Verstappen grabs pole in São Paulo ahead of Leclerc

A massive storm disrupts Q3 at Interlagos


By Franck Drui

3 November 2023 - 20:18
Verstappen grabs pole in São Paulo (...)

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen grabbed pole position for Sunday’s FIA Formula 1 São Paulo Grand Prix, putting in a strong banker lap ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Aston Martin’s Lane Stroll just before a huge thunderstorm brough an early end to qualifying at Interlagos.

Rain threatened right from the start of the delayed start to Q1, with a 15-minute wait imposed so that the track could be cleaned, and when the cars finally streamed out on track it was McLaren’s Lando Norris who took top spot in the opening runs with a lap of 1:10.623. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton slotted into P2 with Verstappen taking P3 despite telling the team that his car was “jumping around like a kangaroo”.

Leclerc then went to the top of the timesheet and when Williams’ Alex Albon posted a lap of 1:10.621 in the volatile conditions to go fourth it was clear that the cut-off was going to be tight.

With two minutes remaining Verstappen, who has dropped to ninth, took to the track again and he jumped to second place at the flag with a lap of 1:10.436 behind fastest man Russell and ahead of Leclerc, Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

Ruled out at the end of the first session were AlhaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo, in P16 and P17 respectively, while the Alfa Romeo pair of Valtteri Bottas in P18 and Zhou Guanyu, P20, were separated by Williams’ Logan Sargeant.

With the skies over Interlagos growing darker, the Red Bull were first out on track at the start of Q2 and Verstappen set the pace at 1:10.162, with team-mater Sergio Pérez in P2 with a lap of 1:10.370. However, they were split by Norris, who took P2 on 1:10.323 while his McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri stole third, four hundredths of a second ahead of Pérez.

Mercedes and Ferrari then put in early second runs with Carlos Sainz moving up to P2, 0.092s behind Max, while Russell took P3 ahead of Piastri and Leclerc jumped to fifth. Norris then emerged with four minutes remaining to take P1 ahead of Verstappen thanks to a lap of 1:10.021 and Pérez, put in a good second flyer to climb to P3.

On a cooling track and with the wind increasing there were few improvements behind the top three while in the drop zone, Hülkenberg, in P11, was ruled out ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen exiting in P15 ahead of Albon, who final lap was deleted for a track limits infringement.

With the skies now black and with spots of rain falling at the start of Q3, all 10 cars were quickly on track and despite heavy gusts of wind whipping across the circuit Verstappen posted a lap of 1:10.727 to take provisional pole ahead of Leclerc who stopped the clock at 1:11.021. But when Piastri slid off track at Junçao, a clutch of drivers were slowed by yellow flags.

And there was no opportunity to improve. Within seconds the rain that had threatened throughout finally arrived. The pit lane was plunged into almost darkness and with four minutes left qualifying was red-flagged. And with the rain falling in sheets, race control ruled that the session would not be resumed. Stroll’s team-mate Fernando Alonso took fourth ahead of Hamilton and Russell, with Norris seventh ahead of Sainz and Pérez, while Piastri qualified 10th.

Pos.DriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 timeQ3 time
01 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19 1:10.436 1:10.162 1:10.727
02 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1:10.472 1:10.303 1:11.021
03 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:10.551 1:10.375 1:11.344
04 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:10.557 1:10.237 1:11.387
05 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1:10.604 1:10.266 1:11.469
06 George Russell Mercedes W14 1:10.340 1:10.316 1:11.590
07 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:10.623 1:10.021 1:11.987
08 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF-23 1:10.624 1:10.254 1:11.989
09 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19 1:10.668 1:10.219 1:12.321
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:10.519 1:10.330 -:—.---
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 Nico Hülkenberg Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:10.475 1:10.547
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A523 1:10.763 1:10.562
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault A523 1:10.793 1:10.567
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:10.602 1:10.723
15 Alex Albon Williams Mercedes FW45 1:10.621 1:10.840
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:10.837
17 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:10.843
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:10.955
19 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes FW45 1:11.035
20 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:11.275

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