Lewis Hamilton has extended his run of pole positions by qualifying ahead of Nico Rosberg for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton had the edge over Rosberg during the opening qualifying stages and was leading in Q3 by 0.162 seconds after the first runs. Both Hamilton and Rosberg improved their times after the final flying lap but the Englishman finished ahead by 0.102 seconds.
Behind the Mercedes was a tight contest between a resurgent Ferrari and Red Bull.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen ended in third with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen just 0.081 seconds behind and Sebastian Vettel 0.010 seconds further adrift. Daniel Ricciardo qualified in sixth while Haas equaled their best qualifying position with Romain Grosjean taking seventh on the grid.
Hamilton ‘Ready For Whatever’
With just two races remaining on the calendar and 19 points separating Rosberg from Hamilton, the title can be won or lost at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
A win for Rosberg will be enough to give him the championship while Hamilton has no other option but to continuing winning and hoping something trips up his team-mate.
For now, Hamilton gave himself the best possible shot of victory in Brazil after a stunning qualifying session.
“I felt quite comfortable in qualifying as I have done all weekend. Nico has been getting quicker and quicker but I have generally had him covered,” said Hamilton.
“This is the best I could have hoped for coming here. I think it is only my second pole here. It’s always a track that I’ve struggled at, so I’m really happy to be up at the front.”
Rosberg said: “It was an exciting qualifying, very close, Lewis was just marginally quicker in the end. My lap was very good as well, but as we have seen this year, pole is not always the guy who wins the race.”
Tight Battle Expected Between Ferrari and Red Bull
The close qualifying between Ferrari and Red Bull – with the four drivers separated by only 0.136 seconds – foreshadows a potentially enticing battle on Sunday where few favors will be offered.
Kimi Raikkonen again managed to out-qualify team-mate Sebastian Vettel with the drivers sandwiching Ferrari’s Max Verstappen.
Following an intriguing finish to the Mexican Grand Prix at the last outing, where Vettel and Verstappen were both stripped of third place due to indiscretions, the drivers will again run closely during the race.
And with rain expected the wet track could play into the hands of Ferrari and Red Bull in the battle for podium finishes.
Strong Qualifying From Grosjean
After a torrid string of races, Grosjean delivered a superb qualifying performance for Haas to give them their equal best qualifying position.
The Haas team has been experimenting with different brake materials this weekend after a series of high-speed failures. It paid dividends and the American outfit will now be looking to a strong point finish in Brazil.
“It’s good to be back in Q3, especially after the last two races where we were out in Q1 and really struggling,” said Grosjean.
“There are still plenty of margins to improve for the future. We’re always learning more about what we need to do, but we really weren’t expecting to be in Q3 today. Generally though, when we do get things working well together, we’re quite fast, which is encouraging.”
Also in the mix at Interlagos will be Force India who qualified eighth and ninth ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in tenth. His team-mate, Jenson Button, could only qualify in 17th place saying there is ‘no reason’ for his recent poor Saturday performances.
“Maybe we could race in reverse or something,” he later offered.
The race will start at 14:00 local time and will run over 71 laps.