Valtteri Bottas takes pole in Brazil after Lewis Hamilton crashes out

Valtteri Bottas beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to pole position with a last-gasp effort in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix, after newly-crowned Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton crashed out in the first session.
Valtteri Bottas

Bottas looks back on form in Brazil following his mid-season slump, and made the most of Mercedes teammate Hamilton’s absence in Q3 to score his third career pole in F1. Vettel had sat on provisional pole following the first runs in Q3, but Bottas snatched the position from under the German’s nose by just 0.038s with a 1:08.322 — the fastest ever lap around Interlagos.

 The Finn will start from the best possible position to try and close the 15-point gap to Vettel in the battle over second place in the championship, but he will have to do it without Hamilton’s help — at least at the start of the race — with the Briton expected to start last after his shock exit in Q1.

Hamilton brought out the red flags just five minutes into Q1 when he crashed at Ferradura on his first flying lap. The recently-crowned four-time world champion lost the rear end of his Mercedes W08 midway through the corner, before spinning out and slamming into the barriers, causing significant damage to his front left suspension.

It is the first time since China last year that Hamilton has failed to set a lap time in Q1. Hamilton’s absence threw the fight for pole wide open, following a dominant start to the weekend for Mercedes, with the reigning world champions topping all three practice sessions heading into qualifying.

Kimi Raikkonen was 0.2s further back from Vettel and will start from third, ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who recovered well from a difficult final practice to claim fourth on the grid with a time just 0.5s off pole. Daniel Ricciardo set the fifth fastest time but will drop ten places from his qualifying position, having been forced to change his MGU-H heading into this weekend’s race following his failure in Mexico.

That will promote Sergio Perez — who qualified sixth as the sole-remaining Force India runner in Q3 — to fifth place, while Fernando Alonso is set to start from sixth after qualifying seventh. The Spaniard impressed in what was an encouraging day for McLaren to make it into Q3 for the seventh time this year.

Behind Alonso came the Renault pair of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz, as the French manufacturer recovered from a low-key Friday to get both drivers into Q3. A strong qualifying result could prove crucial for the team if it can remain there come the end of Sunday’s 71-lap race, with Renault sitting just five points behind Toro Rosso in the battle for sixth place in the constructors’ championship. Home favourite Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten in what is expected to be his final Brazilian Grand Prix, following his recent retirement announcement.

Esteban Ocon was another shock absentee from Q3 as he failed to make it through to the final part of qualifying for the first time since Singapore, while Romain Grosjean was 12th fastest, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne and Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen. Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley did not set a time and was 15th, but the New Zealander — who turned 28 on Friday — is set to drop towards the back of the grid once his engine penalty is applied.

The opening segment of qualifying resumed after a 10-minute stoppage followin Hamilton’s crash, which allowed Lance Stroll to join the session with ten minutes remaining, after Williams successfully fixed his car following his stoppage in final practice. Stroll could only manage the 18th fastest time and will serve a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change following his stoppage in final practice.

Pascal Wehrlein missed out on a spot in Q2 by just 0.1s, but was able to out-qualify the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman set the 17th fastest time but is also set to take a penalty for changing his MGU-H. Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the slowest driver to set a time in 19th, finishing 0.2s down on teammate Wehrlein.