Verstappen takes his 15th victory at Abu Dhabi

Two-time world champion Max Verstappen signs off this 2022 season with his 15th victory, a new record in Formula 1, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver dominated the season finale up front after making a solid start, while behind Charles Leclerc held off Sergio Perez to seal second place in the drivers’ championship.

With Verstappen in command up front and the two Mercedes cars lacking race pace, the main interest focused on a strategy off-set between the one-stopping Leclerc and the two-stopping Perez in a tense final stint.

At the start, Perez launched well off the line to have a look down the inside of polesitter Verstappen at Turn 1 but was never a serious threat, while Leclerc held his third place starting spot and Lewis Hamilton beat Carlos Sainz into fourth.

Leclerc had a small look at attacking Perez into the Turn 5 hairpin further around the opening lap, but the initial action then became Sainz reattacking Hamilton into Turn 6 at the end of the Yas Marina track’s main back straight.

The Ferrari got alongside under braking at the left-hander and he edged Hamilton off over the kerbs, where, like against Verstappen in 2021, the Mercedes scampered over the runoff after briefly getting airborne and held fourth.

As the Red Bull duo eased away from Leclerc, who was then being hounded by Hamilton, the stewards cleared Sainz of forcing Hamilton off and instead looked at whether the Mercedes driver had gained by cutting the Turn 7 runoff.

Mercedes therefore ordered him to give Sainz the place back, which gave Leclerc breathing room.

He nevertheless dropped back from the leading pair across the first phase of the race, before Verstappen began to drop Perez and Leclerc homed back in.

Perez became the first driver to stop on lap 15 of 58 to go from mediums to hards, while Verstappen and Leclerc stayed out for five and six further laps respectively to do likewise, which gave them a tyre life advantage over the Mexican for the second stint, Perez also having lost time battling with the one-stopping Sebastian Vettel with a Turn 6 lock-up and off on his outlap.

Leclerc had emerged from his stop just ahead of Sainz – another early stopper – and he then began to reel in Perez with a series of strong laps.

The Ferrari’s pace was so strong that he got to just 1.5 seconds behind Perez and was ordered to “box opposite” the Red Bull on lap 33 – the undercut being very powerful and leading Perez’s team to pit him on that tour.

Ferrari then asked Leclerc if he could sustain his pace and tyre life to the finish on a “Plan C” one-stopper, which he reckoned he could just about manage.

Leclerc’s charge to reach Perez had brought him to around five seconds back from Verstappen by the time Perez stopped, but the leader, by now set on the same one-stopper, eased away over the rest of the race to win by 8.7 seconds – offering Perez advice on how his hards were holding up on a much longer stint and indicating he could push flatout to the end.

Perez’s task was to close a 20 seconds gap to Leclerc in 25 laps, with Sainz and George Russell, who had passed Hamilton in the first stint when the seven-time world champion struggled for pace and suggesting his floor had been damaged in his lap one off, pitting out of his way as they took the two-stopper.

Perez therefore just had to clear Hamilton and various backmarkers, with the Red Bull catching the back of the Mercedes on lap 45.

As the raced down the straight into Turn 6, Perez attacked Hamilton by locked up here again and went deep, which helped the Mercedes pass back by into the Turn 9 hairpin – in scenes reminiscent by reversed from their battle in this race a year ago that so helped seal Verstappen’s first title.

Perez did not attack at Turn 6 on the next time by but instead waited for a second helping of DRS before diving down the inside of the Mercedes – which retired late on after Hamilton’s gears stopped working in a suspected hydraulics failure aboard his W13 – at Turn 9

By this stage, Perez had 9.6 seconds gap to close to Leclerc in 12 laps and both Red Bull and Ferrari initially believed he would make the catch.

But Leclerc was able to eeke out impressive life from his aging hards and Perez’s pace also back to drop from lap to lap – his passage also not helped being held up by Pierre Gasly at Turn 6 on lap 56 as the AlphaTauri chased Alex Albon’s Williams, which earned Gasly an angry gesture for his soon-to-be former stablemate.

It was close, by Leclerc held on to keep second by 1.3 seconds over Perez, with Sainz fourth and Russell fifth – a potential battle between this pair headed off by the Mercedes needing to serve a five-second penalty at its second stop after being released into Lando Norris’s path at its first after a slow left-rear tyre change.

