Verstappen on pole ahead of Leclerc for Brazilian Grand Prix

Verstappen on pole ahead of Leclerc for Brazilian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen and Red Bull anticipated the weather conditions perfectly to secure pole position ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc for Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix in a rain-curtailed qualifying session that ended in wild thunderstorms on Friday.

Red Bull Max Verstappen

The newly-crowned three-time world champion clocked a best lap in one minute and 10.727 seconds to outpace Leclerc by 0.294 seconds with Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso taking third and fourth places to lock out the second row of the grid for Aston Martin.

Lewis Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes ahead of team-mate George Russell, leaving a disappointed Lando Norris seventh for McLaren, after promising much more.

Carlos Sainz qualified eighth in the second Ferrari ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull and Oscar Piastri, who did not manage to clock a time in Q3 for McLaren.

It was Verstappen's 11th pole position of the season and lifted him to 31 for his career, one clear of Nico Rosberg and eighth in the all-time list of all-time.

"We didn't know when it was coming and when it would hit," said Verstappen of the storm.

"Of course, it is insane weather! My laps felt terrible and Charles and I discussed this and the hectic wind we had in the final laps.

"For the race, I think it seems very close."

Leclerc said: "In my career, I have never experienced anything like this. There was no rain, but also no grip and it was difficult to drive. It was very weird. I am happy to be on P2."

For Stroll, it was a result that ended a run of poor qualifying results.

"The car felt good, but it was tricky and my lap was quite bad -– the weather changed so much. I missed a lot of apexes, but it was good enough for the top three. A great result for the team."

- Qualifying delayed -

The session was delayed 15 minutes to allow for cleaning of the circuit after screws and stones had caused punctures in free practice, notably for Alonso, starting his record-extending 375th Grand Prix, and Hamilton.

In hot conditions, and with clouds threatening, Piastri was first out to set a time before Stroll and then Norris took command.

Verstappen struggled, complaining of his car's handling. "My car is jumping around like a kangaroo, the same problem as in Mexico," he reported.

On his second Q1 run, Leclerc went top for Ferrari with Piastri going second as rain was forecast and the track improved, providing increasingly more grip, which in turn forced the top teams to take new tyres and continue lapping to avoid the cut.

After a final flurry, the bottom five were Yuki Tsunoda and his Alpha Tauri team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo, Logan Sargeant of Williams and Zhou Guanyu in the second Alfa Romeo.

Russell was fastest ahead of Verstappen and Leclerc, with only half a second separating third from 18th in a highly-competitive session during which tyre usage was critical for performance and strategy planning for Sunday's race.

In falling temperatures, McLaren's Norris and Piastri impressed before Verstappen found his touch to clock 1:10.162, a three-tenths improvement on his Q1 lap and good enough to resist both Ferraris and both Mercedes' efforts.

With four minutes remaining, it was fiercely close and only three-tenths separated all 15 runners before Norris went top in 1:10.021, confirming McLaren as a major contender for the Grand Prix.

At the flag, it was Nico Hulkenberg of Haas, the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, last year's pole-sitter Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas and Williams' Alex Albon who missed out on the top-10 shootout.

Q3 began in near-darkness under leaden clouds, with Alonso leading the way before Verstappen clocked 1:10.727, Leclerc going second ahead of Stroll and his Aston Martin team-mate before the weather turned wild.

A blast of wind upset Piastri's lap, Leclerc complained of "super weird conditions" and Alonso declared "it's night" before the session was red-flagged.



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