Interlagos is a circuit known for throwing up something special from time-to-time, and throw up something special it did in this morning’s Formula 1 Sprint Race qualifying.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen has qualified on pole for tomorrow mornings Sprint Race.
Yes, you read that right.
In his 140th race start, the Danish veteran, driving for the team that sit eighth on the constructors standings, has produced something that will be remembered for a long time to come and will start from first tomorrow morning.
Of course, he received assistance, a red flag for a beached George Russell early in Q3 seeing the rain come through and the earlier soft runs be the times that counted.
The weather gods were truly in the favor of Magnussen, in his 100th race start for Haas and on the eve on team owner Gene Haas’s 70th birthday.
It wasn’t a flukey time, eight of the 10 competitors also setting times on softs, including the two Red Bull’s and Mercedes’.
Whilst only a Sprint tomorrow, the result saw pandemonium in the crowd and the garage, the celebrations for Haas not comparing anything seen this season.
There’s still a job to do tomorrow, Magnussen will have world champion Max Verstappen starting alongside on the front row. Even the Dutchman had smiles for the Dane at the result.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Magnussen following the surprise pole.
“The team put me out on track at exactly the right moment. We were the first out of the pit lane and I did a pretty decent lap, and we’re on pole.”
“Maximum attack,” he said when asked for tomorrow’s plan.
“Lets try for something funny.”
Despite his off, Russell will start from third on the grid with compatriot Lando Norris in fourth.
Carlos Sainz qualified fifth but will drop down to 10th for a 5-place penalty for a new ICE. He will lockout the fifth row on the grid with teammate Leclerc, the Monegasque caught out yet again by poor strategy calls from Ferrari.
Leclerc was the only driver of the top 10 to start Q3 on intermediates, the field blitzing his time on softs as the conditions quickly deteriorated.
Esteban Ocon out-qualified teammate Fernando Alonso and will start fifth, the Spaniard just one place behind as Alpine lockout the third row.
Lewis Hamilton will start next to Sergios Perez in seventh, the Mexican driver rounding out the top 10 after being impeded by the slower Leclerc on his fast lap.
The day, however, belonged to Magnussen in contrasting fortunes for Haas. To put his pole into perspective, teammate Mick Schumacher will start the race in 20th.
The weirdness of the session was evident from early on, teams forced to toy with tyre choices in variable conditions.
The track was damp, following earlier showers, as Q1 got underway, competitors all taking to the circuit early on intermediates with more rain imminent.
“We expect rain in 10 minutes,” were the radio messages from the pit wall.
Pierre Gasly was the first to brave slicks midway through the session, AlphaTauri changing him to softs as the rest of the field watched in anticipation to see how the move played out.
It paid off on his second flying lap, next year’s Alpine driver going to the top of the leaderboard despite fishtailing multiple points over the lap.
The times began to tumble as the field followed Gasly’s lead.
Several contenders left it late to put in their lap times, Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton and Leclerc all in the elimination zone at times whilst on their final laps. They all produced, however, the bottom five being Nicholas “Goatifi” Latifi, Guanyu Zhou, Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda and Schumacher respectively.
The expected rain still hadn’t arrived and the radar had cleared at the start of Q2, race control enabling DRS as a result.
The reports were wrong, drops coming in the concluding stages of the session over various parts of the circuit.
Magnussen left it late in Q2, putting in his time to move on with just one minute remaining in the session.
There were no major shock eliminations in Q2, Alex Albon, Gasly, Sebastien Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll to take grid positions 11-15 respectively come race time tomorrow.
The drizzle saw the top 10 all lining up to exit the lane as soon as the Q3 lights went green, Leclerc the only car to make the switch back to inters.
“The weather is inbound so we’re going to have to go from Lap 1,” was the message from Mercedes to Hamilton.
The Ferrari of Leclerc had the option to pit immediately to change back to softs, but did not in what proved to be another poor strategy from the Italian manufacturer.
His one flying lap was far off the pace and also impeded Perez as he set his own time behind.
He did, however, do so the next lap but had left things too late as the conditions changed and a red flag come out for a stranded Russell.
The flag came about after the Brit under-braked at Turn 1, running through the gravel and making it to the escape road on the other side. He avoided the wall, but overdid the attempted flick-spin which saw the rear of the car return to the gravel.
The delay saw the rain come through, Magnussen on top as the cars returned to the lane.
“What position are we?” he asked on the radio.
“You’re P1 mate,” came the reply.
“You’re kidding, you’re f***n kidding. I’ve never felt like this in my life. Don’t celebrate yet” Magnussen said with 8 minutes still to run.
The weather gods worked in favour of Haas, the rain seeing DRS disabled and the field returning on intermediates.
This all but assured Magnussen pole, the times on the specialised tyres nowhere near what was being done on the softs at the start of the session.
The field all returned to the lane early, everyone accepting their fate and allowing the Dane his first pole.
Sprint Race coverage begins at 7.30am on Spark Sport.