Kevin Magnussen took a sensational maiden Formula 1 pole position for himself and his Haas team at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with a perfectly timed qualifying lap on slicks before rain soaked the Interlagos circuit.
Q3 started with rain looming on the radar, and nine of the 10 cars in the shootout lined up at pit exit on the soft tire to bank a lap before the heavens opened.
Magnussen was the first in the queue to take to the damp track in the drizzle, and his position on track paid dividends as conditions worsened, putting him on provisional pole with a 0.203s margin ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
But the Dane couldn’t celebrate yet. The rain wasn’t intensifying, and some drivers were setting personal-best sectors at the start of their second tours.
One of them was George Russell, but the Mercedes racer made a crucial mistake under braking for Turn 4. He locked up and skipped across the gravel, and in his haste to spin his car back around to rejoin the track, he beached his rear tires.
The incident triggered a red flag — and during the suspension the rain arrived and soaked the track. The pit lane re-opened a few minutes early, but only Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton bothered to sample it on intermediate tires. It was clearly too slow to improve on the times already set, locking in pole for Magnussen
“I don’t know what to say,” he admitted in astonishment. “The team put me out on track at exactly the right moment — we were the first out in the pit lane — I did a decent lap and we’re on pole.
“It’s incredible. Thank you to Gene Haas and Guenther (Steiner) and the whole team for this opportunity. I got back here after a year out and it’s been an amazing journey.”
K-MAG ON POLE!!!
Can you believe it?!#F1 #BrazilGP pic.twitter.com/0RZgq4gV1P
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 11, 2022
His mind clearly racing, Magnussen said he had only one strategy in mind for the sprint.
“Maximum attack. Let’s go for something funny.”
Verstappen said he had the pace to take pole from Magnussen in the conditions but made a mistake that ultimately cost him too much time on his sole lap.
“I locked up into Turn 8 and that of course cost me pole today,” he said. “Compared to the proper opposition for tomorrow it’s looking good.
“In these conditions anything can happen, and we’re still up front, so that’s what’s most important.”
Russell qualified third despite beaching his car and will be aiming to move onto the front row for the grand prix.
“Massive congrats to Kevin,” he said. “What an awesome job he did and Haas, and they deserve it for all the effort they’ve been putting in. P3 is not necessarily where we want to be but a good place to start.”
Lando Norris will line up alongside him on the second row in fourth. Carlos Sainz was fifth for Ferrari ahead of Alpine teammates Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, their positions relative to Norris potentially crucial in their teams’ fight for fourth.
Hamilton was eighth after being last out of pit lane at the start of the session, putting him ahead of Perez –who was balked by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari on his sole lap.
Leclerc didn’t set a time after gambling on the intermediate tire out of pit lane while the other nine cars in Q1 used slicks. The Monegasque did little more than get in the way on the barely damp circuit before pitting for slicks, but the red flag prevented him from setting a time.
Alex Albon missed out on a shot at the top 10 by just 0.044s and will line up 11th for the sprint ahead of Pierre Gasly.
Sebastian Vettel will start 13th after beating Daniel Ricciardo to the place after the Australian ran out of opportunities to set a lap on soft tires before rain arrived and slowed down the track. Lance Stroll was knocked out 15th after struggling to string together a lap in the damp.
Nicholas Latifi was one the early adopters of slicks tires in the still damp Q1, but it wasn’t enough to save him from an early elimination in 16th, missing the cut by 0.164s.
Zhou Guanyu beat Alfa Romeo teammate Valtteri Bottas, who admitted to his team that he’d been too cautious in picking the switch from intermediates to softs.
Yuki Tsunoda twice drew the ire of Leclerc for getting in the Ferrari’s way in Q1 and ended up trailing home 19th for the session ahead of Mick Schumacher, who was mystified by his lack of pace in the second Haas.