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A red flag and surprise pole position in the Sao Paulo Qualifying

It was a wet session for the drivers in Sao Paulo

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A  wet qualifying session for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix saw Kevin Magnussen take his first pole position. 

Qualifying
Kevin Magnussen takes his first pole position for Haas in Brazil. (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images)

Heading into today’s qualifying session, it was Red Bull who looked the most on form following FP1. Sergio Perez went fastest in the first on-track session, followed by Charles Leclerc and then Max Verstappen.

Whilst both championships have already been won, it still proved to be an exciting weekend. The Sao Paulo Grand Prix weekend is the final Sprint weekend of the season and today’s qualifying sets the grid for tomorrow’s race.

So let’s see how qualifying went.

Q1

The rain had dampened the track, meaning that the drivers took to the grid on the intermediate tyres for the 18-minute session. As cars went onto the track, more rain was predicted but the radar wasn’t clear as to which parts of the track could be covered in rain.

Whilst the weather had been wet previously, Carlos Sainz radioed that the track looked quite dry. The Spaniard needed to set a good time in the session to enable him to get into Q3 as he will be taking a five-place grid penalty for the Grand Prix.

At the beginning of the session, Leclerc went fastest with a 1:19.191. The Monegasque then improved his own time, finding more and more time.

Mercedes have struggled with warming up their tyres this season. But whilst Hamilton’s first lap only put him 12th, he achieved the fastest final sector of the weekend.

Verstappen soon topped Leclerc’s time, putting his Red Bull in the top spot. The Dutchman has won the Drivers’ Championship for this season, but if he wins the Grand Prix this weekend, it will be his 15th race win in a season, furthering the record.

Alpine and McLaren have battled all season. Alpine are currently ahead in the Constructors’ Standings and with 10 minutes to go, Fernando Alonso went fastest. He was 0.083 seconds ahead of Verstappen. This was soon beaten by Hamilton who topped the timesheets with a purple second sector.

Hamilton Brazil Qualifying
Lewis Hamilton, who is now an honorary citizen of Brazil, driving the W13 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Unfortunately for Kevin Magnussen, he had a lap time deleted for track limits at Turn 8. But in a session where rain is a threat, having a lap time deleted is not what you want.

Inters or slicks?

Whilst there were differing views on the dryness of the track, it was Pierre Gasly who was the first to pit onto slicks. With just under five minutes to go, Gasly went four-tenths faster than Hamilton. More cars came into the pits.  But for Leclerc, it was a slow stop as Ferrari struggled with indecision about the slicks.

With all the drivers then on the soft compound tyres, it was a tense final two minutes.

Nicholas Latifi briefly saw his Williams in P1 but as more laps were set, he was pushed down the order. Sebastian Vettel put his car in second but Hamilton managed to escape the final five going fastest. But Lando Norris soon went faster than his fellow Brit. Leclerc had trouble with Yuki Tsunoda, radioing that the AlphaTauri driver held him up; but Leclerc managed to get into Q2.

Out in Q1

16 – Latifi

17 – Zhou

18 – Bottas

19 – Tsunoda

20 – Schumacher

Q2

Sky Sports spoke to Otmar Szafnauer who said he believes no rain will arrive during the second qualifying session.

Verstappen set the benchmark lap of the session, but Norris soon went faster with a 1:11.571. Mercedes set some laps but were in the bottom five, whilst Magnussen went fastest in the first sector.

Norris Qualifying Brazil
Lando Norris, who suffered from food poisoning on Thursday, prepares to drive in the garage ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Whilst it was said there wouldn’t be rain, Esteban Ocon radioed that there were some spots of rain on his visor. George Russell then echoed Ocon’s radio, saying it was spitting. He also questioned whether he was on the correct tyre, saying Mercedes were “risking it”.

Sainz also confirmed the rain, but all drivers were still on soft tyres. Both Mercedes drivers were in the pits, having a new set of softs added to their W13s. The seven-time world champion still hadn’t set a time in Q2.

Russell managed to go third fastest. Hamilton then set a lap, going just behind his teammate. However, for Aston Martin, Vettel was struggling with the softs.

With the rain getting harder, it was Ocon, Albon, Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll in danger of going out. Despite his struggles, Vettel got into the top 10. Albon then followed Vettel, but unfortunately pushed the German into the bottom five.

Out in Q2

When the chequered flag was waved, Hamilton made it through in ninth to Q3. The top three of the session were Verstappen, Sainz and Leclerc, whilst the five that were out were:

11 – Albon

12 – Gasly

13 – Vettel

14 – Ricciardo

15 – Stroll

Q3

With the cars lined up in the pits, it was only Leclerc who had intermediates on. For the Ferrari driver, he needed a lot of rain to arrive with his gamble. As Martin Brundle said, it’s like turning up to a black-tie dinner and not knowing the dress code.

Leclerc sets his fastest lap but nearly lost it heading towards the lake. The inters were struggling to find the pace, and so Leclerc came back into the pits for slick tyres.

Red flag

With eight minutes and 10 seconds left, at Turn 4, Russell went off the track and was beached in the gravel.

Qualifying
George Russell beached in the gravel during qualifying in Brazil. (Photo credit: Twitter at @F1)

With rain on course to arrive during the session, it was Magnussen on provisional pole. The order was: Magnussen, Verstappen, Russell, Norris, Sainz, Ocon, Alonso, Hamilton, Perez and Leclerc.

Every driver other than Leclerc had set a lap on slicks, which saw the Monegasque express his frustrations over the radio. The replay showed Russell under-brake, and then when trying to avoid the wall, he spun and ended up in the gravel.

Session restarted

The qualifying session was restarted with Perez going out first on intermediates. No one else went out on track.

The timer counted down as the rain fell with the drivers starting to climb out of their cars. But Hamilton followed Perez and went out on track, but didn’t set a time.

That meant that Magnussen had taken pole position.

Final result

1 – Magnussen

2 – Verstappen

3 – Russell

4 – Norris

5 – Sainz

6 – Ocon

7 – Alonso

8 – Hamilton

9 – Perez

10 – Leclerc

Headline Feature Image: Twitter @F1

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