Haas and Kevin Magnussen secured a shock pole position for the 2022 Brazilian GP sprint race in a session where the weather played a key role in the outcome.
Forecasts had predicted wet weather throughout the weekend in Interlagos, and they proved to be accurate as the qualifying session for the final sprint race of the season got underway.
Under changeable conditions, the top spot swung between a host of drivers including Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso, but it was red flag in the final session that Magnussen’s moment came.
A few minutes into the session, with the conditions becoming steadily more challenging, the Mercedes of George Russell flew into the gravel at Turn 4, beaching the car and bringing out the red flags.
Magnussen and Haas had looked strong throughout the session, with their car strong all year in the wet, and the Dane managed to bank the fastest lap ahead of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
With the red flags out and the rain beginning to come down heavier, Magnussen could scarcely believe his engineer when he was told he was on provisional pole.
“Are you f**king kidding me?” he said.
“I’ve never felt like this in my life.”
While the session was started after Russell’s car was lifted out of the gravel, the conditions had become impossible for full slick tyres.
Verstappen and Hamilton came back out to try their luck, but eventually all the drivers came back in and was time for celebrations at Haas as the team secured its first pole position in its 143rd grand prix.
Meanwhile it is also a landmark moment for Magnussen, whose F1 career appeared to be over after he was replaced by Nikita Mazepin for the 2021 season before his stunning comeback for this year.
There were ecstatic celebrations in the Haas garage, as the team marked owner Gene Haas’ 70th birthday in style.
Ferrari gamble flops
The teams and drivers were left guessing what the notoriously unpredictable weather in Sao Paolo would do next throughout the session, and the order swung back and forth throughout with the rain coming in and out.
It was clear that the first few laps of Q3 were going to be vital with the weather steadily deteriorating, but Ferrari once again left one of their drivers baffled with a strategy call by opting to start Charles Leclerc on intermediate tyres on the session while the rest were on softs.
Leclerc only realised he was the only driver to opt for wet-weather tyres, and subsequently swore at the team on the radio as yet another questionable strategy call cost him time.
The position initially looked salvageable, but the red flag for Russell’s crash put paid to any hopes the Monegasque had of fighting for pole, and he will start the Sprint Race from 10th on the grid.
Meanwhile, 2022 champion Max Verstappen will be in a strong position for the short-distance race in second place, while Russell will start from third despite his crash.
Norris, who would potentially have been within the times needed for pole after showing pace throughout qualifying, was fourth, ahead of Sainz, Esteban Ocon, Alonso and Hamilton. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was 9th.