Lewis Hamilton has beaten championship rival Max Verstappen by four-tenths of a second to start sprint qualifying from pole position for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver looked quick all day at Interlagos, however will take a grid penalty on Sunday for a power unit change.
Hamilton dominated Friday, topping FP1 by three tenths at a circuit that seems to suit the Mercedes. The world champion will look to secure pole with winning tomorrows sprint but will be hoping that Verstappen has a bad afternoon as he looks to limit the damage in the championship.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was third going just over a hundredth ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez. The top two teams had a clear three-tenths advantage, but it was the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly who was fifth ahead of the two Ferrari’s.
Red Bull looked not to have answers to the pace of Hamilton, but Verstappen did everything he had to try and stop Mercedes. But splitting them at Interlagos is a good step towards limiting the damage, ‘winning’ the sprint will see Hamilton take three points away from Verstappen.
Mercedes were on pole in Mexico last weekend, but that was more down to Red Bull not managing to get their tyres in a good working window rather than any lack of pace. And Verstappen dominated the race. No one expected that Mercedes would have comfortably topped the session at Interlagos, but the speed also looks good for the race.
Red Bull had no answer following the dominant race in Mexico, but the front row start from Verstappen is just another twist in an incredible season. The Dutchman knows he can finish second tomorrow and still take pole position for the Grand Prix, in sprint qualifying.
Hamilton said, “A big, big thank you to all the team because they’ve been working flat out. It’s been so hard coming from the last race for everyone. Today was a really good qualifying session. I’m really happy with it. We’ve got the penalty to come but we give it everything we’ve got.”
Verstappen added, “When they take a new engine, naturally they have a bit more power for the weekend. For me it’s not a big shock. I’m just happy to be second. It’s a good position to start from.”
Gasly’s fifth-place again underlines that the Frenchman can pull of incredible results in qualifying, out-qualifying the Ferrari’s for the second week in a row. McLaren, overtaken by Ferrari in the battle for third in the constructors’ championship in Mexico last Sunday.
Carlos Sainz going sixth fastest ahead of his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, with the McLaren’s of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo half a tenth a part. The battle for third in the constructor’s championship looking very tight, but Ferrari have looked to have the advantage over McLaren at the high downforce circuit.
Fernando Alonso was tenth fastest the Alpine driver starting tenth ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon. The Frenchman along with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were knocked out by Norris at the end of Q2, while the Alfa Romeo driver was pushed to fourteenth by the second Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda.
Raikkonen starts fourteenth after going seven-tenths faster than his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi. Nicolas Latifi managed to out-qualify Williams teammate George Russell by half a hundred, marking the first time Russell has been out-qualified by a Williams teammate in a conventual qualifying session.
Latifi edged ahead of Russell at the end of Q1, before both drivers were pushed down by the Alfa Romeo’s.
Mick Schumacher once again out qualified his Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin, the German going a quarter of a second faster.