Brilliant Verstappen grabs second career pole position at Interlagos

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen will start from pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and champion Lewis Hamilton starting behind him for Sunday’s race.

The Dutchman, whose first pole came at the Hungaroring this year, clocked a 1m07.508s to head Vettel and Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Valtteri Bottas and Alexander Albon.

Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly recovered from a late engine issue in Friday’s free practice to line up seventh on the grid, with Romain Grosjean, Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen rounding off the top ten.

“The car was really good,” said a delighted Verstappen afterward. “Throughout qualifying, the track temperature was changing a little bit, so we had to adjust to that. But, yeah, straight away from Q1 the car was flying and there was actually really enjoyable to drive, so I am very happy with this pole position.”

With Sao Paulo’s monsoon season meaning little could be read into Friday’s lap times after a torrent of rain flooded the famous Interlagos circuit, a dry Saturday was always going to be the true gauge of the rival teams’ performance.

And it was Verstappen’s Red Bull that seemed perfectly dialled in to the conditions, Christian Horner admitting that it seemed perfectly ‘hooked up’ on the day of the team boss’ 46th birthday.

On the face of it, there seems little to play for with the dominant AMG Mercedes F1 Team having wrapped up another constructor and driver double in Austin, Texas.

Yet, with a significant amount of payments from commercial rights holder Liberty Media being awarded on a sliding scale based on a team’s finishing position in the previous championship, this year’s standings still count for a great deal.

And with Gasly, Raikkonen and the Haas duo of Magnussen and Grosjean also making the top ten, Sunday’s race is well worth tuning in for, if not just for the intriguing midfield battle permutations.

As for the newly crowned champion, don’t rule him out. Hamilton has won six world titles because he wants to win every race he enters. Never content to rest on his laurels, he will be doing everything in his power to claim yet another win in a dominant season.

“Congrats to Max, obviously a great lap by him,” said Hamilton. “We seemed quite competitive in P3 and then we seemed to lose to get into qualifying, or they gained. But nonetheless, I’m really happy that I was able to divide the Ferraris, it’s always a tough challenge. We’ve been down on power, I guess, compared to the others and that’s where we lose most of our time. But nonetheless I gave it absolutely everything I had and I’m glad at the end. I had my best lap of the session on my last run, so awesome.

“This is such a tough race to win, the tough is so challenging and, of course, there’s so much history here, so every time we come, and of course for me, I’m often putting Senna’s helmet design on my helmet, reminiscing of watching him winning here and just how crazy the crowd went. I seem to have a lot of support here, which I really appreciate, so ‘obrigado’ to everyone here.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.