Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claims pole in Formula 1 Brazil Grand Prix in tricky conditions from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas at Interlagos.
It was a tensed first part of qualifying at Interlagos with a hint of rain falling especially at Turn 4 and 12 which made it tricky for the drivers trying to find a way in Q2. At the front though, Red Bull’s Verstappen led Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz (1m09.269s) was a big scalp to fall out in Q1 in 16th as the Spaniard missed his chance by just the 0.005s to Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who made it in Q2.
Both the McLaren drivers were out along with Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and Williams’ Lance Stroll. The Kiwi (1m09.280s) was 17th leading Fernando Alonso (1m09.402s) with Stroll (1m09.441s) and Stoffel Vandoorne (1m09.601s) completing the 20 runners.
Rain continued to play dramas in the second part of qualifying with the teams also playing their own game of tyre strategy for the Sunday’s race. Ferrari did the trick opting for the soft compound with Red Bull and Mercedes following suit.
However, only the two Ferrari drivers along with Verstappen could set their best time on that compound with both Mercedes drivers and even Ricciardo missing out. On top of that, Hamilton had multiple impeding moments which could mean a grid drop for him.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas headed the Q2 standings from Vettel and Hamilton as the session had late dramas which knocked out Haas’ Kevin Magnussen when Sauber’s Charles Leclerc improved his time on his last flying lap despite the tricky conditions.
It was a bold call from the Monegasque and he made it through with Magnussen (1m08.659s) ending up 11th from the Racing Point Force India’s drivers Sergio Perez (1m08.741s) and Ocon (1m08.770s).
After Sainz’s demise in Q1, his Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg (1m08.834s) couldn’t make it to Q3 after finishing only 14th while Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin (1m10.381s) was 15th after the Russian driver was impeded by Hamilton early on in the session.
There was drama even before the third session started as Vettel was put under investigation for damaging the weighing scale in Q2 when he was pulled over to weigh the car at a random moment.
The FIA states that the engine on the car was running which damaged the weighing scale as the car usually needs to be pushed on and off the scale. On track though, it was Hamilton with provisional pole from Vettel by just the 0.073s and Bottas in third.
The British driver set a 1m07.301s to the German’s 1m07.374s and the Finn’s 1m07.441s. Raikkonen was fourth with Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in fifth and sixth respectively.
On their second runs, Hamilton made slight improvement to take his 10th pole of the 2018 season with a 1m07.281s lap time, while Vettel couldn’t improve due to an off moment in the final corner to stay second.
Bottas (1m07.441s) kept third with Raikkonen (1m07.456s) in fourth from Verstappen (1m07.778s) and Ricciardo (1m07.780s) as Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson (1m08.296s) ended up as the best of the rest from teammate Leclerc (1m08.492s).
Behind the Sauber drivers was Haas’ Romain Grosjean (1m08.517s) in eighth who looked good all-through the practice sessions – all the Ferrari-powered cars made it in Top 9 barring Magnussen. The Top 10 was rounded by Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly (1m09.029s).
UPDATE: Post the investigation in the matter of Vettel, the stewards decided to reprimand Vettel and pin a fine of 25,000 euros for failing to adhere to the instructions given by the FIA officials for the weighing procedure.
The FIA noted that Vettel did cut the engine while on the weighing scale but he did not adhere to the in and out ruling given by the FIA official which resulted in the German damaging the weighing scale for which the body handed him a reprimand and a penalty.