Hamilton takes 60th career pole at Interlagos, Rosberg P2; Raikkonen nabs P3 at the death for Ferrari
Mercedes’ ace Lewis Hamilton blistered the short and tricky Autódromo José Caros Pace circuit in Sao Paolo, Brazil on Saturday en route to a dominant lap good enough for pole position in Sunday’s race. Desperate to keep his championship aspirations alive on a track that has been far from kind to him, Hamilton nonetheless prevailed in slightly damp conditions, beating out his teammate and current points leader, Nico Rosberg, by .10 seconds. It was Hamilton’s 60th career pole and pulled him within 5 of his hero Ayrton Senna for second on the all-time list. More importantly, with only two races remaining it gave the Englishman his best shot at holding off Rosberg in Sunday’s Grand Prix, where the German can clinch his first World Championship with a victory no matter where Hamilton might finish. Even starting from P2 Rosberg’s chances seem decent to pull that off but Hamilton did what he had to do to hopefully start fast, keep Rosberg behind and live to fight it out at the last race in Abu Dhabi.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a nice burst on his very last lap in Q3 to vault himself into P3 on the starting grid, relegating Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to P4 with that excellent effort. Raikkonen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel did well to qualify in P5 after his car had hydraulic issues that almost cost him a chance to get onto the track at all, so big kudos to his Ferrari mechanics for getting it resolved in time. Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo ended up behind Vettel in P6 and it should be very interesting to see how those rows 2 and 3, split as they are between Ferrari and Red Bull, get off the line and interact when the lights go out. Haas’ Romain Grosjean had a superb effort with a time good enough for P7, the eye-opening first year American team’s best ever quali rank. Force India ended up with Nico Hulkenberg in P8 and Sergio Perez P9 but scored an extra bonus of sorts when neither of the Williams could break into Q3, despite the crowd’s partisan urgings for their retiring countryman Felipe Massa at his last Brazilian GP. That kept tiny Force India’s chances of beating out storied Williams F1 for a very lucrative fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship looking good. Fernando Alonso rounded out the Top 10 starters on Sunday with a time good enough for P10 in his McLaren.
Top 10 Qualifiers for the Brazilian Grand Prix:
|4||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:11.957||1:11.834||1:11.485||12|
|6||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:12.409||1:12.047||1:11.540||12|
|8||27||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:12.428||1:12.360||1:12.104||20|
|9||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:12.684||1:12.331||1:12.165||21|
Tomorrow’s race airs live at 11AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network here in the States. The penultimate contest in a fast and furious 2016 campaign, Turn 1 on the opening lap could mean everything to the two Mercedes contenders, as contact is common there. Hope to see you then to find out how it all shakes out!