Max Verstappen has unfinished business at Interlagos after seeing victory slip through his fingers when he collided with backmarker Esteban Ocon last year. But the Red Bull man took the first step in righting that wrong on Saturday by dominating qualifying for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix…
Verstappen spoke confidently about his and Red Bull chances this weekend on Thursday in Sao Paulo, and demonstrated on Friday that his positivity was well-founded as he showed a strong pace in both wet and dry conditions on various fuel loads.
And he followed through on that promise in qualifying, the Dutchman going quickest in each of the three segments and fending off a stern challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who had to settle for second, to take his second career pole – and engine supplier Honda’s first in Brazil since 1991.
Mercedes appeared to be missing a bit of pace as qualifying wore on, but newly-crowned six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton found something on his final run to at least haul himself up to third. Charles Leclerc ended up fourth quickest but will start 14th on the mediums because of a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change.
Valtteri Bottas, who won last time out in Austin, ended up fifth, just under a tenth ahead of the second Red Bull of Alexander Albon. Pierre Gasly, the only driver outside of the big three teams to make it into Q3 for the fourth successive race, was best of the rest in seventh.
Haas has had a miserable time of it of late, but the American team finally had something to smile about as both cars made it into the top 10 for the first time since Spain – with Romain Grosjean eighth and Kevin Magnussen 10th, the duo separated by Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo.
But the day belonged to Red Bull, whose boss Christian Horner was celebrating his birthday and Verstappen. Can he convert it this time around, though? History is on his side, with the pole-sitter having won five of the last six Brazilian Grands Prix…