Lewis Hamilton may have a Sunday penalty, but there was no stopping him in qualifying for Saturday’s 24-lap sprint; The Sao Paulo weekend continues on Saturday on Sky Sports F1, with Practice Two at 3pm followed by the third and final Sprint of the season at 7.30pm
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 12/11/21 8:30pm
Lewis Hamilton delivered a scintillating and dominant performance in Sao Paulo GP qualifying to ensure he will start one place ahead of title rival Max Verstappen on the grid for Saturday’s sprint race in Brazil.
Although Hamilton will take a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Grand Prix owing to the use of another fresh Mercedes engine, his starting place for Saturday’s event – the 24-lap sprint race where a maximum of three points are on offer for the winner – is unaffected.
Hamilton topped all three qualifying segments by an unexpectedly comfortable margin on Friday evening, his Mercedes W12 in the groove around the undulating Interlagos circuit after just one session of practice.
Hamilton’s superior speed also bodes well for Sunday’s race, where he will start no higher than sixth even if he wins the sprint.
“Let’s go!” shouted Hamilton after being told of the qualifying result over Mercedes radio. His fastest time of 1:07.934 was four tenths quicker than Verstappen could manage.
But while Red Bull had no answer to that speed, just five days after an utterly-dominant showing on race day in Mexico, Verstappen was able to at least split Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas with second place to secure yet another front-row starting position this season alongside his great rival.
In an intriguing sub-plot to consider, Verstappen knows that even if he finishes to second to Hamilton again on Saturday, which would mean he loses a point of his current title advantage, he would inherit official pole position for Sunday’s main event.
Verstappen leads the championship by 19 points from Hamilton.
Sergio Perez was fourth in the second Red Bull, pipped by Mercedes counterpart Bottas by 0.014s.
For the second successive weekend, Pierre Gasly delivered fantastically to take fifth for AlphaTauri ahead of the two Ferraris, where Carlos Sainz outqualified Charles Leclerc.
McLaren, overtaken by Ferrari in the battle for third in the constructors’ championship in Mexico last Sunday, will line up directly behind with Lando Norris in eighth and Daniel Ricciardo ninth.
Saturday’s 24-lap sprint race is at 7.30pm on Saturday, live on Sky Sports F1, with build-up from 6.30pm.
More to follow…
Sao Paulo GP qualifying result
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
5) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
6) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
7) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
8) Lando Norris, McLaren
9) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
10) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
Knocked out in Q2
11) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
12) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
13) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
14) Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
15) Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
Knocked out in Q1
16) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
17) Nicholas Latifi, Williams
18) George Russell, Williams
19) Mick Schumacher, Haas
20) Nikita Mazepin, Haas