Hamilton beats Vettel for pole in Brazil
As we predicted after final practice, sandbagging Lewis Hamilton would beat Sebastian Vettel for pole in the Brazilian GP and he did just that.
Hamilton's lap of 1m07.291s put his Mercedes 0.093s ahead of Vettel's Ferrari to take his 10th pole of the year and 100th for Mercedes all-time.
Valtteri Bottas was third quick in the 2nd Mercedes while Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen rounded out the top-5.
The front row might change as Lewis Hamilton is being investigated for blocking the Williams of Sirotkin and Vettel for a weighing scale incident - he did not turn off his engine say the stewards.
Sirotkin would have made it through to Q2 had he not been blocked by Hamilton, but the bias of the FIA Stewards (mostly British) will likely mean Hamilton (British) gets no penalty and Vettel (German) and his Ferrari team (Italian) get disqualified.
Vettel hit the cone immediately blocking the entry and gesticulated at officials to clear a path.
After keeping the car running, he edged forward while an official was standing directly in front of the car.
FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer said Vettel "refused to turn off the engine" and the car was pushed onto the scales but he left the engine running, which Bauer said "makes it difficult to get a stable result".
Vettel continued to gesticulate and applauded as his path remained blocked by another official.
Once the weighing was complete, Vettel drove off the scales under the car's own power - which Bauer said "destroyed" them.
"As the driver was not following the instructions and further compromised the continuation of the weighing procedure, I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration," Bauer stated.
Vettel has been summoned to the stewards for allegedly breaching Article 29.1.a.i, which tells drivers to stop their engines when being weighed "and/or" Article 12.1.1.i of the FIA's International Sporting Code, which refers to the "failure to follow the instructions of the relevant officials for the safe and orderly conduct of the event".
How idiotic that they would weigh the cars in the middle of frantic qualifying instead of after they qualify but before the driver exits the car. Instead they do it during frantic qualifying so they can pick and choose who they screw at the most inopportune time.
Daniel Ricciardo qualified 6th but will drop to 11th, though, having been hit with a five-place grid penalty for taking on new power-unit elements this weekend.
Perhaps the surprise of the session was the driver sitting in P7. For most of the weekend, it has been Haas who have shown their pace as ‘best of the rest’ but it was Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who is taking part in his penultimate F1 race this weekend, who was the quicker of the midfield pack behind the top three teams.
The Swede’s teammate Charles Leclerc came home in eighth, ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, who has been armed with Honda’s Spec 3 engine this weekend and will be looking to get off the line quickly.
Sebastian Vettel (2nd, 1:07.374): “I think what happened today with the scales is clear, so I believe we should just talk about qualifying. Today we had some good laps and tire management was really good. On my last run in Q3, I made a small mistake in Turn 8 and that cost me some time and momentum. I knew I had to push a little more, maybe it would work and maybe not, and in the end it didn’t work, but I am not complaining, as the car felt really good to drive. Starting on the Option (Soft) tires tomorrow may be useful for the race, unless it rains of course: we also have an estimate of what the disadvantage might be right at the getaway, through having less grip, but it’s a very short run to Turn 1, so we’ll see. I think a lot will depend on the job we do at the start to get everything right”.
Kimi Raikkonen (4th, 1:07.456): “Considering how difficult the weekend has been so far, this qualifying has been our best session. The result is obviously not ideal but we did a good job. I was happy with my car and that’s a positive thing for tomorrow. In Q2 the conditions were tricky, there was risk of rain, but we decided to go out with the Soft tires to try and start the race on that compound and it worked. We think this is the best option for us, but now we’ll see, as there are many things that can happen in the race. On my last attempt I did a very good first part of the lap, but then I fell off a little bit in the last sector; I tried to get it back on the last corner but could not improve my lap time. The time difference with the guys at the front is very small, it was a close battle; the race will be very interesting tomorrow”.
Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal:
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen (5th, 1:07.778): "We did the best we could, which was fifth, so I think we should be happy with that. Conditions were a bit tricky but everyone handled it very well in the garage and we came through with a good performance. We tried to get a quicker lap on the soft tyre in Q2 but just missed out. It isn't a disaster starting on supersofts so we aren't too concerned. The balance of the car wasn't ideal, we were missing some front grip. If we had it spot on we may have had a small chance of challenging a Ferrari, but when you are losing so much time on the straights it is always going to be a difficult. I'm confident the car has a good set-up for the race. Tomorrow it looks like it will get warmer and therefore tougher on the rear tyres, we should be in good shape as I think this suits us better. It is always going to be a hard race in the dry around here so if the rain comes, I think it could play into our hands."
