Lance Stroll, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Interlagos, 2023

Verstappen storms to pole ahead of Leclerc as rain stops play in Brazil

2023 Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying report

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Max Verstappen secured pole position for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix after a late storm prevented drivers from setting more than one run in Q3.

A torrential rain storm hit the Interlagos circuit midway through the final phase of qualifying, leaving drivers’ first flying laps to decide their grid position. Charles Leclerc will start alongside Verstappen on the front row, ahead of the two Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.

Q1

Ahead of the start of the first phase of qualifying, the FIA predicted a 60% risk of rain hitting the circuit during the qualifying hour. However, due to concerns about the Interlagos track surface following punctures for Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the earlier practice session, the start of Q1 was delayed by 15 minutes to allow for the circuit to be cleaned.

Once that was completed, the session finally started at 3:15pm local time, with Oscar Piastri winning the race of cars to the end of the pitlane for when the pit exit light turned green. The field streamed out of the pits all on the soft tyres, with Piastri leading them all on a set of used tyres he had run in practice.

Piastri set the first lap time of qualifying, a 1’11.494, which neither Williams driver could match, now Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin. Alonso’s team mate Lance Stroll did beat Piastri’s first effort by a few hundredths of a second, before Lando Norris moved ahead of his team mate by eight tenths of a second.

Neither Hamilton nor Max Verstappen could match Norris’ first effort, and moved into second and third, respectively. Sergio Perez was deep in the drop zone after his first push lap, in 19th, with both Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr also not safe. With the threat of rain hanging in the air, Leclerc improved to jump to the top of the times with Sainz going sixth with his next effort.

Perez pitted for fresh soft tyres and quickly returned to the track, using them to move up into fifth place and into safety. That dropped Yuki Tsunoda into the danger zone in 16th, with Valtteri Bottas in 17th ahead of the two Williams of Logan Sargeant and Alexander Albon, then Zhou Guanyu slowest in 20th.

Tsunoda improved into the top ten, which demoted 2022 sprint race pole winner Kevin Magnussen into 16th. Albon used a fresh set of soft to jump into fourth, which was the indicator that all drivers needed to be on fresh tyres if they were to have the best chance of reaching Q2. With less than six tenths of a second separating first from the drop zone, none of the drivers in the top 15 positions were safe.

After a frantic final minute in which several drivers improved, the two AlphaTauris of Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo were left disappointed by being the first drivers knocked out of qualifying. They were joined by Bottas, Sargeant and Zhou, who was the slowest in the initial session with less than a second covering the entire field.

The stewards announced that both Alpine drivers, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, would be investigated after qualifying for impeding rivals on their way out of the long pit exit, while Gasly was also to be investigated for a second incident involving George Russell.

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Q1 result

P.#DriverTeamModelTimeGapLaps
163George RussellMercedesW141’10.3409
21Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’10.4360.0969
316Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’10.4720.1326
427Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’10.4750.1359
581Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’10.5190.1796
618Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’10.5510.2117
714Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’10.5570.2179
820Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’10.6020.2629
944Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’10.6040.2649
1023Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’10.6210.2819
114Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’10.6230.2834
1255Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’10.6240.2849
1311Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’10.6680.3288
1431Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’10.7630.4239
1510Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’10.7930.4538
1622Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’10.8370.4979
173Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’10.8430.5036
1877Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’10.9550.6159
192Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’11.0350.6959
2024Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’11.2750.9359

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Q2

All eyes were on the sky as the field queued at the end of the pit lane for the start of the second phase of qualifying began. Multiple drivers reported light spots of rain falling on them as they waited for the session to begin, but it was not hard enough to be a concern just yet.

The two Red Bulls were the first out on track, as they so often have been in 2023, with Verstappen posting a 1’10.162, setting the quickest time of the day so far to go comfortably fastest on fresh soft tyres. Perez was two tenths slower than his team mate, allowing Norris to move into second between the two Red Bulls, as Piastri joined behind him in third with a lap seven-thousandths of a second slower than his team mate.

The two Ferraris took used softs for their first laps of Q2 but they did not make a strong impression with them, both sitting outside of the top ten. They were joined by Russell’s Mercedes, who also ran used softs, while Hamilton had managed to post a top five time with his used set for his first attempt.

Hamilton returned to the track with a fresh set of softs and improved to go fourth, despite a major snap of oversteer on the exit of turn four. Russell did even better with his first push lap on fresh tyres, going second fastest, while Sainz and Leclerc also improved with new tyres into the top ten.

