What the teams said - Qualifying in Brazil
Sensational. On Christian Horner's birthday, Verstappen delivered the perfect present by emphatically sealing pole. It looked like being nip and tuck with the Ferrari drivers, but in the end the Dutchman improved by a tenth of a second on his final run while those around him made mistakes under pressure. As for Albon, he couldn't stay with his team mate today and wound up sixth, which becomes fifth thanks to the 10-place grid drop for Leclerc. Four-tenths back isn't too shabby an effort though, but the Thai driver will want to start mixing it with the top drivers in the race.
Max Verstappen, 1st, 1:07.508
“I’m very happy with pole here today and the car and engine were performing really strongly together. We made a few improvements overnight and even after FP3 we made some final touches to the car and it really came alive in qualifying. Straight away from Q1 the car was flying and even though Q3 was a little more tricky as the temperature increased the car still felt good. Going purple in the middle sector and to be on pole by over a tenth here is a strong performance for us and Honda. Normally we have a quick race car so hopefully that will be the same tomorrow and I really enjoy driving on this track. I’m expecting an exciting and hopefully an enjoyable race, so now we just have to finish it off tomorrow.”
Alex Albon, 6th, 1:07.935
“All in all it wasn’t a bad comeback coming into qualifying but I’m still chasing for that final bit. Yes, it’s my first time here but I don’t like that excuse, and I don’t want to make excuses in general. I think it’s quite a tricky track, with long corners and low speeds. It’s very thermal sensitive so if you make a little mistake in one corner, you pay the price in the following four or five corners. Even in my second run I had a little snap into Turn 2 and then the tyres are too hot for the rest of the lap. They’re very fine margins here but it’s fun. There aren’t many tracks like this and I enjoy driving here, I just wanted to be a bit quicker today. Max did a great job and it was a good Saturday for the Team. Our race pace looks pretty good and with Charles’ penalty we start P5 so we have every reason to be in the mix tomorrow.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“That was the perfect birthday present from Max today with pole position in São Paulo. This is a track where Mercedes have dominated qualifying for the last five years so it was a great performance. Max was quickest in every session of qualifying and it’s also good to see Alex getting closer and closer to the pace as well. Pole position is all credit to the Team, they’re doing a fantastic job and all praise to Honda as well at what is a power sensitive circuit, especially at this high altitude. It’s a great effort all around and I think this result is all about teamwork. Tomorrow, it’s important for us to get a good start as this is a track you can overtake at. We need to have a clean first lap, get our heads down and then do the best we can.”
Ferrari seemed to have enough straight-line speed to trouble the rest and went into qualifying as slight favourites. But neither driver hooked up a perfect lap across all three sectors and thus fell just short of taking the fight to Verstappen. Leclerc drops to 14th thanks to his grid penalty, but should recover to the points fairly swiftly. As for Vettel, starting second, he should be in with a shout of victory, but sounded cautious post-session due to his rivals' tyre management abilities.
Sebastian Vettel, 2nd, 1:07.631
"Max put in a strong lap and so we can be happy with a front row start. I think our performance matched our expectations and it is good that our lap time was reasonably close. It puts us in a good position for tomorrow.
"We improved the car, it felt better and it was coming alive in quali, I am reasonably optimistic that we are in good shape for the race, but we will have to wait and see. It is supposed to be a bit warmer and it will be important to look after the tyres and to make the right strategy calls.
"It will also be key to get a good start. The weather is unpredictable here in Interlagos, there could be sunshine but it might rain. 71 laps means it’s a long race and I think it will be fun."
Charles Leclerc, 4th, 1:07.728
"It was not the best qualifying. The team gave me a great car and I believe that the potential was there for us to take pole today. I am disappointed about the mistake I made on the last corner of my first lap in Q3, because I lost about three tenths there. It doesn’t change too much though because I will be starting from the midfield tomorrow due to the grid penalty we have received.
