F1: Hamilton and Verstappen lock-out front row ahead of Sprint Race
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
For the second Sprint Race in a row, the Formula One Title contenders will start from the front-row of the grid with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton over four tenths quicker than Championship Leader Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
Despite qualifying in first ahead of tomorrow's Sprint Race, Lewis Hamilton will take another five place grid drop come Sunday's race as the Brit takes another Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).
The Reigning World Champion comes into this weekend trailing Red Bull's Max Verstappen by 19 points in the championship after the Seven Time World Champion finished behind the young Dutchman in the previous race in Mexico.
With just four race remaining, Hamilton needs to start clawing his way back and start to finish ahead of Verstappen.
Ahead of Qualifying, Hamilton set the pace in the Opening Practice session despite not being entirely happy with his set-up - the front suspension in particular. However, come the start of Q1, the problem seemed to be resolved.
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Sao Paulo has traditionally been a 'Mercedes' track with the Silver Arrows winning three of the past five races round Interlagos since 2015 - with the exception of last year when the race was not held. Setting themselves up for victory on race day's has come from strong Qualifying performances with four of the past five polesitters driving for Mercedes.
As the paddock has seen this year though, traditional tracks that suit one team in the past, has not entirely favoured them this year. One example being the United States GP where a Mercedes dominated track turned into a Red Bull and Verstappen win.
Red Bull have gone well at circuits with high altitudes having won in Austria and most recently Mexico but they've admitted that Mercedes have made gains which will level-out the playing field this weekend.
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Flying at the front in Q1, Hamilton's first run in Q2 was dissallowed due to a track violation which meant a second consecutive run but this small inconvenience failed to stop the Brit in his tracks.
After the first runs in Q3, it was first blood to Hamilton who drew a lap time of a 1:08:107 with a gap of over two and a half tenths to Verstappen, which was crucial to putting him on the front-row. After his inital lap, Verstappen complained of over-heating tyres, especially on his front tyres. Valterri Bottas was a further tenth behind the Dutchman with Sergio Perez a distant fourth - over seven tenths back from Hamilton.
With brand-new tyres, the drivers went out once more to try and better their times. Verstappen and Hamilton could not find time in the opening sector but by the time the drivers crossed the second sector split, Hamilton was finding bundles of time. A mistake at the final corner for Verstappen ended his chance to secure Pole. With a blistering final sector, Hamilton improved his time and in the end was over four tenths clear.
Speaking after qualifying, Verstappen shrugged off the comments about the blinding speed Hamilton had been able to find. Now focusing on a good Sprint Race will be the Dutchman's concern if he stays where he is, he will be promoted to Pole Position for Sunday's Race.
Behind the title rivals, Bottas and Perez stayed in their respective positions while AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly qualified a brilliant fifth for the second weekend in a row. The Frenchman is on fantastic form and a fourth place in Mexico allowed AlphaTauri to come to Brazil level on points with Alpine.
The Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc qualified in sixth and seventh and crucially ahead of rival team McLaren who had Lando Norris in eighth and Daniel Ricciardo in ninth. Fernando Alonso was the solo Alpine in the top ten.
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Sebastian Vettel was the highest-placed Aston Martin driver with the German qualifying in 12th. Team-mate Lance Stroll was eliminated in the first part of Qualifying in 16th.
For the first time as Williams team-mates, Nicholas Latifi was able to out-qualify George Russell in 17th and 18th but both were eliminated in Q1.