Daniel Ricciardo (6th, 1:07.780): "I think we have a good car and in qualifying to be half a second off pole around here, where from memory we haven't been that close in the past, is positive. We also know from yesterday that we are even better in race conditions. Obviously, with the penalty I start a bit outside of the front pack in 11th but I will hopefully make my way through quickly and have some fun once I join the fight at the front. The rain passed pretty quickly but it did force us to use the supersoft tyre in Q2. Ideally, we wanted to start on the soft tomorrow but fortunately it was only Ferrari who made it work and Mercedes are in the same position as us. I don't think it makes too much difference as we have a good car on the super and also good tyre management. Maybe this mixed strategy will also force a two-stop race through the field and mix things up. I had some experience last year of coming from the back so I know a few spots around this track to overtake on and I'm game for that. I think my race will be shaped on how quickly I can get through the field and latch on to the top five. Anyway, whatever happens it'll be fun."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "It was an exciting qualifying with the threat of rain throughout the sessions. With Max actually topping Q1 we then elected to run the supersoft to ensure being on the right tyre on the damp track in Q2 which turned out to be dry. Both drivers were within a couple of thousandths of each other in Q3 on both runs and to end up fifth and sixth is about where we expected to be around here. We are very quick in the middle sector but unfortunately sectors one and three expose our weaknesses. Nonetheless, we believe we have encouraging race pace, and despite Daniel's penalty hopefully both drivers can feature strongly in the race tomorrow."
Sahara Force India F1 Team
Sergio Perez (12th, 1:08.741): "It was a challenging session and it's disappointing to miss out on Q3 by such a small margin. It's been a difficult weekend so far, losing out on so much track time on a circuit where half a tenth can make a big difference. The truth is we weren't as competitive as we expected to be, but I think we can still recover to have a strong race tomorrow. We really struggled in Q1 where we had to use an extra set of tyres just to make Q2, which meant we only had used tyres when the track was getting better at the end of Q2 and we couldn't improve. I think our real pace is better than the speed we showed today and if we have a good start we will be in a position to fight for points. The weather could still play a big part, so we'll go out to try and make up some of the ground we lost today."
Esteban Ocon (13th, 1:08.770): "It wasn't a great qualifying session. For various reasons things just didn't come together for us. We made a set-up change between final practice and qualifying and it didn't really bring the benefit we needed. So the car didn't feel ideal for qualifying. Ahead of the session, I believed we had the potential to make Q3 but it didn't work out for us. I've also got to take the grid penalty [five places] so I will be starting near the back and it's going to make the race even more difficult. Perhaps some rain tomorrow would work in my favour and allow me to catch up and fight for points."
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer: "We've been a little bit on the back foot all weekend with a lack of track time for Sergio and chasing the set-up with Esteban. With those challenges, Q3 was just out of reach today, especially on such a short lap where a few rows of the grid are covered by a few tenths of a second. Let's see what happens in the race. I think we can be more competitive than today with the potential to score points."
Williams Martini Racing
Sergey Sirotkin (15th, 1:10.381): "It was a good session with tricky conditions which is always good for us. When it's cloudy and damp, we always perform better. The car felt very good, I had one run less than everyone else in Q1 and managed to get through which is positive for us. We went into Q2 thinking the rain would come, and when I exited the pits, due to the changeable conditions the scrubbed tyres were cold meaning I had to push hard to generate temperature. On my lap, I had to slow down to avoid Lewis, which in turn meant putting a wheel on the grass and ruining the lap. Overall, it was a good session and we are happy with the performance."
