5 things we learned from Friday’s running at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix
Brazil’s iconic Interlagos circuit has made a habit of delivering incredible moments in F1’s history – and there’s now another one to add to the record books after Kevin Magnussen took a shock maiden pole position in drizzly conditions for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. It was a remarkable end to a sensational day, on what is F1’s third and final Sprint weekend of 2022…
1. Haas deliver one of the all-time shock results
Magnussen’s incredible drive to pole will go down as one of the biggest Formula 1 shocks of all-time, the American team putting the Dane out on track at exactly the right moment before watching him deliver the tidiest of laps that significantly faster cars, such as Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, simply couldn’t match as rain started to fall.
It was a fine reward for a team that has struggled to fight consistently for points this season and for a driver who returned to F1 with Haas as a late replacement for Nikita Mazepin after a year out.
The F1 paddock was united in their congratulations and delight for one of the motorsport’s underdogs, with Magnussen’s rivals praising the Dane for getting the job done when it mattered in very changeable conditions.
Converting pole into a victory in the Sprint will be challenging, but he’s got every chance of holding on to a top-eight spot to secure points on Saturday – and then that leaves everything to play for on Sunday, when the bigger points are up for grabs. Haas are only one ahead of AlphaTauri in the constructors’ championship – so every point matters.
2. Ferrari left frustrated by weather
Ferrari made the wrong call on the weather with Charles Leclerc as they sent him out on the intermediates – expecting imminent rain – with his team mate Carlos Sainz and everyone else bolting on the soft tyres.
There would have been enough time for one dry tyre lap when they asked him to box but Leclerc had already started his next lap – meaning he had to do another tour before boxing, and by then the best conditions were gone.
It’s disappointing for the Italian team, who felt they had a car capable of challenging for pole position, even in the slippery conditions, with the F1-75 the fastest of all through the slower corners.
However, with rain forecast for the remainder of the weekend – that should help limit the pain they are suffering on the straights (in first practice, Ferrari were losing around 0.3s to Red Bull in the final sector, which is mainly 1.2km of full throttle).
3. Red Bull remain the ones to beat
They may not be on pole, but Red Bull will be feeling confident they can not only move to the front and win the Sprint, but also go on to clinch victory on Sunday afternoon, with Max Verstappen starting second.
The Dutchman was very strong in Friday’s solo one-hour practice, even though he wasn’t completely happy with the balance, and would have taken pole if he has achieved his ‘ideal lap’ – a combination of all his very best mini sectors. Verstappen will expect to make short work of Magnussen at the start – or the opening lap at least.
His team mate Sergio Perez was less happy, the Mexican baulked by a slow Leclerc who was limited by his intermediate tyres. That said, the pace of the Red Bull around Interlagos is so good that with a Sprint race followed by the Grand Prix, a podium will be the minimum expectation.
4. Mixed emotions for Mercedes
One the one hand, Mercedes can be pleased with a top-three start given their performance so far this season – but in changeable conditions that provide opportunities, they will know a much better day was possible.
Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were compromised as they were among the drivers towards the back of the queue heading out on track for the first Q3 runs, meaning they got less of what turned out to be the more favourable conditions.
Russell still delivered a lap that was good enough for third – but was left frustrated when he flew off into the gravel and then beached it when he did a 360 to try and escape.
Hamilton, who was running the lower downforce level of the two Silver Arrows, struggled for grip on the final runs and could only manage eighth. Our data shows that their qualifying pace was only 0.06s off Red Bull, which means had they been out at the right time and got the tyres up temperature, a shot at pole or the front row at least would have been on the cards.
5. Norris fights off illness to keep McLaren in the fight
McLaren and Alpine have been locked in a fight for P4 in the constructors’ championship all season long, with the latter edging the fight with two races to go. However, it’s McLaren who start the Sprint with the upper hand.
Lando Norris didn’t think he was going to be fit enough to drive after suffering suspected food poisoning and missing Thursday’s media day – but the Briton delivered yet another mighty performance against the odds to snatch fourth, with Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso sixth and seventh respectively.
As neither McLaren nor Alpine ran the softs in FP1, instead focusing on the medium, it remains unclear who is the quicker of the two. Our data suggests McLaren have the advantage over Alpine in the slow and medium-speed corners, with Alpine edging the high-speed turns and pulling out around two tenths of a second advantage on the straights.