"We completed some high fuel runs this morning to work on our race pace, as this is where we have the most room for improvement. We will do our best to apply what we learned there tomorrow. It’s good that we qualified on the medium tyres and I hope that we will be able to gain an advantage and pass some of the cars ahead. It won’t be an easy race and I will give the maximum to make up as many places as possible and hopefully fight for a podium."
Mercedes showed some decent pace in final practice, in what looked to be an improvement on yesterday. But roll on qualifying and Red Bull and Ferrari both took a big step forward, which the Silver Arrows surprisingly couldn't match. Fortunately Hamilton saved the best for last, one of few drivers to improve on his second flying effort in Q3. He managed to split the Ferrari pair and with Bottas promoted to fourth thanks to Leclerc's penalty, the team still have a chance tomorrow - especially given their race pace looked strong...
Lewis Hamilton, 3rd, 1:07.699
"It was a challenging qualifying session. We went in knowing that it was going to be very tight, but in the end we didn't have the pace to be on pole. FP3 was really strong for us, but once we got to qualifying both Ferrari and Red Bull had great pace and we were losing out on the straights by quite a chunk. I kept chipping away at it and I think the last lap was as good as it could get for us, I don't think there was any juice left in the car. I'm happy I got myself into the top three, that makes it a much better challenge for me position-wise to fight for a win. Our long run pace looked strong on Friday, it's been one of our strengths throughout the year. It's going to be really hard for everyone tomorrow with track temperatures potentially reaching up to 50 degrees which we've not seen all weekend. I've been conscious of that with my set up, so hopefully that works well tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas, 5th, 1:07.874
"It was pretty close, as it always is here in Brazil, but something was missing today. I had a tricky FP3 and was quite a bit behind, but I was getting closer and closer in qualifying. However, in Q3, it just felt like I couldn't get much more out of the car. My laps in Q3 actually felt pretty good, there were maybe a few hundreds left to extract from the car, but not enough to challenge for pole today. I'll still start the race from the second row, so it will be interesting to see what I can do from there. We have a good race car, but the Red Bull looked very strong in the long runs as well, so I'm sure it's going to be an exciting race tomorrow. Everything is still to play for, so we'll keep upbeat and look forward to a good fight."
James Allison, Technical Director
"This result is a bit deflating, those aren't grid positions that we would be happy with. It's not completely out of line with what we saw yesterday, but we expected a little more after the decent results in FP3 this morning. But we didn't reproduce that form in Qualifying. We've still got good enough grid positions that we've got a fighting chance of a good race tomorrow, where the track conditions will change a lot again. It's going to be warm and this is not an easy track for the tyres, so we can expect an interesting race with people looking after those tyres, trying to make a decision between one and two stops. We were just shading the others on race pace in the long runs on Friday, but that was on a pretty cool track with a pretty manky overhead, so it is not a great indicator of what's going to happen tomorrow."
Toro Rosso made amends for their disastrous Friday by immediately looking quick in FP3, with Kvyat winding up in the 'best of the rest' slot. But come qualifying and the Russian made a mistake on his final flying run in Q1 to exit at the first time of asking in what was a disappointing display. Gasly, though, made it all the way to Q3 and bagged that 'best of the rest' slot for himself, albeit nearly a second off the pace of the top six. Nonetheless, points should be in the offing for the Frenchman to make up for his DNF last time out.
Daniil Kvyat, 16th, 1:09.320
“It’s just a shame today. I was feeling really good in the car during FP3 this morning and I was positive going into qualifying. Then in the afternoon, the car wasn’t in the right balance window anymore. On the second run I made a couple of mistakes which didn’t allow me to improve on my time, I’m not sure what happened, but I lost the rhythm and I couldn’t put everything together. However, my race pace is generally strong, and even if P16 isn’t ideal let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Pierre Gasly, 7th, 1:08.837
“I’m really happy with how qualifying went today! I’d like to pass on a massive thanks to the team for giving me a competitive car. It feels like pole position for us today as P7 in the midfield is the best we can expect. We knew it was going to be a tight qualifying, so it feels great to get my fourth Q3 in a row. I felt good in the car all weekend, now we need to stay focussed for tomorrow and finish the job by scoring as many points as possible in the race.”
