Lewis Hamilton will start Sprint Qualifying for Sunday’s São Paulo Grand Prix from the front of the grid after the Mercedes driver beat title rival Max Verstappen by over four tenths of a second. However, Hamilton will start from the front knowingh that on Sunday he will take a five-place grid penalty due to a new ICE being fitted to hi car for the weekend. Valtteri Bottas will start third tomorrow ahead of Red Bull driver Sergio Pérez.
Hamilton led the way in Q1, with the Mercedes driver working his way to a time of 1:08.733. That put him three tenths clear of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and half a second ahead of Mercedes team-mate Bottas. Verstappen, meanwhile, was in P4 with a lap of 1:09.329, while Pérez sat in P9 with a time of 1:09.537.
Verstappen retreated to the garage and eventually went through in P6, but Pérez was sent out on track again and his last flying lap of 1:09.172 boosted him to fourth place. That became fifth as Bottas jumped to P2 ahead of Sainz and Ferrari team-mate Leclerc.
Eliminated at the end of the first segment were Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in P16, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and George Russell, and the Haas cars of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.
In Q2, the Mercedes cars were the first on track but Hamilton’s opening flying lap was deleted for a track limits infringement in Turn 4. That left the door open and Verstappen stepped forward to take P1 with a lap of 1:08.567. Pérez, though, was out on used softs and his time of 1:09.131 left him in P6. Hamilton then went for a second run on the same set of tyres and took top spot with a lap of 1:08.386.
In the final runs of the second segment, Hamilton made another step forward to cement himself into top spot with a time of 1:08.068 and Bottas jumped to second. That put Verstappen through to Q3 in P3, four tenths of a second off the lead Mercedes.
Behind them, Leclerc progressed in fourth place ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Pérez improved with a final flyer of 1:08.973 and that handed him sixth place ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, Sainz, the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.
There was no way through though for Esteban Ocon who was edged out by team-mate Alonso by just five hundredths of a second. Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel exited in P12 ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, and the Alfa Romeo’s of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
In the first runs of Q3 Hamilton again led the way with a lap of 1:08.107, though Verstappen edged closer, getting to a little over two tenths of a second off the Mercedes driver. Bottas slotted into third, a tenth back on the Dutchman with Pérez in fourth place.
Verstappen pushed hard to get closer still and though he went quicker in the middle sector he couldn’t find more time at the beginning or end of the lap and failed to improve overall. Hamilton, meanwhile, was finding time, and the seven-time champion crossed the line in a time of 1:07.934 to take P1 for the sprint. Pérez found a significant improvement on his final run but his 1:08.483 wasn’t just over a tenth of a second slower than Bottas’ final flyer and the Mexican was forced to settle for fourth place.
Behind the top four, Pierre Gasly claimed fourth place ahead of the Ferrari’s of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were eighth and ninth respectively and 10th place was claimed by Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.
2021 FIA Formula 1 São Paulo Grand Prix - Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:07.934 228.345
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:08.372 0.438 226.882
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:08.469 0.535 226.560
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:08.483 0.808 226.514
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:08.777 0.843 225.546
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:08.826 0.892 225.385
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:08.960 1.026 224.947
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:08.980 1.046 224.882
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:09.039 1.105 224.690
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:09.113 1.179 224.449
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:09.189 1.121 224.203
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:09.399 1.331 223.524
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 1:09.483 1.415 223.254
14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:09.503 1.435 223.190
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:10.227 2.159 220.889
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:09.663 0.930 222.677
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:09.897 1.164 221.932
18 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:09.953 1.220 221.754
19 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:10.329 1.596 220.569
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:10.589 1.856 219.756