Lewis Hamilton took the 82nd pole position of his career with fastest lap in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Mercedes driver edging Sebastian Vettel by just under a tenths of a second. Vettel hit trouble during the session, however, being summoned to the stewards’ room following an mid session incident at the weighbridge.
Race officials called the Ferrari driver to the weighbridge during Q2 but according to FIA Technical Delegate Jo Bauer’s report “the driver of car number 05, when called for weighing, refused to turn off the engine. The car was pushed onto the scales and weighed with running engine, which makes it difficult to get a stable result. After weighing the driver drove off the scales under its own power, and by doing so, he destroyed the scales.” Vettel was summoned to see the stewards at the end of Q3. vettel was later handed a reprimand and a €25,000 fine over the incident.
Earlier, ahead of Q1 circuit weather forecasters increased the likelihood of rain for the session from an earlier 40% to 60% and with ominous clouds moving towards the track a stream of cars took to the track in search of banker laps at the start of Q1.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set the early pace, with the Dutchman setting a time of 1:08.205. That put him more than two tenths clear of Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen, with Hamilton third ahead of Vettel, who eventually improved to steal third with a time identical to that of his team-mate.
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 second McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne.
With rain falling in the closing moments of the segment, none was 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, Verstappen and Ricciardo. Räikkönen, though, chose to abandon his supersoft tyres and drove back to the pits to take on soft tyres.
Vettel wanted to make a similar move but as he went to make the switch he was called to the weighbridge, leading to the incident with the FIA officials. He subsequently bolted on softs and jumped to P2, setting hbis best time on the yellow-banded compound.
Red Bull and Mercedes tried the same switch but none of their drivers could improve and thus they will start the race on supersofts, while Ferrari will start on softs.
In mixed and difficult to read conditions at the end of the session Sauber’s Charles Leclerc delivered a spectacular lap to rise from P11 and potential elimination 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 ands Daniel qualified on row three of the grid. Seventh place went to Ericsson with Leclerc in eighth ahead of Grosjean and Gasly.
2018 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:07.281 230.561
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:07.374 0.093 230.243
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:07.441 0.160 230.014
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:07.456 0.175 229.963
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:07.778 0.497 228.870
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:07.780 0.499 228.863
7 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:08.296 1.015 227.134
8 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:08.492 1.211 226.484
9 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:08.517 1.236 226.402
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:09.029 1.748 224.722
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:08.659 1.378 225.933
12 Sergio Perez Force India 1:08.741 1.460 225.664
13 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:08.770 1.489 225.569
14 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:08.834 1.553 225.359
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:10.381 3.100 220.406
16 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:09.269 1.988 223.944
17 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:09.280 1.999 223.908
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:09.402 2.121 223.515
19 Lance Stroll Williams 1:09.441 2.160 223.389
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:09.601 2.320 222.876