Perez, Alonso lead midfield F1 runners onto third row in Brazil

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Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso will fill out the third row of the grid for the start of Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix after leading Formula 1’s midfield runners in a dramatic qualifying session at Interlagos.

Following Lewis Hamilton’s shock exit in Q1 after crashing at Turn 6, Perez was able to break into the top six ordinarily filled out by the Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari runners, taking P6 for Force India.

Alonso was able to drag his McLaren-Honda to P7 overall despite being some 16 km/h off the pace in the speed trap, with straight-line speed being key at Interlagos.

Both drivers will gain a position by virtue of Red Bull racer Daniel Ricciardo’s grid penalty after an engine change earlier in the weekend, leaving them P5 and P6.

“I am very pleased with today’s result, especially given how difficult the last couple of weekends have been for me in qualifying,” Perez said.

“It was a good fight to get into Q3 because our rivals were pushing us really hard, but I managed a good lap in difficult conditions to be sixth – the maximum we could hope for today.

“I have to say ‘thank you’ to the team: we went through everything to understand how the latest upgrades on the car work because I seemed to struggle a bit in qualifying at the last few races. The engineers have worked so hard and today’s result proves our pace.

“I am pleased to be back on form and I am looking forward to the race.”

“I’m happy with P7 today, particularly because it was a difficult qualifying,” Alonso said, reflecting on his session.

“Conditions were very tricky: you see drops of rain on the visor, and that takes some confidence away even when the asphalt is completely dry. So you have to trust what the car is doing, and commit to the corner even though your mind is saying something different.

“Yesterday, we weren’t completely happy with the balance of the car and with the performance, but today the car stepped up and we were more competitive.

“P6 is a fantastic starting position for scoring points, but we know that Hamilton and Ricciardo will come back very strongly tomorrow. I’ll try to defend as much as I can even though tomorrow we expect a very sunny day and completely dry conditions, so it’s not going to be easy to hold on to our position.

“A little bit of rain is always welcome for us. We seem to be more competitive in damp conditions, but being in the top 10 tomorrow is our goal. Saturday has been great, let’s see what Sunday brings.”

The Brazilian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 10am ET on Sunday.