Monday, June 17, 2024
HomesportVerstappen on pole after 'insane' Sao Paulo qualifying

Verstappen on pole after 'insane' Sao Paulo qualifying

SAO PAULO :Red Bull’s triple Formula One world champion Max Verstappen beat the weather as well as his rivals to secure pole position for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix in a qualifying session halted by “insane” conditions at Interlagos on Friday.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc joined Verstappen on the front row with the Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso third and fourth.

Verstappen was quick out of the pits as storm clouds loomed, getting a flying lap in to secure provisional pole before gusting winds, rain and flashes of lightning halted the track action.

“We didn’t know when it would hit in qualifying, we thought it would hit. This is of course insane weather,” said the 26-year-old, who secured his third title in Qatar last month and now has 11 poles for the season.

Verstappen will be chasing his record-extending 17th win of the season on Sunday and 52nd of his career.

“It was all quite hectic in the last lap.”

McLaren’s Australian rookie Oscar Piastri had already skidded off onto the grass, triggering yellow flags.

Verstappen wasted no time when the pitlane opened for the final time, the Dutch driver speeding past the Mercedes of last year’s winner George Russell before they had even reached the track.

Leclerc, who had been on pole for the two previous races, was 0.294 slower.

“In my own career I have never experienced something like that. From Turn Four onwards there was no rain but the car was extremely difficult to drive, no grip,” said the Monegasque.

“I was thinking about just coming in at the end of the lap but then I finished and then P2. So it’s a really good surprise. It’s a very weird one for everyone out on track today.”

Stroll, who will be starting in the top three for only the fourth time in his career, said it had been a really tricky session.

“We were fortunate with the rain that came in, we got our lap in early,” said the Canadian.

DELAYED START

The governing FIA stopped the clock with four minutes remaining and said the session would not be re-started.

Ironically, qualifying had been delayed by 15 minutes – enough time to beat the cloudburst – to allow the track to be cleaned.

Mercedes’ seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton and Russell filled the third row, with McLaren’s Lando Norris seventh and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz eighth and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez ninth.

“I did the best I could, hopefully we’ll have a better race,” said Hamilton.

Russell said the conditions were “absolutely crazy”.

“I’ve never, ever seen a change of weather so drastic as that,” said the Briton. “I was just sliding around, I had no grip… I actually wanted to pit because I was confident I was going to be last.”

Norris had been fastest in the second phase and looking like a pole contender.

“Pretty gutted,” said the Briton. “I don’t know what to feel about it. I think the car was amazing, it came alive a lot in qualifying. Easily good enough to be quickest, I’d say… not a lot we could have done.”

Mexican Perez, battling Hamilton for second overall in the championship and only 20 points ahead, was forced to slow on his lap after Piastri went off.

“We were just incredibly unlucky today,” said the Mexican. “We should have been on the front row.”

Piastri said he had just lost a lot of grip as the rain began to fall.

“It’s been a good day in terms of pace, just obviously this weather’s thrown a spanner in the works,” he said.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, fourth on the grid for AlphaTauri at the previous race in Mexico, qualified only 17th this time.

Interlagos is hosting Formula One’s final sprint weekend of the season, with Sunday’s grand prix grid set on Friday while Saturday’s schedule features a sprint qualifying ‘shootout’ followed by a standalone 100km race.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)

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