Kevin Magnussen delivered Haas’ first ever Formula 1 pole position in a dramatic wet-dry qualifying in Sao Paulo.
In a fairy-tale moment, the 30-year-old Dane secured pole in the garage after setting the fastest time before George Russell spun off and caused a red flag.
The stoppage meant that the inbound rain hit the track before the cars could return to the track, securing Magnussen’s maiden pole position at the 141st attempt.
“I don’t know what to say,” said a beaming Dane, who added: “The team put me out in the perfect position, did a pretty decent lap and we are on pole! It’s incredible, thank you.”
“I want to say thank you to Gene Haas, Guenther and the whole team for taking me back on and giving me the opportunity to have a day like this – I’m so chuffed. The team put me out in the pitlane as the first car and that was the gamechanger. It gave me the best piece of track as it started to rain and we got pole. It was the longest minute of my life trying to stay calm as it looked like it was going to be wet but you never know. I’m so happy.”
When asked about his plan for the Sprint race on Saturday, Magnussen responded with: “Maximum attack [tomorrow], let’s go for something funny.”
Magnussen, who left F1 in 2021 after being dropped by cash-strapped Haas, made a sensational return to the sport when the American team sacked Nikita Mazepin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Danish driver scored a memorable fifth place at the opening round of the season for Haas, who had scored no points in 2021 with rookie pair Mick Schumacher and Mazepin.
And now Magnussen’s season is crowned with his best F1 achievement to date, having beaten World Champion Max Verstappen to the pole.
Verstappen rues mistake, Ferrari’s day disjointed
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was favourite for pole, but missed out on a 20th career pole following an error on the lap the counted in Q3.
The Dutchman followed Magnussen and Sainz on the track in Q3 and would have still fancied his chances despite the worsening conditions.
However, Verstappen blamed a lock-up at Turn 8 for missing out on the top spot.
“We knew it was going to be that one lap because of the rain, I locked up into Turn 8 so that cost me pole today,” the 25-year-old explained.
“In these conditions anything can happen and we are still upfront which is most important.”
Verstappen’s minor error was stark contrast to the Qualifying session at Ferrari.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz struggled through Q1 and Q2, with Leclerc at one point left waiting in the pit box while the team hurried to find the correct tyres to fit to the car as the conditions improved from the damp start.
Sadly, for Ferrari fans, more embarrassment was to come as Ferrari sent Leclerc out on intermediate tyres at the start of Q3, while all the other nine drivers set a lap on slicks.
The frustrated Monegasque attempted a lap on the inters, which did inadvertently hold up Sergio Perez’ Red Bull, but the Italian team’s day was summed up with fifth and tenth on the grid for Saturday’s Sprint race.
Norris stars in damp conditions
McLaren’s Lando Norris almost didn’t take part in Qualifying, having suffered suspected food poisoning, with McLaren lining up former junior driver Nyck De Vries as a super-sub.
However, a well again Norris produced another sparkling performance in wet-dry conditions, qualifying fourth fastest.
22-year-old Norris took his only pole position in Sochi in 2021, making the most of a drying track to set the fastest time.
Norris was quick in the damp early stages, setting the fastest time of Q1, before matching Russell and Alonso in Q2.
The young Brit showed his prowess in changing conditions and his feel for the available grip to deliver an excellent lap in Q3, beating both Ferrari’s, a Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.