Lewis Hamilton has scored a decisive pole position for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, following qualifying on Saturday.
The Mercedes driver clocked a staggering best time of 1:10.736 at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace (Interlagos) in cloudy conditions to lead the way and secure his 11th pole of the year.
He hadn’t won a pole at Brazil since 2012; this one is the 60th of his career at a circuit he has never won. This is also Mercedes’ 19th pole from 20 races this year, a new record in Formula 1 history.
These match times set in the mid-1:10 bracket in 2004, in the V10 era of Formula 1, compared to the current V6 turbo hybrid era (Rubens Barrichello ran a 1:10.646 in 2004 for pole).
With his teammate Nico Rosberg alongside, the stage is set for the run to Turn 1 and the question of whether Rosberg will in fact be able to secure the World Championship on Sunday – he can win it with a win – or if Hamilton will delay the proceedings until the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a fortnight from now.
Hamilton delivered the stunning first lap of the Q3 session while Rosberg came up short, and no one else got within six tenths on their opening runs.
In their final runs, Hamilton improved to a 1:10.736, even quicker than his first lap of 1:10.860, while Rosberg went quicker still to 1:10.838.
Behind them, Kimi Raikkonen impressed to get third ahead of Max Verstappen, so the two year-long sparring partners will start side-by-side on row two and ahead of their Ferrari and Red Bull teammates. Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo start fifth and sixth just behind them on row three.
Romain Grosjean has an excellent seventh on the grid for Haas in only his second Q3 appearance of the year, with Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez of Force India and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso completing the top 10 – the latter in a welcome return to form after the “Places Alonso Would Rather Be” meme emerged at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix and again in a new way with his cameraman antics on Friday.
Qualifying looked set to feature some rain, but the weather gods held off and the session ran under cooler temperatures with heavy clouds.
Hamilton put in his initial banker of 1:11.511 on his first lap to lead Q1, while the story further down the pack was whether Sebastian Vettel would make it out after his Ferrari team found a hydraulic and brake issue less than an hour before the session started.
Vettel did make it out with a little more than 10 minutes remaining and easily made it into the top 16 in the session, which was enough to ensure he advanced into Q2.
Those not as fortunate were Jenson Button (by just 0.017 of a second) in what could well be his final Brazilian Grand Prix – the last race the McLaren driver won back in 2012 – along with Haas-bound Kevin Magnussen of Renault, then the two Manor and two Sauber drivers. Felipe Nasr will start 22nd and last for his home Grand Prix, having been outqualified by his teammate Marcus Ericsson; he’d qualified 11th last year for his maiden Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton lowered the mark to 1:11.238, clear by Rosberg of 0.135 of a second on their first runs in Q2. That lap was even quicker than last year’s pole time of 1:11.282, set by Rosberg.
Further down the order, the bottom of the top 10 changed quite a bit in the waning moments, and ended in disappointment for hometown hero Felipe Massa.
Massa in his Williams got bounced following late fliers by Fernando Alonso in his McLaren and Romain Grosjean in Haas, and he’ll roll off an unlucky 13th for his final Brazilian Grand Prix. This marks Massa’s worst start at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and first time outside the top 10 since then driving for Sauber as a 20-year-old rookie in only his second ever Grand Prix in 2002, when he started 12th.
Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas missed Q3 by 0.06 of a second to lead those knocked out in Q2. He’ll start 11th, ahead of Esteban Gutierrez, Massa, the two Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr., and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer.
Hamilton led off Q3 with a staggering 1:10.860 lap and Rosberg could only counter with a 1:11.022. As noted, times improved above in the final runs.
You can watch Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix from 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN.