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