Lance Stroll (19th, 1:09.441): "It was just a bad qualifying. It was a bit of everything - rain mistakes and not a good lap. It was frustrating as there was definitely a lot more in it. I shall have to reflect on qualifying, learn from the mistakes, bounce back tomorrow, hopefully I will get a good start and go from there, as it is a lot of fun to drive round here."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: "It was an interesting session at Interlagos with intermittent rain, which we so often see here, as usual coming in first at turn 12. In actual fact, the rain didn't affect the pace for any of our runs. We didn't start off too well with either car in the first run, but with the second set of tyres, Sergey managed to get a really good time which was enough for P14 at the end of Q1. Unfortunately, Lance wasn't as fast. We sent both cars out on a third set, and on Lance's side, he improved his time but not his position. In Sergey's case, we were able to abort the lap because his position became safe. In Q2, we only had this part-used set of tyres and didn't manage a great lap, so we remained P15 at the end of the session. We have a good position to start the race on Sergey's side, which will improve further after Ocon's penalty, so we will do our best to get a points result with one or both cars tomorrow."
Renault Sport Formula One Team
Nico Hulkenberg (14th, 1:08.834): "We were missing two or three tenths out there today. Q2 was especially challenging with the rain looking to come in and we probably made the wrong calls on timing, but with hindsight that's easy to say. It was difficult to know the grip level and judging how much you can push the car into corners. We got everything out from the car but we're lacking a bit of pace, which is why we don't look so great on the timesheets. Tomorrow will be tricky with our starting position, but we'll be realistic and fight for a good result."
Carlos Sainz (16th, 1:09.269): "It was a disappointing Saturday in general. We knew it would be tight out there and things just didn't work out. The single-lap pace hasn't been there all weekend for us. Our long-run pace looked more promising on Friday and we know tomorrow is a new day. We have some options to explore on strategy and we'll be giving it a go in the race, like always."
Alan Permane, Sporting Director: "Anything can happen in Brazil... It was a difficult session on both sides of the garage, but the underlying factor is that we've struggled with single-lap pace today. Both drivers felt they could have gained one or two more positions; Carlos suffered with traffic on his final lap and Nico was in a difficult situation with the timing of his runs in the mixed conditions, but ultimately the car isn't as quick in qualifying as we would like it to be at this track. We still remain positive ahead of the race. On Friday, our long run pace was good and we were happy with the car. We've improved the balance since yesterday and both drivers seem to be happy. It looks like it will be a dry Grand Prix but, as we know, anything can happen in Brazil."
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda
Pierre Gasly (10th, 1:09.029): "I felt really good with Qualifying, it's a great achievement to get into Q3 today. I'm happy with my performance and P9 is a good position to start from tomorrow (due to Ricciardo's penalty). It was quite stressful and exciting at the same time for the whole session. The rain increased in Q1, but we managed to put everything together to make it through to Q2 and then Q3. It was tricky, because in these weather conditions you never know what to expect, how much grip you will have when you approach the corners, how wet they are going to be, but I think we did really well in the end. Even if we finished today's Qualifying in the top 10, it won't be an easy race as our competitors around us are very fast. I hope we will have some good battles and I will certainly push flat out to score some more points tomorrow."
Brendon Hartley (17th, 1:09.280): "I was two-hundredths of a second from going through to Q2 today, which is annoying. I made a mistake on my lap with a big front lock into Turn 8, it caused a small flat spot and I lost around one and a half tenths which made the difference of a shot at Q2. It was tricky out there with the rain, but I had good information from the pit wall and my engineers about the track conditions. I was happy with the car and I want to thank the team for the good work over the last days, after I wasn't too happy with balance in free practice. The margins were tight today and we just missed out. It's going to be a tough race for us, but the car felt decent and anything can happen tomorrow, especially if we have mixed conditions which are forecast."
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer: "Our main focus overnight was to work on the long run pace, we felt yesterday our short run pace was good but our long run pace wasn't there. So for FP3 we made a number of setup changes to the car which will improve our performance for the race tomorrow. The priority for FP3 was to make sure we still had good short run pace with the changes, which we were quite confident in, and we thought we had the potential to get one or even both cars into Q3 based on our pace from FP3. We could see there was rain coming for Qualifying which made the session quite difficult and busy on the pit wall, but especially in the garage! Unfortunately, in Q1 Brendon made a mistake locking up into Turn 8 and just missed the cut for Q2 by 0.016s, without that he would have made it comfortably through. The conditions remained tricky in Q2 because we had a mix of dry and wet conditions, although it wasn't wet enough to run the intermediates. The aim was to be on the track with the Supersofts at the right time, which we managed to achieve and we progressed into Q3. Now we need to understand what happened in Q3 as we didn't seem to have the pace we should have had. We only had one new tyre left while many of the others had two, which meant they had a bit of an advantage. Even so, we were just lacking pace and couldn't improve. We could already see in Q1 and in Q2 that the pace wasn't where we expected, so we elected to take a risk and be the last car crossing the line. This worked and our track position was good, but if anything it looked like Pierre tried to extract more from the car than it was capable of and we couldn't get a competitive lap together. On the positive side, we made it into Q3, and the changes we made to the car overnight should help us in the race for a strong position."