Norris, who had passed Russell on lap one before being overcome again in the early stages, held off a late-charging Esteban Ocon to seal sixth by 1.0 seconds.

Lance Stroll gained late on with the extra grip afforded by the two-stopper, while Vettel just ran out of laps to reel in fellow one-stopper Daniel Ricciardo – the German finishing 0.6 seconds and having been frustrated by his strategy meaning running longest of all in the first stint and so being passed by a string of rivals.

The only other incident of note was Mick Schumacher clipping Nicholas Latifi at Turn 5 on lap 40 and spinning the Haas into the outside barriers, from which both were able to drive away.

Williams ordered Latifi to retire on the final lap with an unspecified problem, joining Fernando Alonso as the other DNF runner – the Alpine stopping on lap 28 due to a suspected water leak.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in setting a new achievement in Formula 1 with the most wins. What a remarkable winning performance by Red Bull and yet this Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remember as the final goodbye to Sebastian Vettel, the previous Red Bull champion who is retiring from the sport. Danke Seb and thanks for the memories.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:27:45.914
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +8.771s
3 Sergio Pérez Red Bull +10.093s
4 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +24.892s
5 George Russell Mercedes +35.888s
6 Lando Norris McLaren +56.234s
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine +57.240s
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +76.931s
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +83.268s
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +83.898s
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +89.371s
12 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1 lap
13 Alexander Albon Williams +1 lap
14 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +1 lap
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1 lap
16 Mick Schumacher Haas +1 lap
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
18 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams DNF
– Fernando Alonso Alpine DNF

Red Bull front row as Verstappen takes pole

The 2022 constructors’ champions achieved a front row lock out in the season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Max Verstappen takes pole position from Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

The two-time champion improved on his last lap to run to a one minute, 23.824 seconds effort, pipping Perez by 0.22 seconds. Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc is set to lead a Ferrari second row on race day over the Mercedes contenders.

Purportedly, Q1 pacesetter Verstappen’s RB18 suffered a start-up problem to delay his entry into the final session. Perez did query this partner’s initial absence – a faulty steering wheel switch was said to be the cause.

Checo, who was fastest in Q2 responded with a personal best first sector, then ran purple in the middle part of the lap. Although he struggled for traction and slid out of the final corner set a time of one minute, 24.281 seconds.

But Verstappen’s peerless run through the last part of the lap on his first Q3 go moved him to a one minute, 23.988 seconds. That put him 0.328 seconds ahead of Perez as Sainz split the Red Bull duo.

Leclerc notched fourth position ahead of the Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton leading the batting over George Russell.

For the climax, Leclerc ran early and turned up the wick as he improved on his personal best first and second sectors and then flashed purple in the final part of the lap. That guided him to second place but he was still down by 0.14 seconds compared to Verstappen’s pacesetting first lap from the top ten shootout.

Carlos Sainz ran slower in sector one so, despite lowering his time eventually, he was only fourth to tee up the Red Bull duel for the final pole.

Verstappen improved in all three sectors to be the only driver to break into the one minute, 23 seconds, with his 0.824 seconds effort pulling 0.228 seconds over Perez – who was best of all in the middle sector.

Despite Hamilton topping sector one, he was nearly 0.7 seconds down in fifth as Russell chalked sixth over Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon.

Sebastian Vettel had his complaints over the Red Bulls blocking him in the final corner in Q1 and Q2 to cost a tenth, but he nevertheless snared ninth ahead of his last grand prix. Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, completed the top ten.

Fernando Alonso was the notable casualty in Q2, with the two-time champion eventually shuffled back to P11 and he duly missed the shootout for pole to Ricciardo by only three hundredths.

The two-time champion left himself at risk when he climbed to only ninth after his last flying attempt.

As Norris and Leclerc left it late to improve while Alonso did not run again with 20 seconds to go, he was shuffled back to head Yuki Tsunoda and departing Haas driver Mick Schumacher in P13.

Lance Stroll came up short for Aston Martin to take only P14 as Zhou Guanyu was P15.

Alonso had already flirted with elimination. He sat P16 when the Q1 flag was waved. But, despite missing his personal best in the first two sectors, he scraped P14 with his next lap.

That became P15 when Tsunoda gained on his final flier, and the Alpine was ultimately spared by 0.052 seconds as shock Brazil polesitter Kevin Magnussen was knocked out in P16.

