Valtteri Bottas clinches pole position for the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Narrow margins between Mercedes’ Flying Finn and Ferrari’s German decided pole position as the 2017 Formula One champion crashed in Q1 having not set a time. Leaving Lewis Hamilton at the rear of the field, with his Silver Arrows team-mate clinching pole over Vettel by just four-hundredths of a second.
Lewis crashing in Q1 was the first time the Briton has finished qualifying in the first stage in 27 Grand Prix – dating back to the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix when he opted not to qualify having taken new engines into his pool.
Notably, the Belgian Grand Prix was also the race at which Esteban Ocon made his debut for Manor. The first race of the Frenchman’s record run of consecutively seeing the chequered flag. The only driver other than Hamilton to do so in every race in 2017.
But neither Hamilton, or Ocon, would see out qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix. A battle that went through the entirity of qualifying as Vettel lead Ferrari’s charge for pole against the remaining Mercedes.
A fight won by Bottas with his final lap of the day. Setting a new absolute track record for the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace despite spots of rain begining to fall in Sao Paulo.
Previously, the record 1:09.822 absolute track record was held by Rubens Barrichello having been set 13 years ago during qualifying for the ’04 race. The race which also holds the track record, a 1:11.473 set by Juan Pablo Montoya.
Before a time even hit the board, the red flags were out and so was the champion. As Lewis Hamilton hit the wall, taking the front left tyre away from his Mercedes after the rear stepped out and control was lost.
Without a time set, Hamilton will now follow his championship-winning drive from the back of the field in Mexico with a potential charge through the field in Brazil. Starting right at the back, in P20, behind drivers like Lance Stroll and the two Toro Rosso’s whom all carried grid penalties into qualifying.
The red flag stoppage brought about by Hamilton crashing also came to the aid of the Canadian that retired in final practice with a loss of power. As Williams gained time in their rebuild process that otherwise would have ticked away as others lapped freely.
Seven-minutes after Hamilton collided with the barrier at Turn 6, the session returned to green and the field flocked out of the pits once more comfortably favouring the red-walled Pirelli supersoft tyres. Though, Ferrari contrasted the norm and joined the queue with the yellow-walled soft tyres fitted.
Ahead of the field, Nico Hulkenberg posted the first time of the session on a 1:10.947. A benchmark swiftly bettered by Ocon and Sainz, while the soft tyre running Finn of Kimi Raikkonen pulled a further half second clear across the short Interlagos lap.
Further gains were soon made at the tip of the field with Bottas and Verstappen nestling ahead with the softer slick tyres. But even with Bottas gaining again, Raikkonen ended the 18-minute stage fastest of all by a margin of just four-hundredths.
In contrast, while Raikkonen went fastest, Hartley was struggling as he sat in the drop zone with the non-running Hamilton. “A bit of a scruffy lap,” came his radio message as he returned to the pits needing close to a second to go through.
Lance Stroll, now out of the pits, was also struggling as he fought with his oversteering Williams to put a clean lap together. But trying too hard through the Senna-S sent the 2017 rookie off-line and out of qualifying, while his out-going team-mate and home favourite rocketed to fourth place in his farewell home Grand Prix.
Also improving late on was the Haas duo. With Magnussen improving but maintaining 14th place. While Romain Grosjean negated his missing T-Wing to climb to what was seventh place.
Behind Magnussen snuck in Brendon Hartley as the Kiwi and recently crowned WEC champion found the time needed to edge the drop. Putting his team-mate, Pierre Gasly, out of qualifying.
From 20 to 15, the field needed to lose five more drivers in 15-minutes before the pole position shoot-out for the penultimate round could begin. Begining with the departure of Brendon Hartley, who did not run in Q2 given the Kiwi carries grid penalties that tie him to the back of the grid.
One of the five down, another could have fallen shortly into the stage as Max Verstappen stopped at pit entry without his engine running.
Max had been forced to stop as he and the McLaren of Alonso ahead spotted a red light indicating one must pull aside for a random weight check. But with it unclear who it was for, both stopped and Max’s engine stalled.
Verstappen had, however, already posted a time strong enough to go through to Q3 with. And after a push from his mechanics, was fired up again to return later on. While Vandoorne headed the drop zone drivers with Hulkenberg and the Haas.
Grosjean, though, was first to improve as he sought after the team’s first Q3 since the British Grand Prix. Initially taking P11 as he began his final run, before improving again with his final attempt to move up to ninth place on a 1:09.879.
Q3 would not be, however, as Hulkenberg pipped ahead before Sainz followed suit. Pushing Grosjean out of the top-10 and out of qualifying alongside Magnussen.
Esteban Ocon joined his compatriot out of qualifying in 11th place. As, despite improving to 1:09.830, he could not better the cut.
Meanwhile, Vettel returned to the track to post the new benchmark time. Crossing the line on a 1:08.494.
Half the field slashed, the pole position shoot-out began with the Valtteri Bottas initially topping the 12-minute session. Crossing the line half a tenth up on Vettel’s Q2 best.
Max Verstappen then followed the Finn across the line, albeit half a second slower. Taking what was second place, before Vettel hit home another track record to snatch provisional pole from the remaining Mercedes by eight-hundredhts of a second.
Kimi Raikkonen came home soon after for third place. Moving ahead of the Red Bull’s despite lapping four-tenths down on his team-mate’s best having a used a set of supers that had already been worn.
Meanwhile, tenth-placed Felipe Massa returned to the pits without posting a time. Having slid through Turn 6 just as Hamilton did, but able to prevent a collision with the barrier.
Rain then began to spot around Interlagos, but not strong enough to dampen the track and call time on the quest for pole.
Begining with the provisional-pole man as Sebastian chased consecutive pole positons. This time, he would not go on to improve in his fight with Valtteri, crossing the line just down on his best after “chickening” the opening bend and never recovering.
As for Bottas, the remaining Silver Arrows driver searched for the team’s 87th pole in Formula One. His third P1, secured by just four-hundredhts of a second.
Raikkonen was able to improve on his previous best to reduce his gap to the front to two-tenths of a second. Bettering the best efforts of Red Bull’s Verstappen by four-tenths, with the soft-tyre starting Ricciardo fifth fastest but with a grid penalty in his pocket.
Ricciardo’s penalty will promote Fernando Alonso to sixth place, having finished the day behind Sergio Perez and the top three teams. A result he celebrated with “Yes! Yes!” over the team’s radio on his return lap.
|4||33||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:09.820||1:09.050||1:08.925||18|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:09.828||1:09.533||1:09.330||19|
|6||11||Sergio Perez||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:10.145||1:09.760||1:09.598||21|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||MCLAREN HONDA||1:10.172||1:09.593||1:09.617||17|
|10||19||Felipe Massa||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:09.789||1:09.612||1:09.841||16|
|11||31||Esteban Ocon||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:10.168||1:09.830||17|
|12||8||Romain Grosjean||HAAS FERRARI||1:10.148||1:09.879||16|
|13||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||MCLAREN HONDA||1:10.286||1:10.116||15|
|14||20||Kevin Magnussen||HAAS FERRARI||1:10.521||1:10.154||18|
|15||28||Brendon Hartley||TORO ROSSO||1:10.625||DNS||15|
|16||94||Pascal Wehrlein||SAUBER FERRARI||1:10.678||12|
|17||10||Pierre Gasly||TORO ROSSO||1:10.686||10|
|18||18||Lance Stroll||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:10.776||8|
|19||9||Marcus Ericsson||SAUBER FERRARI||1:10.875||12|