punctures in FP1.

The delay was not ideal though, with a 60% chance of rain hitting the Interlagos circuit, so it was no surprise to see a busy circuit from the get-go in Q1 as the dark clouds loomed large.

No stopping at the end of the pit lane this time, with race director Niels Wittich having outlawed that ahead of the race weekend in response to pit-lane impeding incidents in Austin and Mexico.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri got the timings page up and running, clocking a 1:11.494, but it was his team-mate Lando Norris making the early waves, getting a 1:10.623 out of the soft rubber which put him three-tenths clear of Verstappen, Hamilton slotting in between the pair as Verstappen complained of the RB19 bouncing like a “kangaroo”.

George Russell meanwhile had not got the memo on pit-lane impeding, as Pierre Gasly was forced to put the brakes on when encountering the Mercedes at the end of the pit exit, the stewards confirming that would be investigated after the session and later issuing Russell with a two-place grid penalty.

Ironically, Gasly, as well as Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon, also received two-place grid drops for the same offence.

Ferrari meanwhile were upping the pace, Leclerc going P1 with a 1:10.472. Piastri went purple in the first and second sectors after swapping used for new softs, though fell 0.047s short of Leclerc, this Piastri’s first racing visit to Interlagos.

There was plenty riding on the final Q1 runs, Hamilton in P8 even given a new set of softs, Mercedes not confident that he was safely into Q2, though Lance Stroll was reporting “drops of rain” had arrived.

It was not enough to impact the dry running as Russell topped the session, while Yuki Tsunoda, Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu were out, Tsunoda repeatedly shouting “Lewis Hamilton” over the radio in his reaction to elimination, while Alpine duo Gasly and Esteban Ocon were to be investigated for impeding post-session.

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The track remained dry for the start of Q2, Red Bull fitting new tyres on the RB19s as Verstappen went P1 on a 1:10.162, a tenth up on Norris, who interestingly was on used softs.

Lance Stroll had been noted by the stewards for driving unnecessarily slowly in the previous session, while Ferrari were pushing for the same treatment for Russell, who found himself slipping down the Q2 order after initially slotting into P2.

Alex Albon meanwhile was under huge pressure for his final run, after seeing a lap deleted for track limits at Turn 4, though he did not return to the track in his Williams, confirming his Q2 exit.

Norris topped the session, but Hulkenberg, Ocon, Gasly and Magnussen joined Albon in exiting qualifying at the Q2 stage.

The rain had held off, but both the skies and radar showed a deluge of rain incoming for Q3, meaning there was zero dawdling at the pit exit this time as the light went green for Q3.

With the rain expected to hit in two minutes, Verstappen could not improve on his Q2 best effort, clocking a 1:10.727, but it was a time which could not be toppled by the chasing pack, while Piastri went off at Junção.

With Norris only managing P7, McLaren informed their driver that the rain was intensifying, confirming a very disappointing Q3 for the team as the thunder echoed around Interlagos.

That was qualifying over then, confirming Verstappen on pole for Sunday’s Grand Prix, with Leclerc for company on the front row.

Q3 times

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:10.727
2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.294
3 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.617
4 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.660
5 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.742
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.863
7 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.260
8 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +1.262
9 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +1.594
10 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren

Q2 times

1 Lando NORRIS McLaren 1:10.021
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.141
3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.198
4 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.216
5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.233
6 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.245
7 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.282
8 George RUSSELL Mercede s+0.295
9 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.309
10 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.354
11 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +0.526
12 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.541
13 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.546
14 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.702
15 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.819

Q1 times

1 George RUSSELL Mercedes 1:10.340
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.096
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.132
4 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +0.135
5 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.179
6 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.211
7 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.217
8 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.262
9 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.264
10 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.281
11 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.283
12 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.284
13 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.328
14 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.423
15 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.453
16 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +0.497
17 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +0.503
18 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +0.615
19 Logan SARGEANT Williams +0.695
20 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +0.935

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