McLaren’s Lando Norris earned pole position for the sprint race at Interlagos, beating both Red Bulls to the top spot after a sprint shootout collision between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.
Despite a first sector that was over two tenths slower than the best efforts from the Red Bulls, Norris found time over the rest of the lap to clinch pole for Saturday’s shortened race – despite with some evident bemusement after feeling that his lap was not particularly special.
McLaren put both cars onto the track first in the SQ3 session, with Oscar Piastri opening the final stage with a one minute, 11.189 seconds benchmark, but Lando’s eventual lap was better.
Norris endured a nervy wait as the Red Bulls and Mercedes looked far stronger in the opening sector; Verstappen looked to be good value to upstage the McLaren having been up on Lando’s split by the end of the second sector, but could not maintain that pace.
Perez was then tracking in first having set the best opening split on his run, but fell behind teammate Verstappen to collect third position on the sprint grid.
Norris was among a number of drivers who had received summons from the stewards over an alleged failure to follow the instructions on maximum lap time.
Checo was followed by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton; Russell briefly looked to be a contender for pole having matched Lando’s middle sector, but lost four tenths in the final part of the lap.
Yuki Tsunoda impressed with a run to sixth on the grid, as Charles Leclerc could not deliver anything better than seventh on his single flying lap of the session. Despite this, Charles is one place above Daniel Ricciardo, as Carlos Sainz and Piastri completed the top ten.
Mercedes and McLaren had rescued themselves from the drop in SQ2 amid a quickfire series of final laps, at the expense of both Haas cars as Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg had been well among the mix after the opening attempt.
Both AlphaTauris, along with Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly, had decided to wait until the end to post their first and only laps of the session; Bottas had elevated himself into the top ten at the expense of Russell.
But this preceded a number of improvements; Tsunoda and Ricciardo fired themselves well into the top ten order – Ricciardo moving up to second for a brief moment – to push Hamilton and Norris into the bottom five.
The group of Mercedes cars managed to move themselves from trouble despite setting not particularly competitive first sectors, as Norris also did to placed himself on top.
Magnussen beat Hulkenberg by 0.025 seconds to claim P11 on the sprint grid, while Gasly and Bottas were shuffled down to P13 and P14.
The opening sprint qualifying stage had been brought to a premature end as Esteban Ocon clashed with Alonso at the Curva do Sol, which pitched the Alpine driver into the wall having started his final lap of the opening 12 minutes.
Ocon had been dumped into the drop zone and was gearing up to reverse that as the session entered its final minute, but suffered a snap of oversteer and careened into a slow-moving Alonso – who had peeled off the racing line to give Ocon room to pass.
Alonso had sustained too much damage in the impact, which ended any running in SQ2 meaning an early exit.
The incident produced a red flag which froze the other, leaving Friday’s qualifying star Lance Stroll in P17 for the sprint grid having been unable to improve on his second attempt at a lap.
Zhou Guanyu was also eliminated at the first stage, while Alex Albon’s attempt to break out of the bottom five by the early conclusion to the session. Logan Sargeant was last of the runners, although felt that he had been impeded by a Haas during his second attempt.
So congratulations to Lando Norris even though the McLaren driver admitted it wasn’t a special lap. But it is still pole position for the sprint. Let’s see if Lando can win the shortened race ahead of the quick Red Bulls.
Brazil Grand Prix, sprint shootout results:
1 Lando Norris McLaren 1:10.622
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:10.683
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:10.756
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:10.857
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:10.940
6 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:11.019
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:11.077
8 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:11.122
9 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:11.126
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:11.189
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:11.727
12 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:11.752
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:11.822
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:11.872
15 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:12.224
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:12.388
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:12.482
18 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:12.497
19 Alexander Albon Williams 1:12.525
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:12.615