Kevin Magnussen became the 106th Formula 1 driver to take pole position, and will start the Sprint Race in Sao Paulo from first on the grid.
Magnussen did a great job to put in a decent banker lap at the start of Q3 while the drivers and teams were in a race with time and rain to set their fastest times.
The Dane however got some help – he did well on his own for the record – from George Russell who binned his Mercedes at Turn 4 bringing out the Red Flag, and by the time the session was restarted and the Mercedes was collected, the rain was back meaning no one could improve.
Max Verstappen was second fastest in the Red Bull over two tenths slower than Magnussen, as Russell was third fastest despite his crash.
The biggest loser had to be Charles Leclerc, as Ferrari’s decision to send him out on Intermediates back fired when he failed to set a time and while he switched to dry tyres for another shot, he was caught out by the rain and the Red Flag.
Nothing can be taken away from Magnussen as he set the best lap on the right time while Verstappen and others didn’t. What a great achievement for the Dane upon his return to F1 this year after one season away.
“I don’t know what to say,” Magnussen said after qualifying. “The team put me out on the track on the exact right moment. We were the first out in the pitlane and did a pretty decent lap and we are on pole.
“It is incredible,” he added. “Thank you to Gene Haas and Guenther and the whole team for this opportunity. It has just been an amazing journey. It is incredible, thank you.”
As for the game plan for the Sprint Race, the Haas driver said: “Maximum attack, let’s go for something funny.”
It was not luck!
Haas team boss Guenther Steiner hailed a great team performance; he said: “This is the sort of thing that you’re scared to dream about. The whole team have been trying hard for seven years, circumstances let us pull this one off.
“It was not luck, it was well-deserved from the driver and from the team, being on the right tyres at the right time and Kevin putting a lap down when it was needed.
“He was first out, you could say he had an advantage but also he had a disadvantage as he had nobody to gauge things from, he was on his own,” he explained.
“Kevin deserves a lot. The whole team deserves this and he’s part of the team. We always work hard, we never give up and we keep on fighting,” Steiner concluded.
Verstappen rued a mistake on his hot lap, which he claims cost him pole. He said: “If we knew it was going to be that one lap because of the potential rain.
“I was the fourth or fifth car and I locked up into Trun 8 which cost me pole today,” he revealed. “Still, compared to the proper opposition tomorrow it is looking good and in these conditions anything can happen.
“We are still at the front. We just stayed calm from Q1 to Q2, then Q3 was where it was a bit more of a lottery but we are still on the front row,” the double F1 Champion concluded.
Third placed Russell added: “Firstly, happy to be P3 and congrats to Kevin. What an awesome job he did and Haas, they truly deserve it for all the efforts they have been putting in.
“P3, not necessarily where we wanted to be but a very good place to be starting for tomorrow’s sprint race,” he admitted. “I think it is our best shot at finishing ahead of Max and Red Bull if there are some mixed conditions.
“I think we are ready for a good couple of races,” the young Briton concluded.
Red Bull informed Max Verstappen that rain was incoming, while Charles Leclerc was the only driver to go out of the pits on Intermediate tyres, which seemed to be the wrong choice as the Monegasque returned for dry tyres immediately.
With eight minutes remaining from Q3, George Russell went off track at Turn 4 and got his Mercedes beached triggering a Red Flag. Kevin Magnussen was the fastest driver when the session was stopped.
Charles Leclerc on the other hand was tenth fastest – no time set – after his disastrous first flying lap on Intermediates, the wrong tyre to start Q3 with.
In the end Haas and Magnussen’s prayers were answered and F1 had a new polesitter, and the fans should be in for a treat at the start of the Sprint Race as two of the most aggressive drivers on the grid – Magnussen and Verstappen – will be starting from the first row.
Magnussen’s best time was a 1:11.674, 0.203s faster than Verstappen in second, and 0.385s faster than Russell in third.
Behind the top three, Lando Norris was a superb fourth, the Briton strongly showing throughout qualifying despite recently recovering from food poisoning. He was 0.589s off pole.
Carlos Sainz was fifth fastest for Ferrari, 0.683s off the pace, and ahead of Esteban Ocon, sixth for Alpine and 0.068s behind the Spaniard.
Fernando Alonso will start the Sprint from seventh, as he qualified 0.079s behind his teammate, while his former McLaren teammate, Lewis Hamilton was eighth fastest, 0.107s behind the Spaniard.
Sergio Perez was ninth fastest in the #11 Red Bull, ahead of the guy he is fighting for runner up position in the F1 Drivers’ Championship Charles Leclerc. Perez was 3.927s away from the Magnussen’s session topping time.
Leclerc on the other hand was on the receiving end of another poor decision making from the Ferrari pit wall as he was sent out on Intermediates in Q3. He did not set a time in Q3.
Q2 started in conditions dry enough for drivers to venture out on dry Softs tyres hoping to put in a banker lap before the rain returns and track conditions worsen.
The rain did not seem to be quite intense as drivers were able to improve their times with their fresh tyres, as the timing screens kept changing towards the dying moments of Q2.
With Q2 done, Max Verstappen was fastest, 0.009s ahead of Carlos Sainz, as Charles Leclerc as third fastest, 0.060s behind his teammate.
Failing to make it into Q3, Alex Albon was 11th fastest missing the cut by 0.044s, and was followed by Pierre Gasly, 12th for AlphaTauri, also 0.044s behind the Canadian.
Sebastian Vettel missed out on Q3, with an error on his final lap as conditions worsened, the German lining up 13th on the Sprint grid, 0.003s behind Gasly.
Daniel Ricciardo was 14th for McLaren, 0.462s behind Vettel, while Lance Stroll was 15th fastest.
Not that it’s a strange thing in Brazil, but within the few hours that separated FP1 and qualifying, rain came in, making for a more interesting shoot out, keeping in mind how close the Ferraris and Red Bulls were in practice.