Magnussen scores shock sprint pole in wet Brazil qualifying

Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team celebrates his pole position in the pits. 11.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Qualifying
© XPB 

Haas' Kevin Magnussen claimed his maiden Formula 1 pole position for tomorrow's Brazilian sprint race, putting in a brilliant, perfectly timed lap in changeable wet conditions at Interlagos.

Marking his 100th appearance with the team, Magnussen set a time of 1:11.674s just as the rain which had just eased off started to pick up again, making it impossible for Red Bull's Max Verstappen to oust the Dane from pole.

Mercedes' George Russell will start from third despite spinning off on a subsequent lap and getting beached in the gravel, triggering a red flag while McLaren's Lando Norris will start alongside his compatriot, with Carlos Sainz fifth for Ferrari followed by Alpine pair Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.

Coming into the penultimate race of the 2022 season, there had been a definite possibility of rain in Sao Paulo playing a role in the Brazilian Grand Prix. But it had stayed dry for first practice on Friday, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez topping the session from Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, and their respective team mates Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz close behind on the timing screens. Including Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, just two tenths had covered the top six.

But in the two and a half hours between the end of FP1 and the start of qualifying, the rain had moved in and given the Autódromo José Carlos Pace a good soaking making that first session essentially moot. Although the rain had stopped and the track was quickly drying up, more precipitation was due to move in during qualifying, meaning the pressure was on.

Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing FW44. 11.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Qualifying

Q1: Norris quickest on drying track as Ricciardo squeezes through on the bubble

Leclerc was quick to head out and set a banker lap on intermediates, clocking in with a time of 1:19.191s which was four tenths quicker than Aston Martin's Lance Stroll. Lando Norris wasn't able to catch the Ferrari with his first flier in the McLaren, and the AlphaTauri drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda also narrowly missed out on a chance of taking the top spot with their runs. Having given the others a chance to catch him, Leclerc then extended his lead further by setting a new lap time of 1:18.723s keeping him 0.165s ahead of Sainz' first run.

Verstappen soon breezed to the front with a time of 1:18.495s, but Russell was only quick enough for sixth and Hamilton's first lap was an even bigger disappointment, although he was fully up to speed his next run. The track was clearly drying fast meaning that the lap times were dropping with every passing minute, allowing Fernando Alonso to move ahead of Verstappen by 0.083s. The Red Bull driver immediately snatched back control by two tenths, only to then lose the top spot to Hamilton's latest run by a tenth and a half.

It was clear that the time for slick tyres was rapidly approaching. Gasly was the first to pit for a set of softs but the way he slithered through the out lap gave others pause for concern before they did finally grudgingly follow suit. Gasly's second lap was proof that this was indeed the right call, as he leapt to the top by four tenths from Hamilton - proving in the process that literally no one was safe from the risk of elimination at this point.

Gasly shaved off more time with a new lap of 1:16.557s putting him ahead of Norris, Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo. Russell had also moved onto the slicks and went second quickest, but then Alonso went fastest of all - until he was almost immediately deposed by Nicholas Latifi (yes, you read that right). It had been a mad scramble in the pit lane for drivers leaving it late to make their change to the slicks, with a particularly sluggish service at Ferrari after they double stacked their drivers putting Leclerc and Sainz on the back foot.

Albon was next to go to the top of the timings with a lap of 1:14.324s as the chequered flag came out. By the time everyone else finished their final laps, he had been pushed down to eighth - but nonetheless, safely through to Q2. Norris ended up with the top time ahead of Hamilton and Alonso, with Sebastian Vettel fourth ahead of Perez and Verstappen.

Both Ferraris had survived the cut, but Leclerc and Sainz were only P12 and P14. Ricciardo found himself on the bubble in 15th but was also safely through, while the five drivers who failed to make it through were Latifi, Zhou Guanyu, Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher who was slowest of all.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL36. 11.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Qualifying

Q2: Verstappen back in charge, Hamilton and Ocon cut it fine as rain returns

There was a definite sense of urgency among the teams and no time to waste in getting the cars back out on track as soon as Q2 got underway, with the weather radar suggesting more showers were imminent.

Norris was once again quick to set a strong lap time of 1:11.571s, a tenth ahead of Verstappen followed by Gasly, Alonso, Leclerc and Albon who was sixth in the Williams. Ocon was already reporting rain on his visor although the Alpine pit wall said it wasn't able to confirm that with the weather systems. The top three teams were all on the same slicks they had used in Q1, and that also accounted for Russell finding himself in 13th and Hamilton slowest of the 15 drivers by some margin after the first runs.

A new flurry of flying laps saw Verstappen go top with a time of 1:11.318s followed by Alonso, Leclerc, Norris, Gasly and Haas' Kevin Magnussen. Everyone agreed that the rain was picking up and the skies were looking increasingly dark, leaving Mercedes in a potentially sticky position if the track got too wet and slippery before they could get back out. Once they were fitted with fresh tyres, Russell was able to pop up to third and Hamilton took up residence just behind him in fourth.

Perez and Sainz had been left on the bubble at the bottom of the top ten, with Ocon, Albon, Vettel, Ricciardo and Stroll all provisionally eliminated. Sainz confirmed over the Ferrari team radio that it was now properly raining, making it difficult - but not yet entirely impossible - to extract any more time. As the clock counted down, improvements from Perez, Sainz and Magnussen meant Hamilton found himself pushed further and further down to ninth place and at real risk of falling short.

When the chequered flag came out, Verstappen ended up on top by 0.009s from Sainz with Leclerc third ahead of Russell. Norris, Alonso, Magnussen and Perez were also through together with Hamilton and Ocon. Eliminated were Albon, Gasly, Vettel, Ricciardo and Stroll.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75, the only driver on intermediate tyres in Q3. 11.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Qualifying

Q3: Magnussen snatches stunning surprise pole for Haas after red flag for Russell

"Rain is incoming", Verstappen was warned as he waited at the end of pit lane for the final round to get underway. Curiously, Leclerc was the only driver to have reverted to intermediates while everyone else remained on slicks. He seemed to realise his mistake and gesticulated at the pit wall as he came past, but it was too late to do anything about it, and the Ferrari was slowest of anyone on track before aborted his run.

Meanwhile Magnussen had set an impressive time of 1:11.674s in the Haas, but surely someone would knock him off provisional pole? "You're kidding. You're kidding," he said when told his position by his race engineer. One by one, the other drivers all tried to go quicker - and failed. The Dane was two tenths quicker than Verstappen, with Russell third before the Mercedes slid off and got beached in the deep gravel at turn 4 to trigger a red flag.

The clock had stopped, but the rain - now a light drizzle - continued to fall during the hiatus with no cars out there maintaining a dry line. When the session finally resumed, Perez was forced to take a set of inters for a single reconnaissance lap while all the other drivers sat in the team garages hoping that the conditions would improve in time to give them a chance at depose Magnussen. Meanwhile the Dane was hoping for exactly the opposite.

When Perez returned to the pits having proved that it was too wet to make a viable run, the fans in the grandstand caught on to the possibility of a spectacular upset pole for Magnussen and began to cheer wildly. Hamilton was next to tip-toe out on inters, but he was also soon back in having reached the same conclusion as Perez. But it was only when the clock finally ran down did the jubilation really begin in the Haas garage.

It means Saturday's sprint race will see Magnussen take up his maiden pole position with Verstappen alongside him on the front row, followed by Russell and Norris on row two. Sainz will start from fifth despite his engine penalty for Sunday, with Alpine duo Ocon and Alonso ahead of Hamilton, Perez and a very unhappy Leclerc.

Pole position for Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas. 11.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Qualifying

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