Kevin Magnussen claimed an incredible first F1 pole position in a topsy-turvy, rainy qualifying session for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
On the eve of team owner Gene Haas’ 70th birthday, the 30-year-old set the fastest time of a Q3 session which was effectively ruled everywhere after the first few races when George Russell spun through the gravel and triggered the red flags.
This means Magnussen, who often battles to pass Q1, will be top of the grid for the sprint at Interlagos, ahead of two-time world champion Max Verstappen and Russell as no one could go faster after his crash as the la rain began to intensify.
Haas celebrated wildly in the garage with Magnussen still seated in the car as his pole was confirmed, the driver happily punching the car in arguably the biggest F1 qualifying shock for many years.
It was a huge difference from Q1 in which Sergio Perez was four thousandths of a second quickest over Charles Leclerc, but that was before the rain started to fall in Sao Paulo. It was at its peak about half an hour before qualifying, but had calmed down by the time the cars had to leave the pit lane.
That still meant intermediate tires to start and as Leclerc drove off he was told rain was due in 10 minutes – meaning a bank ride as soon as possible could be vital in the quest to make the Q1 cut .
Lap times were initially around eight seconds lower than they had been earlier and halfway through Q1 AlphaTauri was the first to bite the bullet and go for the slicks – clearly happy to take the risk that Ferrari’s weather forecast is wrong.
It was Pierre Gasly on the soft tyres, but although it wasn’t really a ‘Bambi on the ice’ scenario, his first effort was nothing special – the second time around he started to set “purple” sectors, crossing the line fastest by 0.425 s. This prompted others to quickly follow suit for the final stages.
Going into the final two minutes, the eight best times had been set on slicks and it was all about timing, as the P1 slot changed hands every few seconds. Starting the last “hot” lap at the wrong time would spell disaster.
Could there be a shock victim? Yes, in the form of Valtteri Bottas, who had been fast in FP1, going out with his Alfa Romeo teammate Zhou Guanyu. Nicholas Latifi (Williams), Mick Schumacher (Haas) and Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) also retired. Bottas admitted on team radio that he “made the wrong call” by not switching to slicks sooner.
Q2 started with DRS being used for the first time and rain nearby on the radar but not falling on the circuit. In the early races the order almost looked like a lucky dive with Lando Norris, who had been fastest in Q1, on top again and Alex Albon’s Williams in the top five.
Several drivers reported raindrops and that was a concern for Hamilton, last of the 15 with seven minutes to go. His team-mate Russell moved from 12th to 3rd place and the former seven-time world champion allayed his own concerns by moving right behind him.
The Mercedes duo briefly appeared to have had the last favorable conditions, but faster times were still achieved, with Sainz leaping into P2 just when needed and Kevin Magnussen booking a surprise Q3 appearance in the Haas.
There was to be no more racing for Albon, Gasly, Aston Martin duo Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel – on his Interlagos swan song – and Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren).
The shootout for sprint pole was going to depend on the weather and as the lights turned green for Q3 the skies grew darker but nine of the 10 cars lined up on slicks – except for Leclerc on the inters.
A radio message from Red Bull to Verstappen first suggested Ferrari may have been successful for the Monegasque – ‘incoming rain’ – but this was not confirmed on track as Leclerc had to abandon an early effort and crash. stop for slicks. As he did, Magnussen’s unlikely figure took a first provisional pole.
This remarkable prospect became more likely when Russell grounded his Mercedes, bringing out the red flags, the P3 Briton at the time. The rain began to fall harder and harder, suggesting that when the session resumed the times would not improve. Cue amused, anxious faces in the Haas garage – and a “you’re ******* kidding” message from the flabbergasted Dane when told his position.
There were still over eight minutes left, but it was inters and no DRS for Perez, who was the first out – and straight back in. Hamilton also had a sight, but it was an unsuccessful exercise – setting off jubilant scenes in Haas.
1 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:11.674
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.203
3 George Russell Mercedes +0.385
4Lando Norris McLaren +0.589
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.683
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine +0.751
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine +0.830
8 Lewis HamiltonMercedes +0.937
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull +3.927
10 Charles Leclerc Ferrari No time Q3
11 Alex Albon Williams +0.750 (Q2)
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +0.794
13 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +0.797
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1.259
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1.329
16 Nicholas Latif Williams
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo
19 Yuki Tsunoda Alpha Tauri
20 Mick Schumacher Haas
#Qualy #Kevin #Magnussen #secures #remarkable #pole #position #Haas