McLaren's British driver Lando Norris powers his car during a free practice at the Jose Carlos Pace racetrack in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 3, 2023, ahead of the Formula One Brazil Grand Prix. Photo: AFP
It was the Briton’s first Formula One pole position since he took the prime starting position for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.
"It’s a great day," he said. "Or at least a good day, but it felt like one of the worst laps I have done! So, it’s a surprise, but a good surprise. My first pole in a long time so I am happy.
Sergio Perez was third in the second Red Bull ahead of the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton with Yuki Tsunoda sixth for Alpha Tauri.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who qualified second behind Verstappen for Sunday’s Grand Prix, was unable to improve on seventh ahead of Daniel Riccardo in the second Alpha Tauri, Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari and Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.
After the torrential thunderstorm that ended Friday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix race, the sprint ‘shootout’ session began in bright, dry and warm conditions with temperatures of 24 degrees (air) and 45 (track).
The welcome improvement was accompanied by news that last year’s race winner George Russell had been handed a two-place grid penalty for impeding Pierre Gasly’s Alpine as he left the pits. He will drop from sixth to eighth.
Verstappen clocked an early fastest lap before Sainz in 1:11.796 took control ahead of Hamilton by 0.074 seconds before more late drama when Esteban Ocon in his Alpine collided with Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.
The three-time champion picked up a puncture as the Frenchman slewed across the track and spun into the barriers. The session was promptly red-flagged which meant an early exit for Ocon, Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and the Williams of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant.
For Stroll, his drop zone flop came less than 24 hours after he had qualified third behind Verstappen and Leclerc for the Grand Prix.
The damage caused by the accident at the bottom of the Senna S required repairs to the tyre barrier and Alonso’s car before the session resumed with SQ2 after a 30-minute interval.
As the track temperature rose to 52 degrees, Verstappen delivered an early banker time in 1:11.449 followed by Perez before the Red Bulls were split by Sainz. On his second run, Verstappen trimmed his best to 1:11.262 before Perez topped him and both were beaten by Norris, in 1:11.221.
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