The Haas driver did at least trump out-going AlphaTauri racer Pierre Gasly, while Valtteri Bottas failed to progress into Q2 for the second time in as many races – the Alfa Romeo only P18 after struggling to heat its tyres for the beginning of the lap owing to a traffic queue.

Alex Albon pipped Nicholas Latifi by 0.03 seconds as the Williams teammates ran slowest of all.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen with pole position in the final race of the 2022 season. It will be fascinating if the leading Red Bull driver will be a team player to help Sergio Perez secure the runner-up position in the drivers’ standing by helping his colleague in the race.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:23.824
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:24.052
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:24.092
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:24.242
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.508
6 George Russell Mercedes 1:24.511
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1:24.769
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:24.830
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:24.961
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:25.096
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:25.219
12 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:25.225
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:25.045
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:25.359
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:25.408
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:25.834
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:25.859
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:25.892
19 Alexander Albon Williams 1:26.028
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1’26.054

Russell takes his first Grand Prix victory in a Mercedes 1-2

Mercedes finally ended its winless Formula 1 run as George Russell scored an awesome team result with 1-2 in the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collided.

Polesitter Russell powered clear at two safety restarts to avoid a battle with his teammate, who he was free to race, as Hamilton recovered from his fall to eighth position after tagging with 2021 rival Verstappen in what was an action-packed penultimate round of the campaign at Interlagos.

With Red Bull’s day getting worse when Sergio Perez was stuck on the wrong tyre for the final stint, Ferrari could capitalise to take third and fourth – Carlos Sainz heading Charles Leclerc despite the Austrian Grand Prix winner wanting team orders to secure second in the championship.

Similarly, despite instructions to do so, Verstappen did not hand back position to Perez on the final lap to head a Red Bull 6-7.

At the start, the Mercedes launched strongly to hold the lead as both Red Bulls came under considerable threat from Lando Norris, who launched past medium-tyre starter Charles Leclerc for fifth position.

Sergio Perez ultimately had the McLaren covered as Russell ran well clear of his teammate, who in turn had plenty of breathing space over Verstappen before a first-lap safety car.

Sensational qualifying topper Kevin Magnussen, who had fallen to eighth in the sprint race, appeared slow off Turn 7 and contact was made in the right-rear by the chasing Daniel Ricciardo.

That pitched his Haas machine into a spin and as Magnussen rolled back, he thumped into the honey badger – who is without a front-line drive for 2023 – to pitch him into the tyre barriers.

After the protracted clean-up, green flags returned at the end of lap six of 71 but Russell held the restart until he was level with the pit entry and then floored it clear of his teammate.

The Red Bulls reacted well to give Verstappen an opportunity to take second on the outside of Turn 1 but as the track snaked right, he made contact with bitter 2021 title rival Hamilton.

Both took to the run-off. Verstappen came off worse with front wing damage and pitted for mediums, while Hamilton stayed out but suspected floor damage as he dropped to eighth.

The stewards deemed Verstappen to be more at fault and awarded him a five-second penalty.

Then Leclerc was in the wars when, attempting to pass Norris through Turn 7, the McLaren MCL36 understeered into the side of the Ferrari to send it spinning into the outside barrier.

Leclerc was able to resume to prevent a second swift safety car and stopped for mediums, while the stewards also handed Norris a five-second penalty in a much less debatable call.

All this drama left Russell to lead Perez by 1.6 seconds as Sainz was a further 3 seconds in arrears ahead of Norris, ninth-starting Sebastian Vettel, Gasly and the remaining Haas of Mick Schumacher.

Hamilton was on the move again, picking off Vettel through the middle sector and then using DRS to demote Norris into Turn 1 for fifth, which became fourth when Sainz was forced to pit on lap 18 for soft tyres after a visor tear-off caused his right-rear brake duct to catch fire.

Russell, meanwhile, was content on his C4 softs and instructed the pitwall to leave him out as he built a 3.5 seconds gap to Perez while Hamilton was closing on the Mexican by 0.4 seconds per lap.

Red Bull responded with a lightning 2 seconds pitstop for Perez as he was swapped to mediums but re-joined behind Valtteri Bottas and was hugely delayed by the Alfa for the rest of the lap.

