Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has beaten Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by a tenth of a second to take pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Dutchman set his fastest time on his final lap going faster than the German, to secure a second career pole.
Verstappen looked on the pace throughout the session, going fastest in Q1 by two tenths over Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc. Red Bull believed that Interlagos elevation should bring them closer to Mercedes and Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton was third fastest after slipping away in the final moments of the session.
The Dutchman was fastest after the first laps in final qualifying, despite a big wobble on the exit of Pinheirinho, a left-hander in the middle of the lap. He then improved by a tenth to take his first pole since Budapest in August.
Verstappen’s pole lap, a 1:07.508, was a tenth of a second faster than Vettel in the powerful Ferrari, with Hamilton just missing out on a front row. Leclerc finished the session two tenths off the pace in fourth place. Following FP3, the session many predicted a close session, with the top three teams covered by four-tenths.
Leclerc carries a ten-place grid drop into the race for an engine change, meaning he will start fourteenth assuming no new penalties are issued. He was the only driver to use medium Pirellis to set his time in Q2, meaning he will start on that set of tyres with the rest of the top ten starting on softs.
Leclerc said he was “very disappointed” with himself as a mistake on his final effort left him fourth.
Valtteri Bottas was fifth fastest three tenths off the pace, going ahead of the second Red Bull of Alex Albon. The Finn failed to improve on his final run, dropping down the order.
Verstappen said “Straight away the car was flying in Q1 and it was really enjoyable to drive. The second lap was a bit better so all good. I’ll try to finish it off now [after missing out on the win in 2018].”
Hamilton added “Congrats to Max, a great lap by him. We seemed to be quite competitive in P3 and then we seemed to lose in qualifying or they gained. Nonetheless I’m really happy I was able to divide the Ferraris, it’s always a tough challenge.”
Pierre Gasly was fastest of a very competitive battle in the midfield, he was a hundredth off Albon but outpace the Haas of Romain Grosjean, with his teammate Kevin Magnussen tenth fastest. The first runs in Q2 decided who dropped out in the session.
Lando Norris missed out on the top ten by a hundredth of a second, the McLaren driver told his team he “just didn’t put it together.” The Bristolian starts tenth.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was twelfth ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi, who spun on his final lap in Q2, but still spilt the two teammates. Nico Hulkenberg was over two hundredths behind his teammate, Sergio Perez was the slowest in Q2 going fifteenth.
Daniil Kvyat missed out on Q2 by three-hundredths of a second. The Toro Rosso driver locked up on his first timed run, before struggling to find enough pace on his second run.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll did improve on his second run, but not by enough to elevate him beyond seventeenth. George Russell was six tenths further behind in eighteenth, going half a second ahead of Robert Kubica.
Carlos Sainz failed to set a time in qualifying after a problem manifested itself on his first flying lap in Q1, forcing him to return to the pits.
He reported, “something went, something on the engine” over the radio, later suggesting it was “something on the driveshaft or the gearbox” – with the team unwilling to risk sending him out again while attempting to diagnose the problem.