2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix qualifying report and highlights: Magnussen takes shock pole position for Sao Paulo Sprint in nailbiting qualifying session
Eight months after making his shock return to Formula 1, Kevin Magnussen took a stunning pole position in qualifying for the 2022 Sao Paulo Sprint.
Although Q1 began on a damp track, slicks were soon fitted and it was Lando Norris who led the opening session, before Max Verstappen took over in a dry Q2. The top-10 shootout was a different story.
With two minutes of Q3 completed, Kevin Magnussen was top of the timesheets, and it was then that George Russell locked up and beached his Mercedes at Turn 5, bringing out a red flag to leave the Dane incredulous. A short stoppage later, and the rain began to fall: Magnussen’s time would stand, and he would have his first Formula 1 pole position.
Verstappen finished second, 0.203s off the pace, while Russell took third for the Sprint. Norris ended up fourth for McLaren, while Carlos Sainz – who has a five-place penalty for Sunday – rounded out the top five.
Haas F1 Team
Red Bull Racing
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon qualified sixth ahead of team mate Fernando Alonso, leaving Lewis Hamilton eighth for Mercedes, Sergio Perez ninth for Red Bull, and Charles Leclerc 10th for Ferrari.
Lando Norris headed a wet-dry Q1 after showers hit the circuit ahead of qualifying, before the track quickly dried.
Q2 was run in dry conditions – though the rain began to fall just as the checked flew – with Alex Albon missing out on safety by 0.044s as he qualified 11th. Pierre Gasly was 12th for AlphaTauri ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, while a mistake saw Vettel’s team mate Lance Stroll qualify 15th for the Sprint.
Times tumbled dramatically in Q1, but every driver managed to lap on soft tires after Gasly sparked the changeover. Williams’ Nicholas Latifi was 16th ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu in 17th and his 18th-placed team mate Valtteri Bottas – who ran a second run on new intermediates – while Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher are set to occupy the final row for the start of the Sprint.
AS IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Norris sets pace in a frenetic wet-dry start to qualifying
A lashing of rain made for a slick surface for the start of Q1 in Brazil – with a headwind buffeting the drivers into Turn 1. This trio of segments would set the grid for Saturday’s Sprint, which in turn would set the grid for Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prize.
With more rainclouds approaching, drivers quickly emerged to set laps on intermediates, and with 10 minutes remaining it was Alonso who set the benchmark of 1m 18.412s ahead of Red Bull’s Verstappen and then Perez – with times quickly tumbling as the track dried. Tsunoda, the Haas drivers and the Williams duo found themselves in the drop-zone early on.
Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri team mate Gasly then took the opportunity to swap for soft tires, followed by the Williams drivers and Ricciardo. That set the tone for the rest of the field – Gasly going fastest with a time of 1m 16.557s with five minutes left – as a mad rush began to capitalize on drying conditions.
In a frantic conclusion to Q1, it was Norris who went fastest with a time of 1m 13.106s, which was 0.297s faster than runner-up Hamilton’s time and another 0.15s faster than Alonso’s run. Vettel finished fourth, half a second off the pace, while FP1 leader Perez rounded out the top five ahead of Verstappen.
Magnussen took second while Albon made it through in P8, Gasly eventually dropping to ninth and Stroll going 10th. Russell finished 11th ahead of Leclerc – who called Tsunoda a “joke” for impeding his running – while Ocon took 13th and grid-penalty-hit Sainz 14th.
Ricciardo squeezed through to Q2 in P15 at the expense of Williams driver Latifi – 0.164s off safety. The Alfa Romeos were next as 18th-placed Bottas lamented a second run on intermediates, while Tsunoda and Schumacher were also eliminated in 19th and 20th, respectively.
Knocked out: Latifi, Zhou, Bottas, Tsunoda, Schumacher
Q2 – Verstappen leads Sainz by 0.009s as rain approaches
The threat of rain hadn’t quite dissipated for the start of Q2, though DRS was enabled for the session. Midway through the session, Verstappen led with a time of 1m 11.318s, with Alonso 0.078s back and Leclerc another 0.15s behind the Alpine driver.
Airwaves lit up with reports of drizzle with six minutes remaining, when Vettel, Ricciardo, Russell, Stroll and Hamilton were at risk of elimination. Despite those reports, there were improvements across the board: Verstappen consolidated his position with a 1m 10.881s.
Sainz was runner-up in Q2, 0.009s off the Red Bull, while Leclerc was another 0.060s off in P3. Russell reached safety with P4 and Norris rounded out the top five ahead of Alonso.
To applause in the Haas garage, Magnussen took a stellar seventh, Perez claimed eighth and Hamilton ninth – with Ocon rounding out the top 10 for his first Q3 appearance at Interlagos.
That left Albon 11th, 0.044s off safety, while Gasly took 12th and Vettel 13th. Ricciardo was eliminated in 14th and, with a lock-up on his flying lap, Stroll finished 15th – with the rain returning just as the checkered flag flew for Q2.
Knocked out: Albon, Gasly, Vettel, Ricciardo, Stroll
Q3 – Magnussen brings home his first ever pole
As a train of cars queued up at the end of the pit lane to begin proceedings for Q3, Leclerc rolled the dice for intermediates as the rest chose slicks, with their eyes on the skies. The Monegasque driver crawled around on his out-lap but, in an unexpected turn, stayed out to lap on the treaded tyres.
Perez, who was right behind Leclerc’s rear wing, saw his first lap compromised by the wayward Ferrari; it was clear that this was soft tire territory, and Leclerc pitted for slicks after 90 seconds of struggling.
Just after Leclerc pitted, Russell brought out a red flag having locked up and beached his Mercedes in the gravel at Turn 5. With eight minutes and 10 seconds on the clock, Magnussen was top with a time of 1m 11.674s, Verstappen 0.203s behind . The Haas garage was a picture of anxiety during the stoppage.
“You’re kidding,” said Magnussen when he was told of his provisional position. “Don’t celebrate yet!” he implored.
The session resumed at 1959 local time and Perez emerged to test the conditions on inters – though a 1m 11.6s was all but impossible on those compounds. Leclerc had all but given up as he returned to the pit wall to speak to Ferrari Racing Director Laurent Mekies. Verstappen was out of the car soon afterwards.
As drivers gradually clambered out of their cockpits, ponchos unfurled, the clock ticking down, one thing was clear: Magnussen would have his first career pole position. He was shaking his head, laughing, in the cockpit of his VF-22, as ecstatic crowds drew forward to applaud the Dane – who in turn was embraced with all the might of Team Principal Guenther Steiner once he’d finally clambered out of the because.
Verstappen had to settle for second, 0.203s off the pace, while Russell ended up third before his Turn 5 off, the Briton 0.385s off Magnussen’s benchmark. Norris qualified fourth and Sainz – who has a five-place penalty for Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix – rounded out the top five.
Then it was the Alpines, Ocon in sixth and Alonso seventh, while Hamilton took eighth – the seven-time champion treating the fans to a final intermediate-shod run at the end of Q3. Perez managed ninth in Q3, while an angry Leclerc rounded out the top 10.
“I don’t know what to say. The team put me out on track at exactly the right moment. I mean we were first out in the pit lane, did a pretty decent lap. On pole, that is incredible. Thank you to Gene Haas, and Guenther [Steiner] and the whole team for this opportunity. I got back this year after a year out and it’s just been an amazing journey. So, thank you” – Kevin Magnussen, Haas
Practice 2 begins at 1230 local time ahead of the final Sprint of the season here in Sao Paulo – at 1630 local time. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how and when you can catch the action – with Kevin Magnussen leading Max Verstappen off the line…