Kevin Magnussen takes his maiden Formula 1 pole position in an eventful Sao Paulo Grand Prix qualifying.
The qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Sao Paulo began under rainy, misty conditions, which added a difficulty level prior to Saturday’s Sprint race.
The drivers went out to the track with the Intermediate compound, and Charles Leclerc was the first to set a flying lap, topping the charts with a time of 1:19.191s. However, times kept improving as it was only the start of Q1, as Fernando Alonso topped the timings with 10 minutes to go, ahead of Max Verstappen.
Things changed when the rain stopped and drivers moved onto the dry compounds – Pierre Gasly was the first one to do so, as he switched from Intermediates to Softs. He topped the grid with a 1:17.626, 0.425s faster than second-placed Lewis Hamilton, whose time was placed on the wet tires.
Shortly after, all drivers made a switch to Soft tires. Lap times were improving quickly, and Lando Norris topped the Q1 standings. Nicholas Latifi, Guanyu Zhou, Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda, and Mick Schumacher were eliminated.
The race track was busy from the moment Q2 started. Verstappen got the lead, but his lap time was beaten by Norris. Carlos Sainz was behind them in the top 3.
Esteban Ocon reported via the team radio that he had raindrops on his visor. However, his race engineer said that the radar was not showing it. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso took over the lead.
Both Mercedes drivers found themselves in a difficult situation as they were in the bottom 5. Nevertheless, George Russell and Hamilton managed to get out of the elimination zone.
With less than 5 minutes to go, Sainz, who was 10th at that moment, told the team that it was “raining a lot”. The Spaniard dropped down to P13 but later set a lap time good enough for 2nd place.
Verstappen set the fastest lap time of Q2. Alexander Albon, Gasly, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, and Lance Stroll did not advance to Q3.
Though the dark clouds were around Interlagos, it was not raining significantly, and the majority of the drivers had Soft tires. However, Leclerc was on Intermediates. However, the gamble had not paid off for the Monegasque, and he went to the pits to change tires.
Kevin Magnussen was in the provisional lead. Later on, Russell went off the track at turn 4 and beached in the gravel. The session was suspended.
Q3 was restarted with 8 minutes left. Only Sergio Perez left the garage on Intermediate tires, but the Mexican returned to the pits eventually. Several minutes later, Hamilton went to the race track. However, the track conditions were not good enough to set a competitive lap time.
It meant that Magnussen finished qualifying in 1st place, and he would start Saturday’s Sprint from the pole position. Verstappen was 2nd, while Russell completed the top 3.