SAO PAULO, Brazil — Valtteri Bottas grabbed pole for Saturday’s Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, edging out Sebastian Vettel by 0.038 seconds.
“It was so close in qualifying, as it always tends to be in Brazil,” Bottas said. “I knew going into the last run in Q3 that I had to improve if I wanted to be on pole. I could feel and see that I was improving corner after corner.”
“It’s such a good feeling to get everything together in the end. It was very unfortunate that Lewis wasn’t there for Q2 and Q3. So it was up to me to deliver for the team, and I’m very happy that I could. I have the clear goal to still try and become second in the Drivers’ Championship. Having a good target makes everyone in the team work harder, including myself. It’s going to be important to have a good, clean race tomorrow, but it won’t be easy, the Ferraris are very quick as well. Turn 1 and 2 are always tricky in Interlagos, but hopefully I will get a good getaway so there won’t be any issues. It’s only my third pole position, so I will very much like the view from the starting line tomorrow.”
Bottas’ teammate, newly-crowned World Champion Lewis Hamilton, did not set a time in his Mercedes after a crash in Q1 precluded his further participation on Saturday. The Mercedes stepped out at the back and skidded parallel into the barriers, bringing out the red flag. Hamilton climbed out unscathed and said while he was disappointed, he was going to have fun on Sunday in the race.
“I’m not really sure what happened, it all happened very quickly, but I take full responsibility,” Hamilton said. “Of course, today is not the result that I would hope for, but challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them makes life meaningful. It is unfortunate – but it is what it is.”
“I am just going to try to take the bubble of negativity that comes from that experience, learn from it, and move forward. Years ago, I came from quite far behind and had a great race, so I will try to have as much fun as possible tomorrow.”
Kimi Raikkonen led the session with a 1:09.405 for Ferrari. Bottas was second, just 0.047 seconds slower than his fellow Finn, with Vettel 0.238 behind Raikkonen in third. In addition to Hamilton, the drivers eliminated from the first session included Pascal Wehrlein, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll and Marcus Ericsson.
Bottas then came out and broke through the 1:09 barrier with a 1:08.638, but Vettel went faster with a 1:08.494. Max Verstappen was third with a 1:09.050.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso finished Q2 in sixth, while teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was eliminated in 13th. Esteban Ocon, Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen and Brendon Hartley joined Vandoorne in the elimination zone.
Bottas came out firing in in Q3, setting a 1:08.442 for the early pole. Vettel soon bettered it, but then had nothing for Bottas’ final run. Raikkonen was third on a 1:08.538 with Verstappen fourth. Daniel Ricciardo was fifth, but will take a 10-spot penalty for an engine change. Sergio Perez was sixth for Force India, with Alonso seventh, his best qualifying position all season and Felipe Massa will start his final Brazilian Grand Prix in 10th.
Alonso said the car improved over Friday’s time, though it was a battle in Saturday’s tricky conditions.
“I’m happy with P7 today, particularly because it was a difficult qualifying,” Alonso said. “Conditions were very tricky: you see drops of rain on the visor, and that takes some confidence away even when the asphalt is completely dry. So you have to trust what the car is doing, and commit to the corner even though your mind is saying something different.”
“Yesterday, we weren’t completely happy with the balance of the car and with the performance, but today the car stepped up and we were more competitive. P6 is a fantastic starting position for scoring points, but we know that Hamilton and Ricciardo will come back very strongly tomorrow. I’ll try to defend as much as I can even though tomorrow we expect a very sunny day and completely dry conditions, so it’s not going to be easy to hold on to our position. A little bit of rain is always welcome for us. We seem to be more competitive in damp conditions, but being in the top 10 tomorrow is our goal. Saturday has been great, let’s see what Sunday brings.”
1. Valtteri Bottas
2. Sebastian Vettel
3. Kimi Raikkonen
4. Max Verstappen
5. Daniel Ricciardo
6. Sergio Perez
7. Fernando Alonso
8. Nico Hulkenberg
9. Carlos Sainz
10. Felipe Massa
11. Esteban Ocon
12. Romain Grosjean
13. Stoffel Vandoorne
14. Kevin Magnussen
15. Brendon Hartley
16. Pascal Wehrlein
17. Pierre Gasly
18. Lance Stroll
19. Marcus Ericsson
20. Lewis Hamilton