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: "Based on data gathered yesterday in free practice, the team made the necessary changes to the set-up for today's sessions. We saw in FP3 that these changes went in the right direction, so we were optimistic about Qualifying. The session was affected by occasional light rain and the team timed the runs very well. Combined with a strong drive from Pierre, this was good enough to get us into Q3. Rain is forecast from the middle of tomorrow's race onwards, so we will now prepare for that and any other possible scenarios."
Haas F1 Team
Romain Grosjean (9th, 1:08.517): "We had wanted to be best-of-the-rest today, but we didn't quite get the conditions as favorable as we would've wanted. I have to say, my car in Q2 felt amazing. I went for my first timed lap, and into turn three the kill engine switch went on, so I lost the power and had to switch the car on again. I knew then I only had one attempt at a lap time, and that lap was amazing. The car felt really good. I was confident heading into Q3, but then we picked up understeer for some reason. I didn't quite get the same lap times, so we need to analyze that. With those conditions, it's very easy to get a bit of a difference and not have the same balance. I think we should be alright tomorrow. Wet or dry, there's nothing we can do about it. Let's see what tomorrow brings."
Kevin Magnussen (11th, 1:08.659): "I'm very disappointed. It was bad luck, I guess. We were on the track when it was raining the most on my two runs in Q2. You do your best to try and go on track at the right time, but when it's going like that, you never know when it's going to start raining. It's hard to know when is the best time to go out. Clearly, we didn't get it right. I think the forecast is dry for tomorrow. It's been pretty accurate so far this week. It's just unfortunate as I think we had a very good car today. Between myself and Romain, we should have been easily best-of-the-rest. It's annoying, but let's see what positives we can get from having a free tire choice for Sunday."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: "It wasn't a perfect qualifying session, but still a good one. We were just out always at the wrong time. These things happen when the weather is changing like that. The car was good and the drivers did a good job. We qualified ninth and eleventh, which should be eighth and 10th after Ricciardo's penalty, which isn't bad for Sunday. I'm sure we can fight for points tomorrow."
McLaren F1 Team
Fernando Alonso (18th, 1:09.402): "My qualifying lap was still enjoyable, and with new tyres and light fuel these cars feel good, although obviously not quick enough to go through the sessions. In dry conditions, early in the weekend, we already saw we didn't have the pace. We've been slow all weekend and we were slow in qualifying as well, so there are no surprises. There's nothing we can do now, other than try to improve tomorrow and try to help the team with some points. We need some rain or a crazy race to benefit from, as in terms of pure pace we are maybe not quick enough. We're starting from the back, so we can take some risks and gamble on strategy."
Stoffel Vandoorne (20th, 1:09.601): "It's not been the best weekend for us so far. We saw in practice this morning that we were never really on the pace, and it's unfortunate to confirm that in qualifying today. We can never seem to really benefit from wet conditions in qualifying as it never rains at the right time for us. We'll see what we can do tomorrow. We have nothing to lose in the race and hopefully the weather will give us something to allow us a bit of a gamble, as I think that's the only opportunity we have to progress. We haven't really been competitive all weekend here. In Mexico, the tyre degradation played to our advantage, but here it looks like it's not going to be the case, so hopefully the weather will do that for us."
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "Obviously we're disappointed with our final qualifying positions. Although the drivers reported a decent balance, we struggled with ultimate pace. During qualifying, we had to contend with the threat of rain that ultimately did not materialise, and expectations are that the weather may again be a variable which could strongly influence tomorrow's race. Despite today's setback, we'll try to put our best foot forward. Our goal is to execute a good race, with fast pit-stops and the optimum strategy, and hopefully take advantage of our race pace, which has been strong for most of the year."
Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team
Marcus Ericsson (7th, 1:08.296):
Charles Leclerc (8th, 1:08.492):
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal:
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