Claudio Balestri, Chief Engineer – Vehicle Performance
“Following an eventful Friday, we worked hard to prepare both cars for Saturday. This morning in FP3 we mainly focused on quali, optimizing the car setup and tyre preparation, and we showed some good lap times with both drivers. We went into quali very well prepared but unfortunately, we were not able to get through to Q2 with Daniil, while with Pierre we extracted the maximum from our package, adapting the car to the changes in track conditions. We were able to be the 7th quickest car in Q3 and now, due to Charles’ penalty, we’ll start the race from P6, equalling our best grid position this year (Azerbaijan Grand Prix – KVY). We now need to do our best to maximise our opportunities to score points with both cars tomorrow, in what we expect to be a tight midfield battle.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“A brilliant result today! Max was competitive all weekend and took his and our second pole position of the season. Alex was also competitive to finish sixth on his first visit to this technically tricky track. Pierre Gasly ensured we have three Honda-powered cars in the Top 10. Daniil was unlucky to make a small mistake and get no further than Q1, but his long run pace looks good, so everything is in place for us to have an excellent result tomorrow. It’s worth noting this was Pierre’s fourth consecutive Top 10 qualifying result. It will be a long race, over the 71 laps and we will now ensure we are as well prepared as possible in the hope of converting today’s strong performance into another one tomorrow.”
Haas had a good Friday, but expected to head backwards in the warmer temperatures today. Instead they confounded their own expectations by getting both cars all the way into Q3 for the first time since Spain in May. Grosjean finished an encouraging eighth, while Magnussen only went for one run in Q3 and thus wound up in P10. But can they stay there tomorrow, with managing the tyres during the race tending to be their weakness?
Romain Grosjean, 8th, 1:08.854
“It was a brilliant job by the team. Having both cars in Q3 is unbelievable. Tomorrow might be a different day, but that doesn’t matter, we’ll take the pleasure from today. We didn’t really get to show the speed we had in final practice. I had confidence that we might be around P11. Then obviously Q2 went really well, and Q3 wasn’t too bad. We were only two-hundredths of a second off being 'best of the rest'. I’m happy for the team, it’s a brilliant job from everyone.”
Kevin Magnussen, 10th, 1:09.037
“It’s good to have both cars in Q3 again. It looks like we might have something to fight with this weekend, which is really good. There’s nothing to be disappointed about from today. The circuit and conditions were right for our car. It’s been very up-and-down all the way through the year, so it’s not a surprise that we can do this. I’ll be more surprised if we can finish it off tomorrow, we know we struggle a little bit with tyre management in the race. We’ll certainly be giving it our all though.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“FP3 didn’t look good on the timesheets but we knew what was possible today. I think in qualifying the whole team and the drivers did a great job to get everything out of the car. It was a fantastic execution of a qualifying session with some fantastic drives. It’s good for the team, everyone’s worked hard for this, and we never give up. We keep on fighting and today we’ve had a good result. Hopefully, tomorrow we can do something, for sure we’ll be trying.”
McLaren didn't manage to get a car into Q3 for the first time since Belgium, ending Sainz's run of six races qualifying in the top seven. The Spaniard didn't even set a time today, after reporting technical issues on his first lap in Q1 and pulling into the pits, where the team couldn't fix the issue in time to get him back out. Norris at least made Q2, but was scuppered by some late yellow flags to miss out on the top 10 by 0.010s.
Carlos Sainz, 20th, No time set
“Big disappointment today. An issue with the engine during my first attempt in Q1 meant I couldn’t even set a lap time. We’ll investigate what happened, but I’m obviously disappointed because it cost us a good shot at Q3 today.
