Verstappen takes Brazil pole before heavy rain

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen secured pole position for the Brazil Grand Prix just before the heavy rain opened which resulted an early end to qualifying.

The Sao Paulo skyline became increasingly heavy as dark clouds drew over the Interlagos circuit, prompting an early queue in qualifying as rain threaten.

When it emerged, the circuit descended into darkness to prompt the red flag, as the rain finally came once the opening Q3 laps had been concluded.

Verstappen ensured he was at the front of the queue, and set the only time in Q3 below the one minute, 11 seconds mark.

High winds ensured that track conditions became more difficult, and the drivers had to quickly conclude their laps – but no one could overturn Verstappen’s best effort before the rain came – Oscar Piastri looked to be on course to get close, but instead went off the road at Turn 12.

The session was not resumed and Verstappen’s pole was confirmed, as Charles Leclerc collected a front-row start for Sunday’s main race.

Lance Stroll surprised to claim third on Sunday’s grid, as Aston Martin timed its runs well; Fernando Alonso was fourth over the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

McLaren left its runs too late and ended up seventh with Q2-topper Lando Norris, as Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, and Piastri completed the top ten.

Stroll’s tenth best time in Q2 withstood a late siege from the Haas and Alpine drivers as the Aston Martin driver secured his first Q3 appearance since the Belgian Grand Prix.

Alonso’s climb into the top four from the drop zone put Stroll on the brink, but with two tenths in hand over the drivers occupying the elimination zone.

Having been dumped into the bottom five when Alonso improved, Esteban Ocon attempted to surpass Stroll but was unable to find enough time; instead he was jumped by Nico Hulkenberg’s lap as the Haas driver moved up to P11.

Ocon’s Alpine team-mate Pierre Gasly could not improve either, but moved up to P13 ahead of Kevin Magnussen. Alex Albon lost his best lap due to track limits, although this had no effect on his final placing.

Both Alpines are under investigation for impeding on the exit of the pits, having been seen moving slowly in front of the Red Bulls and Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri.

A brief cleaning of the circuit prompted a 15-minute delay to Q1 proceedings, as Pirelli had reported issues with stones and screws on the track surface during FP1.

The threat of rain arriving in the middle of the 18-minute Q1 session prompted a series of second runs to cover it off, although the rain had not emerged at this point.

A third phase of laps to get into Q2 had been triggered over the final five minutes, kick-started by Albon breaking into the top four after he had moved out of the drop zone.

With the timing board resembling a slot machine in the final minute, Tsunoda sat on the edge in P15 as he attempted to improve and pull himself out of danger, but he could not best his previous lap.

This gave Ocon an opportunity to break out of the bottom five and relegate Tsunoda, which the Alpine driver duly managed with a time good enough for P14.

Tsunoda was 0.006 seconds clear of Daniel Ricciardo as the AlphaTauri driver could not repeat his Mexico qualifying heroics, as Valtteri Bottas also missed the mark in Q1.

Logan Sargeant attempted to join Albon in Q2 and briefly moved into P15, but was knocked back into the bottom five amid a last-gasp series of laptime improvements.

The Williams driver dropped to P19, as Zhou Guanyu qualified last – 0.2 seconds down on Sargeant’s best lap.

So anticlimactic end to qualifying and yet it was Max Verstappen who takes his usual spot in pole position.

Brazil Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:10.727
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:11.021
3 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:11.344
4 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:11.387
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:11.469
6 George Russell Mercedes 1:11.590
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1:11.987
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:11.989
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:12.321
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren No time
11 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:10.547
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:10.562
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:10.567
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:10.723
15 Alexander Albon Williams 1:10.840
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:10.837
17 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:10.843
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:10.955
19 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:11.035
20 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:11.275

4 thoughts to “Verstappen takes Brazil pole before heavy rain”

  1. Max Verstappen has sealed pole position for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with the Red Bull driver coming out on top in a qualifying session that was red-flagged in the final stages due to rain.

    The world champion had set provisional pole in the first runs of Q3, having put in a lap of 1m 10.727s. But with the weather rapidly changing as the clock ticked down, the session was brought to an early end, meaning that there was not the opportunity for drivers to improve on their only flying lap.

    Charles Leclerc will join Verstappen on the front row, while Aston Martin benefitted from getting their drivers out on track early, with Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso in P3 and P4 respectively.

    The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell follow in fifth and sixth, and Lando Norris – who had looked impressively fast in Q2 – had to settle for seventh.

    Carlos Sainz ended the session in P8, while Sergio Perez and Oscar Piastri round out the top 10.

  2. Charles Leclerc nearly abandoned his 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying lap as grip levels disappeared prior to a downpour in conditions the Ferrari Formula 1 driver had “never experienced” before.

    He said: “To be honest, today was, in my whole career, I’ve never experienced something like that. From Turn 4 onwards there was no rain. But the car was extremely difficult to drive – no grip.”

  3. Lance Stroll reckons his Aston Martin Formula 1 team “made our own luck” with its second-row lockout in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

    “I don’t think we were lucky today; I think we made our own luck,” Stroll replied to a question asking if Aston Martin’s result was largely through good fortune.

    “I think we did well going to the front of the queue and getting good track position. And, yeah, the weather was coming in, so I think that was smart.”

  4. Mercedes Formula 1 driver George Russell and Alpine duo Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon have all received a two-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix after impeding in qualifying.

    Exiting the pitlane in Q1, ahead of the first flying laps of the session, Russell slowly rolled down the pit exit on the inside of the Senna Esses to create a gap to the cars in front.

    Because of the narrow nature of the pit exit Russell impeded Alpine driver Gasly, who complained over the team radio about the Briton’s antics.

    “In order to avoid situations like the ones that occurred in Mexico, the Race Director’s Event Notes for this event contained a specific clause (item 14) stipulating that it was permitted to go slow in the pit exit to create a gap before crossing the SC2 line,” said the verdict.

    “However, by doing so, a driver must stay as far to the left as possible to allow other drivers to pass on the right side.

    “RUS was exiting the pits, preparing for an out-lap. RUS went slow to create a gap for a clear lap, but did not manage to stay completely to the left.

    “As a result, following car(s) were not able to overtake, as intended by the Race Director’s instructions. This clearly violates the wording and the spirit of item 14 of the Race Director’s Event Notes.”

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