Reigning world champion to start the Sprint from pole
Lewis Hamilton was in a league of his own for Friday’s qualifying session which saw the seven time world champion take a commanding pole position at Interlagos. Starting beside Hamilton on the front row for the Sprint will be current championship leader Max Verstappen, who just had no answer to Hamilton’s pace. Give that Hamilton will take a five place grid penalty after taking a new Internal Combustion Engine, Hamilton will hope to maximise at the Sprint to start as high up as possible.
Hamilton’s teammate Bottas will start P3 ahead of Sergio Pérez. Pierre Gasly continued his strong run of form qualifying P5 ahead of the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. Just behind the Scuderia are their constructors’ rivals McLaren with Lando Norris ahead of Daniel Ricciardo while Alpine’s Fernando Alonso rounded up the top 10.
Given how incredible close and tight this season is, the three points on offer at the Sprint will be crucial for both Hamilton and Verstappen while Bottas will look to attack Verstappen to give Mercedes some bonus points in the championship fight as well. Bottas will not be too disappointed starting third as he will receive a massive tow towards the end of the lap, which might make things exciting for Sunday. Given that Verstappen has never finished a race when there has been a Sprint race that weekend and their superior pace, it’s certainly advantage Mercedes going into the Sprint. Saturday’s 24 lap Sprint will be an unmissable event which might just play a crucial role in the championship battles.
Qualifying Session 1 – Eliminated- Lance Stroll, Nicholas Latifi, George Russell, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin
It was the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc who set the first timing of the session with a 1:10.780s but was quickly pipped by his teammate, Carlos Sainz, who went three-tenths quicker. Both Ferraris were displaced by the ever impressive Pierre Gasly who went four tenths quicker than Sainz. Championship leader Verstappen took P1 once he set his first timing, putting in an impressive 1:09.329s. Once his championship rival put in his lap, Hamilton went half a second quicker than Verstappen, to take top spot.
With two minutes to go, it was George Russell, Mick Schumacher, Antonio Giovinazzi, Nikita Mazepin and Charles Leclerc who were in the danger zone, after the Ferrari driver had his lap time deleted due to exceeding track limits. Leclerc put in a solid banker lap to see himself out of the elimination zone but that left George Russell, Nicholas Latifi, Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Lance Stroll eliminated.
Qualifying Session 2 – Eliminated – Esteban Ocon, Sebastian Vettel, Yuki Tsunoda, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi
It was the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Bottas who were first on the track, four minutes into the session. Hamilton set the first time of the second qualifying session with a 1:08.659s but his time was deleted due to exceeding track limits. That though wouldn’t have had made too much of a difference to Verstappen who went P1 with a 1:08.567s. Hamilton displaced Verstappen comfortably when he did put his first proper time in, putting in a solid 1:08.386s.
As the final timings came in, Esteban Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi were in the bottom five. None from the bottom five could improve their times as Ocon missed out on a top ten shootout by five hundredths of a second while further up the grid, Hamilton finished the session P1, going even quicker with a 1:08.068s.
Qualifying Session 3 – Hammer Time in Interlagos
Charles Leclerc was the first one out again, setting the benchmark time of 1:09.403s. That time was comfortable displaced as Hamilton took provisional pole with 1:08.107s, two tenths ahead of Verstappen. As the Red Bull driver complained about his front tyres over-heating, Hamilton was simply untouchable and in a league of his own, going fastest in each sector.
Verstappen’s final banker lap saw him unable to improve his time while Hamilton went even quicker with a 1:07.934s, taking pole for the Sprint. Bottas’ final lap also wasn’t the Finn’s best which meant he failed to start on the front row for the Sprint, starting P3 ahead of Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Pérez.
Final Starting Grid