“Another eventful Saturday this season where I’m not able to show our pace is frustrating, but these things happen and the race is tomorrow. It won’t be easy to reach the points starting from the back of the grid, but we’ll fight until the chequered flag and hopefully make a good recovery.”
Lando Norris, 11th, 1:08.868
“Not the best quali as I didn’t make it through to Q3, which obviously we’re always working towards. We’ve not been as strong here so far this weekend compared to recent races as the car doesn’t seem to suit this track.
“Plus, the grid is super close. One-hundredth of a second and I would’ve been into Q3, which is a bit frustrating – but it shows small things count. We knew we would be tight and we just missed out.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“After a series of good Saturdays, we experienced a very disappointing qualifying today. Unfortunately, we had to abort qualifying with Carlos due to a loss of engine power even before setting a timed lap in the first session.
“On Lando’s side, it was just not enough by one-hundredth of a second to go through to Q3. Heads down now – we still need to investigate the failure on Carlos’ car, before then switching our focus to tomorrow with the aim of fighting back.”
It was a mixed bag at Alfa, who looked right in the mix at the front of the midfield. Raikkonen made Q3 for the first time since Monza, but Giovinazzi made a mistake on his final flying lap in Q2 and spun which cost him any chance of progressing. The Italian at least has free tyre choice and might fancy his chances of sneaking up into the points.
Kimi Raikkonen, 9th, 1:08.984
“We can be happy with today’s result. The margins in the midfield are very close and you can make up a lot of places with just a small difference, but we will take P9 and see what we can do in the race tomorrow. I still feel we have margin for improvement, there is a lot more we can achieve but in the end you always want more. It’s hard to tell how the race will unfold but we will try to do a good job and bring home a good result on Sunday.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 13th, 1:08.919
“I knew I had a chance to be in the Top 10, so I pushed very hard on my last lap of Q2. Unfortunately I spun and ended up missing the cut for just 0.06s. It is what it is, we knew the margins would be very small on such a short track but we still have a good chance to get in the points tomorrow. I was pleased with our race pace yesterday and we can choose our starting tyres, so hopefully we can make up a few places in the race.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“We can be satisfied with today’s work, but we cannot get too carried away. Sunday is when the points are given out and we have a lot of work ahead of us to maximise our starting position. We have done a good job today and our race pace looked positive in practice, so we can hope for a competitive race. We will do our homework tonight and come prepared to make the most of our opportunities tomorrow.”
Renault failed to set representative lap times in final practice, and thus their form was a slight unknown heading into qualifying. But they failed to get either car into Q3 in what proved a disappointing result. They do at least have free tyre choice, and their longer run pace looked good - but those are small silver linings in what wasn't a stellar day for the French team.
Nico Hulkenberg, 14th, 1:08.921
“The midfield is super tight, and we just couldn’t extract enough pace today. It was nip and tuck and only a few hundredths would have seen us into Q3. It’s a short lap here and my second run in Q2 was clean, but we just lacked that extra bit of pace which would have seen us comfortably through. It makes our life tough for tomorrow, but I’m somewhat optimistic as our race pace has been better recently. Coming from the back of the midfield and sitting in dirty air is never easy, but we’ll fight and give it our all tomorrow.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 12th, 1:08.903
“It’s been really close in the midfield this week and today was no exception. It’s a short lap, not many corners, so everything has to go right. It wasn’t perfect from us today but I like these battles and the fact that it is so close. I struggled a bit on the last run in Q2, our tyres overheated a little bit, but that’s the way it is. We would have liked Q3, but it’s not a disaster and I’m excited for the race. We have a free choice of tyres and I think there will be some opportunities in front of us to progress up the order and take some points.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“We knew this was going to be a tough circuit for us but there were just less than two tenths covering the entire midfield and we are at the end of it. If we found two tenths we could have been as high as seventh. We didn’t have that pace today, so we paid the price, but we have 71 laps to put it right in the race tomorrow. Temperatures are forecast to be a lot hotter and our race pace and excellent tyre management we’ve seen in the last couple of races means there is every chance to have a decent result here.”
