Lando Norris has beaten Max Verstappen by six hundredths of a second to take pole for the sprint at the São Paulo Grand Prix. The McLaren driver was surprised by his pole position and beating both Red Bulls, underlining further the progress McLaren has made in the second half of the season.
Despite looking down on Verstappen in the first sector, Norris managed to shock himself by finding six hundredths, with the Englishman looking bemused after feeling that his lap was not particularly special. The Red Bull went quickest in S1 but fell away during the remainder of the lap.
McLaren put both cars onto the track first in the SQ3 session, with Oscar Piastri opening the final stage with an 11.189s benchmark, but Norris’ eventual best put that in the shade.
Norris had been disappointed to only be sixth in Grand Prix qualifying but beat tomorrow’s pole sitter. He will be looking to convert pole into his first win, like his teammate Oscar Piastri did three races ago at Lusail, and having narrowly missed out in Sochi in 2021.
The inevitable threat posed by Verstappen from just behind on the front row remains, of course, but McLaren looked more than competitive against the Red Bull around the undulating Interlagos circuit in Norris’ hands so far.
Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was third, seven hundredths behind, as he went ahead of both Mercedes, with George Russell eight hundredths faster than his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes looked at one point to have the pace to challenge Red Bull for the front row, but Russell on his final attempt was a hundredth behind his teammate.
Yuki Tsunoda put his Alpha Tauri sixth, going nearly half a second faster than Charles Leclerc, the Ferrari driver who only managed a single run in SQ3, which put him a tenth and a half ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo managed to split the two Ferraris as he went four thousandths faster than Carlos Sainz, who completed the top ten.
Leclerc had his running limited by tyre usage, meaning he was only able to manage one run in SQ3.
One of the most dramatic moments of sprint qualifying came in SQ1 when Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso crashed. Ocon, who was just starting a flying lap, came up behind his former teammate on a cooldown lap. The Alpine then slid over the kerb, losing control, and went into the back of the Aston Martin.
Over team radio, Ocon blamed his former teammate for not leaving him enough room. With Ocon’s car out of the session on the spot, Alonso was unable to take up his place in SQ2 due to damage sustained in the collision.
After clambering out of his car after it had rear-ended the barriers on the outside of the track, Ocon was cleared by doctors in a precautionary check-up at the medical centre. He then went to visit race stewards, with the clash under investigation.
Kevin Magnussen was the fastest of those knocked out in SQ2. The Dane missed out by half a tenth but was a quarter of a second faster than his Haas teammate Nico Hulkenberg. Also, shuffled out were Pierre Gasly, who was seven hundredths behind the German, and half a hundredth ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
The collision with Ocon at the end of SQ1 meant Alonso was unable to take part in SQ2, with the Frenchman nearly a tenth faster than the second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.
Guanyu Zhou was eighteenth, the Alfa Romeo driver going ahead of both Williams. The Chinese driver was three hundredths faster than Alex Albon. Albon’s teammate Logan Sargeant was nearly a tenth behind, as the two Williams drivers propped up the field.
- Sao Paulo GP – Qualifying Result
- SAO PAULO GP – Max Verstappen beats Charles Leclerc to Grand Prix pole by three-tenths before a biblical storm curtails qualifying
- SAO PAULO GP – Carlos Sainz leads Ferrari one-two in practice, with interesting strategies at play
- Welcome to the Sao Paulo Grand Prix – 2023
- PRIXVIEW – Sao Paulo Grand Prix