Eight months after making his shock return to Formula 1, Kevin Magnussen took a superb pole position in qualifying for the 2022 Sao Paulo Sprint.
Although Q1 started on a wet track, the slicks were quickly fitted and it was Lando Norris who led the opening session, before Max Verstappen took over in a dry Q2. The top 10 shootout was a different story.
With two minutes of Q3 completed, Kevin Magnussen was leading the timesheets, and that’s when George Russell locked and grounded his Mercedes at Turn 5, raising a red flag to leave the Dane in disbelief. A short stop later, and the rain began to fall: Magnussen’s time would be stopped and he would secure his first pole position in Formula 1.
Verstappen was second, 0.203 seconds off the pace, while Russell took third for the Sprint. Norris finished fourth for McLaren, while Carlos Sainz – who has a five-place penalty for Sunday – completed the top five.
Haas F1 Team
Running of the red bulls
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon qualified sixth ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso, leaving Lewis Hamilton eighth for Mercedes, Sergio Perez ninth for Red Bull and Charles Leclerc 10th for Ferrari.
Lando Norris led a wet and dry Q1 after showers hit the circuit ahead of qualifying, before the track dried quickly.
Q2 was played out in dry conditions – although rain started to fall just as the checkerboard flew – with Alex Albon missing safety by 0.044 seconds as he qualified 11th. Pierre Gasly finished 12th for AlphaTauri ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, while an error saw Vettel’s teammate Lance Stroll qualify 15th for the Sprint.
Times dropped dramatically in Q1, but every driver managed to run on soft tires after Gasly triggered the switch. Williams’ Nicholas Latifi was 16th ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu in 17th and his 18th-placed teammate Valtteri Bottas – who regretted a second race on new intermediates – while Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher are expected to occupy the back row for the start of the Sprint.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Norris sets the pace in frenetic start to wet and dry qualifying
Pouring rain created a slippery surface for the start of Q1 in Brazil – with a headwind buffeting the drivers around Turn 1. This trio of segments would set the grid for Saturday’s Sprint, which in turn would set the grid for Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
As more rain clouds approached, the riders quickly emerged to complete split laps, and with 10 minutes to go it was Alonso who set the benchmark of 1m 18.412s ahead of Red Bull’s Verstappen then Perez – with times plummeting rapidly as the track dried out. Tsunoda, the Haas riders and the Williams duo found themselves in the drop zone early on.
Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri teammate Gasly then took the opportunity to swap soft tires, followed by the Williams and Ricciardo riders. This set the tone for the rest of the field – Gasly being the fastest with a time of 1m 16.557s with five minutes left – as a mad dash began to capitalize on the drying conditions.
In a frenetic conclusion to Q1, it was Norris who was quickest with a time of 1m 13.106s, 0.297s quicker than second-placed Hamilton and 0.15s quicker than Alonso’s run. Vettel finished fourth, half a second off the pace, while FP1 leader Perez completed the top five ahead of Verstappen.
Magnussen took second while Albon qualified in P8, Gasly eventually dropping to ninth and Stroll to 10th. Russell finished 11th ahead of Leclerc – who called Tsunoda a “joke” for hampering his race – while Ocon took 13th and Sainz 14th on the grid.
Ricciardo snuck into Q2 in P15 at the expense of Williams driver Latifi – 0.164s safe. The Alfa Romeos were next as Bottas, 18th, lamented a second run on the intermediates, while Tsunoda and Schumacher were also eliminated 19th and 20th respectively.
Eliminated: Latifi, Zhou, Bottas, Tsunoda, Schumacher
Q2 – Verstappen leads Sainz by 0.009s as rain approaches
The threat of rain had not quite dissipated for the start of Q2, although DRS was activated for the session. Midway through the session, Verstappen was leading with a time of 1m 11.318s, with Alonso 0.078s and Leclerc 0.15s behind the Alpine rider.
The airwaves lit up with reports of drizzle six minutes from time as Vettel, Ricciardo, Russell, Stroll and Hamilton were in danger of being knocked out. Despite these reports, there were improvements across the board: Verstappen solidified his position with a 1m 10.881s.
Sainz was second in Q2, 0.009s behind Red Bull, while Leclerc was still 0.060s in P3. Russell reached safety with P4 and Norris completed the top five ahead of Alonso.
To cheers from the Haas garage, Magnussen took a seventh place, Perez took eighth and Hamilton ninth – Ocon completing the top 10 for his first Q3 appearance at Interlagos.
That left Albon 11th, 0.044s from safety, while Gasly took 12th and Vettel 13th. Ricciardo was knocked out in 14th and, with a crash on his flying lap, Stroll finished 15th – the rain returning just as the checkered flag flew for Q2.
Eliminated: Albon, Gasly, Vettel, Ricciardo, Stroll
Q3 – Magnussen wins his first ever pole
As a train of cars lined up at the end of the pit lane to start Q3, Leclerc rolled the dice for the intermediates as the others chose the slicks, eyes on the sky. The Monegasque driver crawled on his exit lap but, in an unexpected turn, stayed out to take a lap on the hollow tyres.
Perez, who was just behind Leclerc’s rear wing, had his first lap compromised by the temperamental Ferrari; it was clear that this was soft tire territory, and Leclerc went against the slicks after 90 seconds of struggle.
Just after Leclerc pitted, Russell pulled out a red flag after locking up and stranding his Mercedes in the gravel at Turn 5. With eight minutes and 10 seconds on the clock, Magnussen was in the lead with a time of 1m 11.674s, Verstappen 0.203s behind. The Haas Garage was a picture of anxiety during the shutdown.
“You’re kidding,” Magnussen said when briefed on his tentative stance. “Don’t party yet!” he implored.
The session resumed at 1959 local time, and Perez emerged to test the conditions on the intermediates – although a 1m 11.6s was virtually impossible on those compounds. Leclerc had all but given up as he returned to the pit wall to speak to Ferrari Racing boss Laurent Mekies. Verstappen was out of the car soon after.
As the pilots gradually emerged from their cockpits, the ponchos unfurled, the clock ticking, one thing was clear: Magnussen would claim his first career pole position. He shook his head with a laugh in the cockpit of his VF-22, as ecstatic crowds came forward to applaud the Dane – who in turn was embraced with all the might of team principal Guenther Steiner once he had finally climbed out of the car.
Verstappen had to settle for second, 0.203 seconds off the pace, while Russell was third before his turn 5, the Briton 0.385 seconds behind Magnussen’s benchmark. Norris qualified fourth and Sainz – who receives a five-place penalty for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix on Sunday – completed the top five.
Then it was the Alpines, Ocon sixth and Alonso seventh, while Hamilton took eighth – the seven-time champion giving fans a final intermediate run at the end of Q3. Perez secured ninth in the third quarter, while an angry Leclerc rounded out the top 10.
” I do not know what to say. The team put me on the right track at the right time. I mean we were the first in the pit lane, had a pretty decent lap. On pole, it’s incredible. Thanks to Gene Haas and Guenther [Steiner] and the whole team for this opportunity. Came back this year after a year away and it’s been an amazing trip. So thank you” – Kevin Magnussen, Haas
Practice 2 begins at 12:30 p.m. local time ahead of the final sprint of the season here in Sao Paulo – at 4:30 p.m. local time. Head to the RACING HUB to find out how and when you can catch the action – with Kevin Magnussen leading Max Verstappen off the line…
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