Racing Point looked off the pace of the midfield today, so it was no surprise when Stroll dropped out in Q1 - the Canadian having never made it out of the first part of qualifying in Brazil. Perez at least made it into Q2 but couldn't use the late yellow flags as an excuse for not improving, being one of the few drivers ahead of the incident. It looks like being a long race for the pink cars tomorrow, unless Stroll gets one of his customary electric starts, or Perez does something spectacular with his tyre management.
Sergio Perez, 15th, 1:09.035
“It was very tight today and ultimately we didn’t have the pace we needed to make the top ten. The margins were very close – as they always are here – but I think we will have a better race car tomorrow and hotter conditions should play to our advantage. Although it’s disappointing to qualify in P15, I believe we can recover tomorrow and that we can aim for points.”
Lance Stroll, 17th, 1:09.536
“It’s been a challenging weekend so far and I don’t think our car characteristics are best suited to this track. Obviously we didn’t get much running in yesterday [due to the wet weather] and today we are just at the wrong end of a very tight midfield. I think we should be stronger tomorrow and we expect the track temperatures to be much higher. Tyre management is going to be important tomorrow and that could give us an opportunity. We just need to look through all the information tonight, work hard on the strategy and see what we can do tomorrow.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“It’s always a very close qualifying session here and unfortunately we ended up at the lower end of a pretty evenly-matched midfield battle. Sergio squeezed through to Q2 and will line up in P15 ahead of Lance in P17. We’ve struggled through the middle sector and on such a short lap it’s difficult to recover the marginal time lost. I think we will be more competitive in race conditions and the higher temperatures expected tomorrow will definitely have an impact. There’s plenty to play for in the race and we need to make our long-run pace count with a good strategy.”
Once again, Williams lacked the pace to trouble the rest of the field. Russell did out-qualify his team mate for the 20th race to maintain his 100% record, the gap today standing at half a second. But with Stroll a further half a second up the road, it could be a long race for Williams tomorrow.
Robert Kubica, 19th, 1:10.614
"Today was a good day and the car felt fine, even after the disappointment of missing all of Friday. The track is challenging, nice to drive, although we did struggle with grip. We will try our best tomorrow, but, being realistic, it will be difficult. Spirits remain high with the boys, and with the team, so let’s hope for some chances in the race."
George Russell, 18th, 1:10.126
"Qualifying was as we expected. The car felt pretty decent and it was good fun driving around this circuit. We are where we are, and we tried to make the most of it. It’s always tricky when the track is improving so much with every lap. I was pretty pleased with my effort, however, there was a bit more time on the table."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"The team worked incredibly hard last night to build a replacement chassis for Robert following his crash yesterday. The warmer conditions helped the tyre performance today and we had clearly made some progress with the car since FP2. We continued the work in FP3 as we refined the set-up for qualifying. The track was still a little cooler than we were hoping for this afternoon and so tyre preparation remained tricky. Nonetheless, both drivers did well and made the most of their opportunity in qualifying, but the car simply didn’t have the pace to challenge Racing Point and Toro Rosso. Whilst conditions are expected to be a little different again tomorrow, this is unlikely to be enough to allow us to race the cars ahead on the grid."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"As expected, track temperatures were warmer today, well above 30 degrees centigrade for the first time so far this weekend, which meant that the track offered a bit more grip. This increase in temperature is expected to continue tomorrow, which means that we could see some variations in strategy. With three different teams in the top three of the grid, we're set for some close competition, so even a small change could make a difference. The front of the grid all start on the soft tyre, which means that it's a level playing field for the first stint at least: whoever makes the most of it could gain an important advantage."