There were mixed fortunes for the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team drivers in qualifying at Interlagos, with George Russell finishing the session in P3 and Lewis Hamilton in P8.
George secured P3 on the grid for tomorrow’s Sprint but finished his session in the Turn 4 gravel after touching the damp grass on his second flying lap.
Lewis – running a lower downforce level – suffered from poor grip on his first flying lap, then was gaining time on the second lap when the red flag was deployed.
Lewis will gain a position for tomorrow’s grid through a penalty for Sainz, and both of the team’s cars will start the Sprint ahead of one Red Bull and two Ferraris – with 95 racing laps to come.
‘There were some mixed emotions for me in that session. It was a pretty unique experience in Q3 – we were one of the last cars on the road, and as the lap progressed, the rain was falling harder and harder – and it was a lot wetter in the final corner than on the lap before. On the next lap, I lost the car into Turn 4 and actually broke the headrest because my head was bouncing round so much; then I tried to do a 360 and beached the rear tyres in the gravel, which wasn’t my best decision. There’s a lot of gravel in there but the guys will have to take it to pieces to get everything out, so hopefully it will all be okay. Even so, P3 is a good starting position for tomorrow, and I have to say a massive congrats to Kevin and Haas on pole. These kinds of unexpected results are exactly what make sport so special!’
‘That was a difficult session overall. It wasn’t an easy session to predict the weather, and then it was getting so dark that it was hard to see the rain drops out there. We were among the final cars on track, so it was getting wetter out there on my lap compared to the cars in front. I think we probably lost some tyre temperature while queuing in the pit lane, so it just didn’t come together on the one timed lap that we got in and the grip just wasn’t there for me. We did a lap on Inter at the end, just to scrub the tyre, but the track was always going to be slower than when it was dry. So P8 is not ideal – but George did a great job on his lap, and a big congratulations to Kevin for pole.’
‘A tricky qualifying session where each part had its own challenges. It wasn’t easy to get a clear lap in, especially at the points when you needed consecutive laps, but we did manage to get through the first two sessions safely although it wasn’t as relaxing as we’d have liked. The final session was all about track position; the conditions were deteriorating and, as it turned out, you wanted to be at the front of the group to get the best of the track. Neither driver had a great lap in the final session; George was happier with his car than Lewis who was lacking grip on the final run, but we have plenty of racing laps to recover with Lewis and at least he’s ahead of both Ferrari and one Red Bull on the grid. The unsettled weather is forecast to continue to that could make for a bit more decision-making during the sprint race than you normally have to do – and that may bring with it more opportunity.’