Bottas secures Brazilian GP pole and ‘stands up’ for Mercedes after Hamilton bins it

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas will start on pole position on Sunday for the penultimate round in Brazil, but team-mate Lewis Hamilton failed to post a time after crashing in Q1.

Bottas beat Sebastian Vettel by 0.038secs in the top-ten shootout, improving on his second run to demote the German and deny Ferrari pole. It was Bottas’ third pole of his career and his third of the season after also bagging P1 in Bahrain and Austria.

“I feel good. Still a bit shaky, but it is a good feeling. It was a nice lap and it was so close between Sebastian and myself all through qualifying. Obviously Lewis was out in the beginning and this was a shame, but I was happy I could stand up for us and the team,” Bottas said.

“It is really good to start from pole here,” Bottas added. “We have a good car but it is going to be a close race still with Ferrari. The start here is always exciting and it is going to be a long race. We know Sao Paulo and things can happen. I am looking forward to it.”

“It is alright, but it is not so much about tomorrow as today. For tomorrow I think it [P2 on the grid] is fine, but I would have loved to have been ahead,” Vettel remarked.

“It was close. I was happy with my first lap, but I think I chickened out a little bit on the brakes on the final run into Turn 1 and lost a bit too much time. From there the lap was fine: I knew I had a bit left in the last sector in the last corner, which I got, but by then I was already too much behind.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton had been one of, if not, the favourite for pole, given his form this season and in practice. The Briton, however, did not even set a time in Q1, losing it on his out-lap into Turn 6. He walked away unharmed, but his Mercedes was quite heavily shunted.

“I don’t know what happened, it happened really quick,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. “Conditions were much the same as this morning. It is what it is. Of course it is unfortunate. I tend to just look at it… well challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them makes life meaningful. I am just going to try and take whatever bubble of negativity that comes from this experience and move forward. It is very unusual for me, but it just shows we are all human and things happen.

“I will try and have as much fun as possible now tomorrow. Years ago I came from quite far behind and had a good race.”

Kimi Raikkonen will line-up third, 0.178secs off Vettel in the other Ferrari and 0.216secs off pole: “I felt I could have been better. It was a bit tricky sometimes to get the tyres in the right window for the first few corners and to be confident on the braking. The last run was better, but it wasn’t good enough,” Raikkonen conceded.

“We improved the car today and obviously the weather can change quickly, so we have to wait and see what it brings tomorrow. But it is going to be a long race and we will do our best.”

Behind, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took fourth and fifth respectively, but the latter will drop back as he has a 10-place grid penalty for multiple PU changes.

Force India’s Sergio Perez was then ‘best of the rest’ in sixth, with Fernando Alonso seventh for McLaren Honda and only 0.019secs down.

Renault duo Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz were eighth and ninth, with the retiring Felipe Massa tenth for Williams in front of his home fans.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon finished in P11 in Q2, 0.062secs off Sainz and a place in the shootout. Haas F1 duo Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were then 12th and 14th, sandwiching the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne. Brendon Hartley did not post a time in Q2 and ended it in P15 – but will drop back as he has multiple grid penalties for PU changes.

In Q1, Sauber’s Pascal Wehrelin was 16th, just 0.053secs off Hartley and a spot in Q2. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was 17th, another facing multiple grid penalties due to PU changes, while Williams driver Lance Stroll – who missed final practice due to a technical issue, picking up a 5 place drop for a new gearbox – took 18th and the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson was 19th and slowest.

Full qualifying times available – HERE.

Picture credit: Mercedes

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