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Hamilton on pole as Vettel faces investigation – Qualifying Report

Brazilian Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the race at Interlagos, ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel on the front row. However, Vettel is under investigation for a procedural error during Q2.

Hamilton has taken pole position with a Q3 time of 1:07.281, 0.093 clear of the best time Vettel was able to put in the same session. Hamilton was fortunate to get through the session without investigation, having almost been the cause of a huge crash between himself and Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin. Coming through the final sector, Hamilton tried to get out of the way of Sirotkin but, instead, moved into the way of the Williams. Sirotkin’s reactions prevented a big accident, while Hamilton was able to get through into Q3 before claiming pole.

However, Vettel is under investigation. Coming in for weighing by the stewards during Q2, Vettel was impatient to get it over and done with due to the impending rain and the need to get in a lap before the conditions got worse. He left the engine running for his weighing and drove the car off the weightbridge under his own power, which is against the rules. According to the stewards, this destroyed the weightbridge and prevented any further weighing throughout the session. He will report to the stewards 45 minutes after the session. In better news for Vettel, he, as well as teammate Kimi Raikkonen, made it into Q3 on the Soft tyres – they were the only drivers to do so. This means they will start the race on the Soft tyres, while the rest of the top ten will be on the SuperSofts.

Behind the front row, Valtteri Bottas slotted into P3 in the second Mercedes less than a tenth of a second behind the leading pair, while Kimi Raikkonen made it an all-Finnish second row by claiming P4 in the other Ferrari.

With Renault power seemingly not quite up to the Merc/Ferrari grunt this weekend, Max Verstappen had to settle for P5 for Red Bull, half a second off the front row and just 0.002 clear of Daniel Ricciardo – the Australian will take a grid penalty for the race. This means that Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber will be starting from P6 – the Swedish driver’s penultimate qualifying session in Formula 1 sees him take his best ever starting position. He outqualified teammate Charles Leclerc by 0.2 seconds, with Leclerc one of the stars of Q2. Initially outside the top ten, Leclerc put in a last gasp lap in the worsening conditions in Q2 to move to P8 and into the final part of qualifying. Romain Grosjean finished qualifying P9 for Haas, while Pierre Gasly was P10 for Toro Rosso.

Kevin Magnussen finished P11 for Haas, ahead of the Force India of Sergio Perez – they will be the first drivers on the grid able to choose their starting tyres as a result. Esteban Ocon qualified P13, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg – the first of the Renaults. This means Renault face a hard race to finish ahead of championship rivals Haas, as the two teams squabble over P4 in the Constructor’s Championship. Their task has been made more difficult by Carlos Sainz getting knocked out in Q1. He could only manage P16, with the Renaults separated by the Williams of Sergey Sirotkin.

At the very back, Brendon Hartley finished P17 for Toro Rosso, having barely missed out on getting through into Q2, outqualifying Fernando Alonso’s McLaren by just one tenth of a second. Lance Stroll was P19 in the second Williams, while Stoffel Vandoorne was last for McLaren.

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Thomas Maher

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