Mercedes reacted by calling in leader Russell next time around on lap 25 for his switch to mediums, which placed Hamilton on his starting soft tyres into the lead by just over 10 seconds.

But with the seven-time champion a second per lap slower than Russell, he was pitted on lap 30 for a 3.3 seconds change to mediums. Hamilton resumed in fourth, 8 seconds in arrears of Sainz’s F1-75.

As the temperatures dropped, the Mercedes pair seemed to come alive on the medium tyre. Once Sainz pitted again for mediums to undercut Perez, Russell was lapping 0.6 seconds faster than the Red Bull (to lead by 8 seconds) and Hamilton 0.8 seconds quicker to close to within 2 seconds come lap 40.

A sterling run through the first sequence gave Hamilton a run at Perez into Turn 4 on lap 44. Perez had him covered initially but then equipped with DRS and a slipstream, the Silver Arrows racer could out-drag the Red Bull up the main straight to reclaim second position.

Red Bull pitted Perez for mediums on lap 48 and although he resumed in fourth, the powerful undercut forced the Mercedes team into action as both stopped for softs for the final stint.

Hamilton notably protested the call before pitting and lost out to Sainz, whose mediums were now 12 laps old, as Russell rejoined a slender 1.1 seconds before a virtual safety car period.

McLaren recorded a double DNF when Norris parked up, which created a window for Sainz to come in for a cheaper pitstop and take on a set of scrubbed softs for the closing 17 laps.

Then the full safety car was deployed to close the field and, as per both Mercedes drivers’ comments pre-race, no team orders were imposed to leave Hamilton clear to race Russell.

Russell repeated his earlier work at the second restart by delaying his launch until level with the pit entry, with both W13s pulling clear of Perez, who had to robustly defend against Sainz until the DRS was reactivated and he passed for third on lap 63 down the back straight.

With the Red Bull preoccupied, Russell led his teammate Hamilton home by 1.5 seconds to secure his first grand prix victory as Mercedes finally got off the mark in 2022 with a 1-2 result.

Leclerc was able to demote Perez further with DRS to give Ferrari a somewhat flattering 3-4, while Fernando Alonso – rapid in the final stint to pass his feuding stablemate Esteban Ocon, Bottas and Vettel – added to the Red Bull pain as he snared fifth six laps from the finish line.

On his inferior mediums, Perez did not fight Verstappen into Turn 1 as the RB18 pair walked away with sixth and seventh ahead of Ocon, Bottas, Lance Stroll and Vettel – the retiring four-time champion also suffering late on when shod with the unfavoured medium tyres.

Crikey! George Russell is a winner in Formula 1. The sprint win was a nice bonus but to take a proper Grand Prix victory was well deserved thanks to a great drive out front in the Mercedes. To lead a team 1-2 is a superb effort.

Sao Paulo Grand Prix, race results:
1 George Russell Mercedes 1:38:34.044
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.529s
3 Carlos Sainz . Ferrari +4.051
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +8.441
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine +9.561
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull +10.056
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull +14.080
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine +18.690
9 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +22.552
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +23.552
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +26.183
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +26.867
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +29.325
14 Mick Schumacher Haas +29.899
15 Alexander Albon Williams +36.016
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams +37.038
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1 lap
– Lando Norris McLaren DNF
– Daniel Ricciardo McLaren DNF
– Kevin Magnussen Haas DNF

Russell and Mercedes wins sprint race in Brazil

Finally! Mercedes has won a race. Yes, this was a sprint event but George Russell was able to challenge and overtake the new world champion Max Verstappen to win the Sao Paulo Grand Prix sprint.

The Mercedes driver battled fiercely with the two-time champion – the pair dicing wheel-to-wheel for three laps before eventually the W13 driver seized first position and ran away to victory.

As Verstappen continuined to tumble before sustaining damage on his front wing, Lewis Hamilton completed a double Mercedes podium behind Carlos Sainz, while shock polesitter Kevin Magnnusen claimed eighth.

Verstappen and Nicholas Latifi were the only drivers to start on the medium tyres as everyone else favoured the quicker but less durable, red-walled soft compound.

With more grip from the off, Magnussen launched strongly to hold the lead into the downhill Turn 1 and pulled half a second on his front-row rival Verstappen, who had to heat his tyres.

