Pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix secured by Lewis Hamilton.
The Brazilian GP, a race Hamilton has never won but has won a title at and lost a title at and will start the 2016 race from pole position. Edging out his Mercedes team-mate by a tenth of a second, when his German stablemate can take the title this weekend with a win on Sunday.
Qualifying was no different, with just one-tenth of a second deciding pole.
The battle to be best of the rest remained a tight contest, too. With Ferrari and Red Bull jousting for third on the grid.
For Williams, however, their strong practice pace failed to present a challenge as Force India came out fighting. With Bottas and Massa eliminated in Q2 at Felipe’s final home Grand Prix.
With the threat of rain sitting at 70% for qualifying, Hamilton and Mercedes were straight out of the pits when the light went green. Sitting ahead of his team-mate in the pit lane with a minute to go.
Rosberg remained behind Hamilton on the timing screen as well, even after going faster through the opening sector. But the narrow lead Rosberg held through sector one was whipped away in sector two as Hamilton edged ahead. Crossing the line with three-tenths of a second splitting Hamilton and Rosberg.
Hamilton’s three-tenths of a second lead even came after catching the rear of Ricciardo at the start of the final sector. But the marginal time lost was handed back to Hamilton via the tow he received as they sprinted up the hill.
Lots of early times were also being posted with Max Verstappen leading the rest for third place. Edging Raikkonen and Massa as Alonso popped up just behind Bottas and leading Grosjean.
Vettel meanwhile was still in the pits as Ferrari finished up resolving a hydraulic pressure problem that presented itself while they changed a few parts for qualifying and the race.
The trouble Ferrari faced failed to stop Vettel from flying straight away, however, as he ended his maiden qualifying run in fifth place – six-tenths down on Hamilton and six-hundredths down on Raikkonen
Kimi also reported “now it rains a bit more heavy,” as he returned to the pits. But Raikkonen’s perception of the conditions was not representable in the times still being posted.
Jenson Button certainly was not in need of more rain as he sat inside the drop zone, over half a second off his team-mate’s pace. But with his McLaren continuing to understeer and lock up, Jenson was unable to improve and was out of qualifying.
Jenson’s time in qualifying came to an end alongside Nasr, Ericsson, Wehrlein, Ocon and Magnussen. With the Sauber drivers duelling over P20 before Kevin could only improve from last to go P18.
When Q2 began, the men at the front of the field remained the same as Hamilton and Rosberg headed straight out.
Once again, as well, it was Rosberg ahead through the first sector. Narrowly bettering Hamilton by a tenth of second. But the rest of the lap fell in Hamilton’s lap, with Lewis the man holding a one-tenth lead over his team-mate.
Verstappen, too, had the lead over his team-mate. While at Ferrari, it was Vettel leading Raikkonen despite the German running heavily over the kerb at the final corner as he struggled with the front of his car.
All the while, Williams’ day began to take a backwards step. With Alonso initially splitting Massa and Bottas, before the Force India duo came out and pushed Massa out of the top 10.
Felipe improving to ninth turned out not to affect his standing, either. Instantly pushed back to 10th by Hulkenberg and 11th by Gutierrez. While Alonso improved to take a Q3 slot.
Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean leaving it late as well meant the Williams drivers could not reply to their late times. As Perez went eighth and Grosjean ninth, putting both Williams drivers out of qualifying.
Session three and leading again, Hamilton exited the pits onto an empty Interlagos circuit for the penultimate time. But once again, down in the first sector to Rosberg.
The short burst from start line to turn four repeatedly became Rosberg’s sector. Always up on the reigning champion.
But while Rosberg held the first sector, Hamilton held the middle of the track. Turning a three-thousandths of a second deficit into a one-tenth lead, before Rosberg lost more time in the final sector to cross the line down again.
Hamilton also becoming the first man inside the 1:10’s during qualifying. Even with a narrow gap holding Hamilton ahead of Rosberg.
Narrow margins also separated Red Bull and Ferrari. As Verstappen held the early lead over Vettel, Ricciardo and Raikkonen with just one-tenth of a second between the four.
Raikkonen, however, believed he lost at least two-tenths of a second to his rivals on the climb up the hill alone after using a different line to the Mercedes’ out of the final corner.
As the temperature dropped and the wind picked up, Hamilton headed back out for the final time – leading Rosberg onto the circuit again. Once again, down in the first sector.
Hamilton had even set a new fastest overall time in the first sector, but Rosberg bettered Lewis by a tenth of a second. Something Nico could not do in sector two as Hamilton set another purple zone to edge away.
Crossing the line without improving in sector three, Hamilton was still able to lower his benchmark by a tenth of a second. An important improvement as Rosberg followed him home, improving on his time to end the day just one tenth down.
Raikkonen also improved on his previous best to be best of the rest, edging Verstappen by a tenth and Vettel by a further one-hundredth of a second.
Further back, Hulkenberg’s first lap may have left him three-tenths down on Alonso but a tenth up on Perez. Yet final run gains by the Silverstone team pushed Alonso down to 10th. With Grosjean’s only Q3 time enough to secure seventh.
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1’11.485||0.749|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1’11.540||0.804|
|8||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1’12.104||1.368|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India||1’12.165||1.429|
|14||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’12.726||1.99|
|15||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||1’12.920||2.184|