QUALIFYING: Hamilton seals Mercedes’ 100th pole, Vettel’s P2 under threat
There was a familiar team on pole in Brazil – and it was another landmark in their Formula 1 journey. Lewis Hamilton, having claimed his fifth world championship last time out in Mexico, didn’t take his foot off the gas at Interlagos, claiming Mercedes’ 100th pole position in F1 and their fifth in a row here, finishing up less than a tenth ahead of nearest rival Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari.
Vettel trailed the Briton by 0.093s, but it could get worse for the Ferrari man – he has been summoned by the stewards for allegedly “destroying the scales” at the FIA weighbridge, after failing to turn off his engine as required.
For now though, he joins Hamilton on the front row, followed by the sister Silver Arrow of Valtteri Bottas who completed the top three, while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen comfortably drove to fourth place on the grid, with the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo unable to get within three-tenths of the Finn. The latter will drop to 11th, though, having been hit with a five-place grid penalty for taking on new power-unit elements this weekend.
Perhaps the surprise of the session was the driver sitting in P7. For most of the weekend, it has been Haas who have shown their pace as ‘best of the rest’ but it was Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who is taking part in his penultimate F1 race this weekend, who was the quicker of the midfield pack behind the top three teams.
The Swede’s team mate Charles Leclerc came home in eighth, ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, who has been armed with Honda’s Spec 3 engine this weekend and will be looking to get off the line quickly.