With Russell’s rubber immediately up to temperature, he was able to stick the nose of his Mercedes alongside the Red Bull to challenge for second position before the RB18’s superior straight-line speed made itself known and he eked away from the W13.

The punch of the Honda engine then allowed Verstappen to tuck into the tow of Magnussen, with him eventually relegating the compliant Haas driver under braking into Turn 1.

Russell followed suit with DRS to pass around the outside of the Dane over the start line. Before long, Carlos Sainz lunged up the inside of Magnussen to knock him off the podium.

Verstappen looked strong as he pulled 1.1 seconds clear of the chasing Silver Arrow but Russell kept his quicker soft tyres alive to reel in the leader and gain DRS from lap 10.

With the overtaking aid again activated, he tried to pass around the outside into Turn 4 but Verstappen held his nerve under braking to sure up the position through the middle sector.

There was almost a carbon copy of that dice next time around on lap 14, with Verstappen then getting better drive off the exit to keep hold of the lead for another lap of Interlagos.

But then, on lap 15, Russell nailed his exit onto the back straight to gain the tow and DRS once more to pulled clear of Verstappen into the braking zone and definitively nick first.

The W13 then came on song in clear air, with Russell marching 1.6 seconds clear as Verstappen came under threat from Sainz, with the Ferrari driver robustly passing at the start of lap 19.

The British Grand Prix victor threw his F1-75 up the inside of Turn 1 with the pair bashing wheels and as Sainz came back across the racing line, he caught the front wing of the Red Bull.

That damaged endplate and a compromised line for Verstappen then meant, after running over debris, he was under threat from Hamilton. But the Dutch racer squeezed his bitter 2021 championship rival through Turn 6 to hold on to third position for the time being.

But as lap 18 came to a close, Hamilton gained DRS to sail past over the line and cement third before chasing after Sainz – now complaining that he was losing the soft tyres.

He managed to hold on by less than half a second from Hamilton, however, as Russell bagged the spoils nigh on four seconds clear to score Mercedes its first win of the year.

Verstappen continued to fourth but was 6s down on Hamilton, as Sergio Perez recovered from ninth to fifth ahead of Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris, while Magnussen’s anticipated fade ended with eighth position.

Sebastian Vettel bagged ninth after surviving a trip over the grass while attempting to pass his uber-defensive teammate Lance Stoll, and Pierre Galsy completed the top ten.

Stroll dropped to P17 with a 10-second penalty for his moves on Vettel – two places down on Fernando Alonso, who was forced to pit for a new front wing after colliding with fellow Alpine driver Esteban Ocon.

Ocon dropped to P18 ahead of only Latifi and Alex Albon, who retired on lap four.

So congratulations to George Russell in winning his first race for Mercedes. With Carlos Sainz’s grid penalty for changing a power unit, Lewis Hamilton will start alongside his teammate to form a Mercedes front row. It’s going to be fascinating if the W13 can take victory outright in the ‘real’ race at Interlagos.

Sao Paulo Grand Prix, sprint results:
1 George Russell Mercedes 30:11.307
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +3.995s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +4.492s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull +10.494s
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull +11.855s
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +13.133s
7 Lando Norris McLaren +25.624s
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas +28.768s
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +30.218s
10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +34.170s
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +39.395s
12 Mick Schumacher Haas +41.159s
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +41.763s
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +42.338s
15 Fernando Alonso Alpine +48.985s
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +50.306s
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +50.700s
18 Esteban Ocon Alpine +51.756s
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams +76.850s
20 Alex Albon Williams DNF

Haas and Magnussen score incredible pole

Achievement unlocked for Kevin Magnussen as he scored his first-ever Formula 1 pole position, for the Haas team, ahead of the sprint race at Interlagos.

The Dane, who was recalled to the team for this season after the ousting of Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, remarkably landed top spot when a red flag in a murky Q3 allowed conditions to deteriorate.

That meant no one could improve in the final minutes of qualifying to leave the American outfit to watch the clock until it was assured of its maiden pole and the celebrations erupted.

The drama of Q3 began when Ferrari took a major gamble by sending Leclerc out on a set of intermediate tyres to pre-empt the return of rain – qualifying having started damp before drying up.

The nine other contenders, meanwhile, emerged on slick Pirelli tyres.

