Dominant all season already, Max Verstappen found the perfect backing from his Red Bull team making their call in qualifying for the São Paulo Grand Prix with timing and judgment. He took pole by making the most of only a single lap as heavy rain ended the session at Interlagos.
Verstappen might well have been beaten, not least by the McLaren of Lando Norris who looked outstandingly quick but managed only seventh. Yet on the tricky test of the Autódromo José Carlos Pace when Red Bull pushed the world champion to set a good time before a deluge descended, it paid off.
“We lined up to go out for Q3 and you could see the sky was just black,” Verstappen said. “Throughout the lap the rain and wind were coming in, the car was sliding all over the place I was shouting at the team over the radio but they told me to keep pushing. I have never experienced something like that, you could see the weather was quite extreme but it makes it quite interesting for Sunday.”
He beat the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc into second, while Aston Martin also did well out of the weather in setting early times with Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso in third and fourth. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were in fifth and sixth for Mercedes but Russell will take a two-place grid penalty for driving slowly in the pit exit.
With ominous, dark clouds encircling the track in Q3 and rain threatening, a strong opening lap in the final session was essential. Verstappen was sent out straightaway and despite thinking it was almost undriveable such was the high wind, the team insisted he complete the lap and he set the pace with a 1min 10.727sec time, in front of Leclerc and Stroll. They completed their laps just as the heavens opened which cost the remaining drivers. The session was red-flagged and with only four minutes remaining, was not restarted.
Elsewhere in Brazil the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has said he has spoken to Sir Jim Ratcliffe about joining his bid to purchase a stake in Manchester United. Ratcliffe has made an offer to buy a 25% stake in the team from the Glazer family. He is a one-third shareholder in the Mercedes team alongside Wolff and Mercedes-Benz.
“Jim has shared the trajectory with me,” said Wolff. “I very much respect his values and we trust each other. If we felt it would make sense to be part of the investment group then I would certainly look at it.”
Norris’s McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri spun off and finished in 10th and Carlos Sainz was eighth for Ferrari. Sergio Pérez was ninth for Red Bull.
Nico Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen were in 11th and 14th for Haas, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in 12th and 13th for Alpine but both have two-place grid penalties for driving slowly in the pit exit. Alex Albon was in 15th for Williams.
skip past newsletter promotion
Sign up to The Recap
Free weekly newsletter
The best of our sports journalism from the past seven days and a heads-up on the weekend’s action
after newsletter promotion
Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo were in 16th and 17th for AlphaTauri, Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou 18th and 20th for Alfa Romeo, and Logan Sargeant in 19th for Williams.