Max and Daniel finished in fifth and sixth respectively in qualifying for tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix with the Bulls separated by just two thousandths of a second in Q3.
With a 60% chance of rain forecast for qualifying, there was a flurry of action at the start of Q1 as a stream of cars took to the track in search of banker laps and it was Max who set the early pace, the Dutchman taking P1 with a time of 1:08.205. That put him more than two tenths clear of Kimi Räikkönen, with Lewis Hamilton third ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
Daniel’s first lap yielded a time of 1:08.544 and fifth place. The Honey Badger eventually slid to seventh place as Haas’ Kevin Magnussen slotted into fifth place ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who also improved to end the session in P6. Max, meanwhile, held P1 ahead of Räikkönen, Vettel and Hamilton.
At the lower end of the order the men in danger in the final minutes of the session were Renault’s Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Williams’ Lance Stroll and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.
With light rain beginning to fall in the closing moments of the segment, none were able to find the time needed to escape the danger zone and all five were eliminated in their pre-final final run positions.
Q2 proved to be a race against time as the rain closed in and after the first runs Bottas held top spot ahead of Hamilton, with Max and Daniel slotting in behind with respective laps of 1:08.017 and 1:08.055. Räikkönen though drove back to the pits and shed his supersofts for soft tyres.
It was a move followed by Mercedes and Red Bull, but while the Ferrari drivers set their best times on softs, it was less successful for Mercedes and for the Bulls. Neither Max nor Daniel improved on their opening supersoft runs and thus they, along with Mercedes, will start the race on supersofts, while Ferrari will start on softs. Max finished Q2 in P4 and Daniel in P6.
Vettel though was getting into trouble with the FIA. Called to the weighbridge during Q2 the Ferrari driver, itching to get in a lap, refused to turn off his engine and “after weighing, the driver drove off the scales under its own power, and by doing so, he destroyed the scales.” Vettel was immediately summoned to see the stewards.
In mixed and difficult to read conditions at the end of the session it was Charles Leclerc who impressed the most. The Sauber driver faced elimination in P11 in the final minutes of the session but a brilliant lap vaulted him to P8 and safety ahead of team-mate Marcus Ericsson and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, who was the last man through to Q3.
Eliminated at the end of Q2 were Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Racing Point Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin.
In Q3 Hamilton seized control of proceedings, setting an opening time of 1:07.301 to sit 0.073s ahead of Vettel, with Bottas third ahead of Räikkönen. Max again took P5 ahead of Daniel, though by the incredibly small margin of just 0.002s.
And that was how the order remained. Hamilton improved marginally to 1:07.281 to claim his 82nd career pole position ahead of Vettel who made a small error on his final lap. Bottas took third ahead of Räikkönen and with no improvement forthcoming, Max and Daniel qualified on row three of the grid. Seventh place went to Ericsson with Leclerc in eighth ahead of Grosjean and Gasly.
3 – Top five qualifying finishes for Max in Brazil. The Dutchman started from P4 in 2016 and 2017 and qualified in P5 this year.
11 – Daniel is likely to start from P11 tomorrow due to a penalty after sustaining damage to his turbo charger. It will be the third time he will start outside the top 10 in Brazil with the Team. He started from P19 in 2015 and finished in P11 and he started from P14 last year and finished in P6.
*grid penalty to be applied