The Scuderia appeared to be hoping that the showers would arrive in time to catch out the dry runners while its driver would be on the right compound at the optimum time before the conditions got worse.

However, Leclerc soon realised he was the odd on out and was venting his anger, even waving to the pit wall as he passed to begin his flying lap.

He ran slowest of all through the first sector, was struggling for grip and holding up the pursuing Sergio Perez before aborting the run and diving into the pitlane for a shot on slicks.

With the intermediates now clearly the wrong option, slick-runner Magnussen was able to bolt to a one minute, 11.674 seconds lap to take top spot away from Red Bull’s Verstappen by some two tenths.

Then George Russell – who had just ran to third place – dropped his Mercedes W13 into the gravel on the exit of Turn 4 to bring out the red flags.

The Mercedes driver appeared to lock the front-right into the left-hander and the rear clipped the slippery white line to pitch him off. As he tried to spin to recover, he ditched the rear axle into the gravel.

While Russell initially kept the rear wheels spinning and signalled to the marshals to perform a live recovery of his car, he eventually retired from the session.

But with the threat of rain having already loomed large, the delay was long enough to allow the wet weather to return and no one could find time despite more than five minutes remaining.

In the knowledge that they would not improve, the drivers started to exit their cars to cue the Haas celebrations.

Russel would therefore keep third place despite his shunt, while Lando Norris clocked fourth for McLaren ahead of Carlos Sainz – although the Ferrari driver to poised to start in tenth owing to a five-place grid penalty for a change of internal combustion engine.

Esteban Ocon ran to sixth ahead of Alpine team-mate Fernando Alonso, while Perez – having been delayed by Leclerc – clocked only ninth position.

Ocon had scrapped into the top ten by a slender 0.045 seconds at the expense of Alex Albon, while Pierre Gasly ran to P12 ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll.

The dying second of Q2 were something of a damp squib as the at-risk Mercedes improved.

They appeared to be under threat when some drivers reported that more rain was arriving late on, the Silver Arrows having by then only lapped on used softs to run outside the top ten.

But as the Aston Martins notably struggled to improve, Russell eventually climbed to third with five minutes to run. Hamilton slotted directly behind in fourth but was shuffled to ninth.

Sainz also comfortably climbed to second in Q2 in the end, the British GP winner having sat tenth and only 0.008 seconds clear of the drop zone but he moved clear of the danger zone by running to a one minute, 10.890 seconds to best Leclerc by 0.06 seconds and run just 0.009 seconds shy of pacesetter Verstappen.

Ferrari had already been forced to survive a considerable Q1 scare when the initially damp conditions improved sufficiently to allow for a switch to the softs after slick-tyre guinea pig Gasly began setting the fastest sectors.

Gasly was struggling for grip initially, sliding well wide through the final corner, but next time around the Alpine-bound racer ran fastest by 0.6s and then improved by another one seconds.

To respond, the Scuderia crew jacked up Leclerc’s car but only had a scrubbed set on hand, so a delay ensued while new boots were finally retrieved as Sainz was held in a double stack.

Then Leclerc was forced to abort his first flying lap on the red-walled rubber when he was held up by Yuki Tsunoda through the final sector, in turn delaying his chasing team-mate.

While Sainz still managed to improve, Leclerc had it all to do on his final run but did enough to make it to 12th and survive the late flurry, as Nicholas Latifi just missed the cut-off for Q2.

The departing Williams driver had topped the session only moments earlier after he bolted on the dry tyres but was rapidly shuffled down to miss the threshold by 0.16 seconds to Ricciardo.

In a session to forget for the Alfa Romeo team-mates, Zhou Guanyu ranked only P17 ahead of Valtteri Bottas as AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher lapped slowest of all.

Congratulations to K-Mag with this fine achievement. To have a Haas on pole position is just epic and such a feel good story for Formula 1. The sprint race is going to be fascinating to see if Magnussen can hold off Verstappen to score the ‘proper’ pole.

Sao Paulo Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:11.674
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:11.877
3 George Russell Mercedes 1:12.059
4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:12.263
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:12.357
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:12.425
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:12.504
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:12.611
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:15.601
10 Charles Leclerc Ferrari No time
11 Alex Albon Williams 1:11.631
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:11.675
13 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:11.678
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:12.140
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:12.210
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:15.095
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:15.197
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:15.486
19 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:16.264
20 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:16.361