F1 Brazilian GP: Magnussen takes shocking first pole for sprint race

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The Dane, who was recalled to the team for this season following the ouster of Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, remarkably moved into first place when a red flag in a murky Q3 caused conditions to deteriorate.

That meant no one could improve in the final eight minutes of qualifying to leave the US team looking at the clock until it secured its first pole and the party started.

Q3’s drama started when Ferrari took a big gamble by sending Leclerc on a set of intermediate tires to prevent the return of rain – qualifying started damp before drying up.

The nine other contenders, meanwhile, emerged on slick Pirelli tires.

The Scuderia seemed to be hoping the showers would come in time to catch the dry runners, while the driver would be on the right compound at the optimum time before conditions deteriorated.

However, Leclerc soon realized he was the odd man out and vented his anger, even waving at the pit wall as he passed to start his flying lap.

He ran slowest of all through the first sector, struggling for grip and holding back the pursuing Sergio Perez before breaking off the run and ducking into the pit lane for a shot on slicks.

With the intermediates clearly the wrong option, slippery runner Magnussen was able to shoot to a 1m11.674 second lap to take first place by about two tenths of Red Bull’s Verstappen, with the Dutch driver locked in Turn 8 and losing him. ended up costing pool.

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Then George Russell – who had just run into third – dropped his Mercedes W13 into the gravel leaving Turn 4 to make the red flags appear.

The Brit seemed to lock the front right into the left-hander and the rear clipped the smooth white line to set him off. While trying to turn to recover, he threw the rear axle into the gravel.

While Russell initially kept the rear wheels spinning and signaling the marshals to restore his car live, he eventually withdrew from the session.

But as the threat of rain was already high, the delay was long enough for the wet weather to return and no one could find time despite the remaining 8m10s.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo By: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Knowing that they would not improve, the drivers began to leave their cars to usher in the Haas celebrations.

Russell would therefore maintain third place despite his shunt, while Lando Norris clocked fourth for McLaren ahead of Carlos Sainz – although the Ferrari driver is poised to start 10th due to a five-place grid penalty for a combustion engine change.

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Esteban Ocon ran into sixth ahead of Alpine teammate Fernando Alonso, while Perez – slowed by Leclerc – clocked in only ninth.

Ocon had been scrapped into the top 10 at the expense of Alex Albon by a slim 0.045s, while Pierre Gasly raced to 12th place ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll.

Q2’s dying second was a bit of a damp squib as the risky Mercedes improved.

They seemed to be under threat when some drivers reported more rain to come later on, as the Silver Arrows had by then only been running on used soft tires to get outside the top 10.

But while the Aston Martins struggled in particular to find time, Russell eventually climbed to third with five minutes to go. Hamilton finished directly behind fourth, but was shuffled to ninth.

Sainz also eventually climbed comfortably to second in Q2, the British GP winner who sat in 10th and was just 0.008s from the drop zone, but went clear by running a 1m10.890s to the best Leclerc with 0.06s and just 0.009s to run shy of pacer Verstappen.

Ferrari had already been forced to survive a significant Q1 scare when the initially damp conditions improved enough to switch to the soft tires after the slick guinea pig Gasly began setting the fastest sectors.

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Gasly initially struggled to gain traction and slid well into the final corner wide, but next time the Alpine-bound racer ran fastest at 0.6 seconds and then improved by another second.

To respond, the Scuderia squad jacked up Leclerc’s car but only had a scrubbed set on hand, so a delay ensued as new boots were finally picked up as Sainz was held in a double pile.

Then Leclerc was forced to abort his first flying lap on the red walled rubber when he was held up by the last sector by Yuki Tsunoda, which in turn slowed his chasing teammate.

While Sainz still managed to improve, Leclerc had it all to do on his last run but did enough to make it to 12th and survive the late flurry as Nicholas Latifi just missed the Q2 cut-off.

The outgoing Williams driver had reached the session just moments earlier after bolting on the dry tires but was quickly pushed down and missed the threshold by 0.16 seconds for Ricciardo.

In a session to forget quickly for Alfa Romeo’s teammates, Zhou Guanyu finished just 17th ahead of Valtteri Bottas, as AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher lapped the slowest of all.

F1 Brazilian GP Qualifying Result