With just three minutes remaining, the bottom five consisted of Ocon, the Haas cars of Nico Hulkenberg and Magnussen, with Gasly 14th and Albon. The Williams driver’s best time was deleted because he exceded track limits at turn four. Hulkenberg improved his personal best but not by enough to move into the top ten, leaving him out in 11th.

Neither Alpine driver of Ocon or Gasly could improve by enough on fresh tyres and were also eliminate in 12th and 13th, with Magnussen also eliminated in 14th. Albon never returned to the circuit to complete a final run after having his best time deleted and was eliminated slowest in 15th.

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Q2 result

P.#DriverTeamModelTimeGapLaps
14Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’10.02110
21Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’10.1620.14115
311Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’10.2190.19814
414Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’10.2370.21615
555Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’10.2540.23317
644Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’10.2660.24518
716Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’10.3030.28215
863George RussellMercedesW141’10.3160.29518
981Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’10.3300.30913
1018Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’10.3750.35413
1127Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’10.5470.52615
1231Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’10.5620.54115
1310Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’10.5670.54614
1420Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’10.7230.70215
1523Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’10.8400.81915

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Q3

In what was almost in a carbon copy of the final qualifying session from 12 months prior, the skies turned ominously darker in the lull between the end of Q2 and the start of Q3. With the risk of rain, drivers headed out as early as possible to give themselves the best possible chance of getting a lap in on dry tyres.

After queuing at the end of the pit lane for well over two minutes, Alonso was the first driver out onto the track, followed by team mate Stroll, Hamilton and Verstappen fourth in the queue. Alonso set the first lap with a 1’11.387, but that was immediately beaten by team mate Stroll.

Verstappen complained about having “zero grip” throughout his lap but still managed to jump into provisional pole position with a 1’10.727. Hamilton could not match the Red Bull driver or the two Aston Martins and slotted into fifth, ahead of team mate Russell.

Even though the rain had not yet arrived, the grip and the light levels around the track were dropping dramatically. Piastri slid off track at Juncao, bringing out the yellow flags, which ruined Perez’s lap behind him.

As the field returned to their garages, the storm that had been brewing was now imminent and almost guaranteed that there would be no further running no matter the six minutes of time remaining in the session. The winds picked up and the rain started to fall. With light levels so low, race controlled ended proceedings with a red flag and soon announced the session would not be resumed as the pit lane began to be hit with torrential rain.

The arrival of the storm ensured that Verstappen was once again on pole position, with Leclerc set to start alongside him on the front row for Sunday’s grand prix. Aston Martin locked out the second row with Stroll ahead of Alonso, with Hamilton and Russell starting fifth and sixth for Mercedes.

Norris secured seventh for McLaren with Sainz eighth for Ferrari. Perez will start down in ninth after his timed lap was compromised by Piastri’s off, with the McLaren rookie in tenth after failing to set a time.

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Q3 result

P.#DriverTeamModelTimeGapLaps
11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’10.72718
216Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’11.0210.29418
318Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’11.3440.61716
414Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’11.3870.66018
544Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’11.4690.74221
663George RussellMercedesW141’11.5900.86321
74Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’11.9871.26013
855Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’11.9891.26220
911Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’12.3211.59417
1081Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL60No time15

2023 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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30 comments on “Verstappen storms to pole ahead of Leclerc as rain stops play in Brazil”

  1. Maybe more of a message for Keith Collantine: would you be able to add the tire data in for all sessions? Tire age/life/compound really help paint a better picture for the users that follow the sessions via this site vs. watching live/on tape.

    I usually have to stitch together what happened from different websites.

    1. I couldn’t really understand why Checo didn’t go out asap like max did at the beginning of the session. It was obvious big rain was imminent and he could Max making moves to get a lap in asap while he sat in his car waiting for God knows what…

  2. The new impeding rule is interesting. Drivers can be coming out of the pits at a good pace but if the driver behind is coming at max pit speed, the driver ahead is impeding if they aren’t far left.

    1. That’s the same as it works on the track too. You can only impede someone behind you, after all….

      What’s changed now is that they’ve made it OK to drive slowly where there’s only one lane to drive down safely, rather than where there’s a full width of track or two defined lanes.

  3. Ocon, or as Tsunoda likes to refer to him, ‘Lewis Hamilton! Lewis Hamilton! Lewis Hamilton!’
    Seriously, what’s wrong with Tsunoda? That was just plain weird.

    1. RBR hate school

    2. its weird nobody has sat down with him and had a chat. He probably doesn’t realize how much pressure he puts on himself.

      1. Or have gotten through to him about patience on track. He’s got speed. If he learned to control his emotions and his impatience, he’d be a much more attractive prospect. I don’t share the dislike for him. Seeing how he behaves outside the car, I don’t think he is a jerk.

