Mixed weather conditions caused for a spectacular and tense qualifying session resulting in a surprising pole position for Haas driver Kevin Magnussen. As Verstappen and Russell were second and third, Leclerc was left 10th thanks to a tyre strategy mistake on the Ferrari pitwall.
Interesting timing at Brazil caused for a brief shower 30 minutes ahead of qualifying, resulting in a wet track when the session kicked off. Temperatures had also dropped 10°C compared to the morning's practice session.
Most drivers were eager to go out with more rain predicted but it were again the Haas cars who led the pack. When Leclerc started his lap on intermediates he reported the track was fairly dry, and indeed there was hardly any spray except in Sector 3. Hamilton on the other hand reported it was quite slippery.
After the Ferrari duo topped the times early on, Perez and Verstappen improved on them on their first flying laps. Verstappen's time didn't stand up there for long however as Alonso shaved off another tenth as the track were clearly drying up.
As Verstappen went faster the next lap the McLaren mechanics were ready in the pits to make a switch to soft slicks. Ricciardo was the first McLaren to make the switch as Gasly had already switched and was running 1.5s off the pace the first time he crossed the finish line with his slicks.
Despite the deficit soon many others switched, including both Aston Martins, then Norris and then Norris.
And indeed, the second lap of Gasly proved a whole lot better with two purple sectors, resulting in P1, 4 tenths ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen and Alonso.
Obviously that was a big alert for everybody and teams quickly switched their cars. Three minutes from the end everybody was out on track, all on slicks.
One minute later Alonso wents fastest again but then Norris found more than a second on the Spaniard to go fastest himself. Latifi also briefly topped the times while his team mate Albon went fastest when the time stopped.
After that Alonso went fastest yet again, nearly matched by Vettel seconds later. Leclerc only just managed to get through thanks to a single flying lap on the soft after being blocked by Tsunoda on his first lap. Leclerc notably went on the team radio to say "Yuki... Yuki, it's a joke yeah".
When everybody completed their lap it was Latifi who found himself 16th and eliminated, along with Zhou, Bottas, Tsunoda and Schumacher.
Q2 then started off with a blast as well as teams were wary of more rain. Everybody went out hard immediately with Norris yet again looking on fire in the mixed conditions. 4 minutes into the session Verstappen sat second, Gasly third, Alonso fourth.
As Ocon reported some spots of rain Hamilton was still only 14th and surely praying the rain held off for a little longer.
One minute later Alonso topped the times again, nearly 2 tenths faster than Norris. Hamilton and Russell meanwhile were in the elimination zone and decided to pit for a fresh set of slicks.
When Russell was in Turn 3 on his first lap on the fresh softs the skies were obviously darkening. Half a minute and three personal best sectors later Russell moved up into third. Hamilton went 4th fastest one minute later.
Rain continued to be very mild however enabling drivers to still improve on their previous times. Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz, Norris all made improvements late in the session.
This left Albon in 11th. He was joined by Gasly, Ricciardo and both Aston Martin drivers to get out of their cars to watch the remainder of the session on television.
For Q3 it was very dark and all ten cars were queued up in the pits to get going. Magnussen headed the queue followed by Leclerc who was wondering why he was the only one on brand new intermediates. It proved a valid question and soon it turned out to be the wrong option, resulting in Leclerc pitting at the end of his flying lap to switch to softs.
Moments later Russell ended up stuck in the gravel, leading to a red flag to get his car cleared. At this time, 8 minutes and 10 seconds remained. Magnussen was on P1 followed by Verstappen, Russell, Norris, Sainz, Ocon, Alonso, Hamilton and Perez. Leclerc was of course 10th as he did not set a time.
4 minutes later the session stared again, this time with Perez the only one taking to the track with a set of fresh intermediate tyres. The track had clearly become fully wet again during the short stoppage. Perez understood it was finished and returned to the pits, leaving positions unchanged.
As Leclerc went to get an explanation on his pit wall, Hamilton still went out on intermediates but he too returned to the pits immediately. This was the moment that the Haas crew went crazy, followed by Magnussen who jumped on top of his car to celebrate a very unexpected pole position.
|1||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:13.954||1:11.410||1:11.674||26|
|2||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:13.625||1:10.881||1:11.877||23|
|4||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:13.106||1:11.377||1:12.263||25|
|6||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:14.663||1:11.587||1:12.425||22|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:13.542||1:11.394||1:12.504||21|
|9||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:13.613||1:11.456||1:15.601||26|
|11||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:14.324||1:11.631||21|
|12||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:14.371||1:11.675||24|
|13||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:13.597||1:11.678||23|
|14||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:14.931||1:12.140||21|
|15||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:14.398||1:12.210||24|
|16||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:15.095||13|
|17||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:15.197||12|
|18||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:15.486||13|
|19||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:16.264||12|
|20||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:16.361||12|