Norris edges Verstappen for Sao Paulo GP Sprint race pole

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Lando Norris had the last word in a frantic Sprint qualifying session at Interlagos, the McLaren charger edging Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 0.061s in SQ1.

Sergio Perez will head the second row from Mercedes’ George Russell, while Lewis Hamilton will line up fifth, just ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

The session was marked by Esteban Ocon’s crash in SQ1, an incident that also involved Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and which eliminated both drivers from the session.


After yesterday’s early conclusion to qualifying amid apocalyptic weather that rolled into Interlagos, conditions were back to normal for the final Sprint qualifying of the 2023 season, with 0% chances of rain.

SQ1: Sainz on top as Ocon and Alonso clashRed Bull’s contenders were the first to head out onto the track for the first 12-minute segment which everybody must approach, as a reminder, on the medium tyre.

Verstappen set the first benchmark at 1m11.888s, with all 20 cars in circulation around the track. The Dutchman was quickly knocked off the top spot by Sainz, while Hamilton slotted into second.

With 3 minutes to go, both Williams drivers were in the drop zone along with Stroll who enjoyed his best qualifying of the season on Friday.

Meanwhile, sitting on the bubble, Esteban Ocon’s push landed the Alpine driver in the barrier on the outside of Turn 3. But a replay showed the Frenchman getting out of shape in the complex and hitting the Aston Martin of Alonso who was on a slow lap but appeared to be out of harm’s way.

The Alpine was out on the spot while Alonso was able to nurse his car back to the pits for a damage assessment.

The incident brought an end to SQ1, and left Stroll, Zhou, Albon and Sargeant out of the running, along with Ocon of course.

Furthermore, Russell, Norris and Piastri were to be investigated after the session for failing to follow race director's instructions regarding maximum delta time.

SQ2: Norris fastest amid tight top-ten spread

The second segment was delayed as a result of the damage to the barrier which required a lengthy repair job.

Only 14 cars rolled out onto the pitlane, with Alonso’s AMR23 consigned to its garage for repairs.

Again, medium tyres were mandatory, and again Verstappen set the first benchmark with a 1m11.449s, four tenths quicker than he had managed in SQ1.

Perez filed into second behind his teammate , while Norris slotted in third. Sainz then claimed P2 while Leclerc clocked in fourth.

With three minutes to go, Mercedes’ drivers closed out the top-ten while five drivers who had yet to take to the track finally kicked themselves into gear.

Verstappen improved to put himself 0.132s of the field, but changes were fast and furious in the final minute of SQ2. Norris nevertheless had the last word, the McLaren driver edging Perez, Verstappen and Ricciardo in a fine fourth position.

Unfortunately, both Haas drivers failed to make the cut by the smallest of margin, as did Gasly, Bottas and non-participant Alonso.

SQ3: Norris snatches pole, Verstappen falls short

The spread between the top ten in SQ2 was just 0.455s which augured for a tight battle for the sprint shootout pole.

Drivers rotated onto the soft compound tyre for their final one-shot wonder. But it was lengthy wait until anyone ventured out for the shortest of the three segments.

Meanwhile, track temperatures had risen to 51.8°C, compared to 43.3°C at the start. As everyone single-filed onto the pitlane and made their way to the exit, Red Bull’s car were among the last ones out, contrary to earlier.

However, Verstappen elbowed his way ahead of his rivals in the pitlane.

Norris hit the front of the field in front of Piastri. Verstappen then split the McLarens while Tsunoda popped up into third ahead of Leclerc and Piastri.

Perez then slotted into third ahead of Tsunoda, as Ricciardo can only manage seventh.

Mercedes drivers were on a charge but Hamilton’s best only carried him to fifth while Russell was fourth.

But a Norris-Verstappen front row for this afternoon’s sprint is an enticing prospect. We’ll take it!

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