    3. You are wrong. It was Lewis Hamilton in turn one he was referring to, not that he passed Ocon.

    4. Seriously, what’s wrong with people criticising Tsunoda? That’s just plain weird…

    5. Seriously, what’s wrong with Tsunoda?

      He probably knows that he’s been underperforming for years, and has escaped the Red Bull tradition only for ‘reasons’ that start with an H and end in onda. In a way, he can do no good. If he performs, it’s merely justification for him being there. Anything else and he’ll get criticized, or stared at with weary eyes, and will probably have developed a bit of an imposter syndrome. He’d probably do quite well outside of F1, because he’s still a good driver. But F1 might be one step too far.

      That said, some allowance should be made for the fact he’s talking in English. The percentage of people in Japan who are actually bilingual is by most estimates even lower than in England, which is notoriously bad at this (and used to rank an emphatic last in every EU survey on this). Add in that most of his vocabulary will be racing related, and it’s no big wonder he has some limitations when it comes to expressing his thoughts and feelings.

      Zhou is actually very good at this, considering he’s also had to learn an entirely different language, script, etc.

      1. Yes, but Zhou has a completely different personality, being emotionally stable, introverted and shy. Tsunoda’s lack of filter is a bad match to his limited grasp of English.

  4. Tsunoda has the worst personality of all the drivers, and the weirdest and most annoying radio reactions.

  5. Tsunoda should take lessons from Ricciardo re communicating; Yuki sounds like an angry child throwing things from his pram. Tsunoda should carefully read the thoughtful radio transcript between Ricciardo and his engineer and take it to heart. If possible, which I doubt.

  6. That was some storm! Speaking of weather, the long range forecast for Las Vegas predicts a low of 47° F (8° C) for the race weekend; that will make things interesting indeed, as qualifying is at midnight. I believe IndyCar stops racing at 50°…….

    1. To me, the weather was more exciting than the action. I love seeing epic weather fronts coming in.

  7. Sergio Pérez is absolutely committed to losing P2 in the WDC.

    1. He had a yellow flag and terrible timing. I’ve been the first to criticize his performance, but not sure what you want from him here.

  8. Doesn’t England have frequent summer thunderstorms? On F1 TV (the post quali show), Laura Winter acts she’s never seen a torrential thunderstorm before.

    1. Torrential thunderstorm, in England?

      1. The Midwest gets violent thunderstorms like the one we saw there. The only difference vs tropical storms is they move in and out more rapidly.

    2. Not really. We get rain in copious quantities, but rarely will you see a proper tropical thunderstorm. Ours is more a continuous grey drizzle, with a two week break for summer – also known as mizzle (miserable + drizzle).

      1. Yeah, sounds like Seattle. IIRC we once had rain on 60 consecutive days one winter. Still, one grows to love the dank and dismal day and there is nothing more exciting than a good mid-west summer thunderstorm.

  9. was looking so good for Norris, but f1 2023 is the worst season in the sport in a long, long time.

    1. Someone obviously does not like close racing. I will try to help you:
      Look at the qualification difference between cars and drivers. There are not much seasons where the battle is that close.
      If you only look at the winner and forget the 19 other drivers your not really a fan with an opinion that matters to someone.

    2. You obviously didn’t watch 2009, 2013, 2015 and many others before that.

  10. Coventry Climax
    4th November 2023, 11:50

    Don’t remember the exact wording anymore, but the “Race control: Severe climatic change” message shown on screen shortly before the end of Q3, was absolutely hilarious, coming from an organisation with a big mouth about adressing their emissions and going to zero in the coming years.
    These guys apparently have no clue of the difference between the words weather and climate.
    But, given the vagueness in the wording of their rule book and every new rule they add to it (e.g. unnecessarily slow), it may not come as a surprise.

    The severity of that weather change might well have been caused (and I certainly believe so) by climate change, but it’s not like the FiA have “climate change detectors” around the circuits.

    Also, and apart from all that, that message is like the kiddies on the street asking: “Are you going fishing?” when you carry a rod and a bag of bait wearing rubber boots. That FiA message could easily have been “Race control: These cars all have four wheels” as well.

    1. I thought I was the only one who scoffed at that. It’s just them trying to use Dennis speak to sound super advanced and clever.

      1. Coventry Climax
        4th November 2023, 18:16

        Now you are selling Ron Dennis short; he at least did have intelligence.

  11. Coventry Climax
    4th November 2023, 11:54

    The picture above the article reminds me of the old joke: Who does not belong in this list; …

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