Sao Paulo GP Qualifying: Kevin Magnussen takes maiden F1 pole after George Russell spins in rain
Kevin Magnussen takes remarkable maiden F1 pole after thrilling wet Qualifying session at Sao Paulo GP; world champion Max Verstappen second, with George Russell third despite spin; watch the Sao Paulo GP Sprint on Saturday at 7:30pm on Saturday, with build-up from 6:30pm
By Sam Johnston in Sao Paulo
Last Updated: 12/11/22 7:31am
Kevin Magnussen claimed both his and Haas' first Formula 1 pole as wet conditions set up a thrilling upset in Qualifying at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Magnussen will start Saturday's Sprint in Brazil at the front of the grid, with world champion Max Verstappen second for Red Bull.
The 30-year-old Dane was top of the timesheet with eight minutes remaining of Q3 when Mercedes' George Russell, who will start third, spun into a gravel trap and triggered a red flag.
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The rain, which had fallen at varying levels of intensity throughout qualifying, then strengthened, meaning no driver could improve once the session resumed, leaving Magnussen and Haas to celebrate a remarkable triumph.
Having topped the timesheet in Q1, Lando Norris maintained impressive speed to take fourth for McLaren, ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who is facing a five-place grid penalty in Sunday's race after taking a new engine.
Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso followed in sixth and seventh, outperforming Lewis Hamilton, who will be disappointed to have failed to take advantage of conditions he usually excels in, at one of his favourite tracks.
Red Bull's Sergio Perez was ninth after his flying lap was compromised by being behind Charles Leclerc, who rounded out the top 10 after Ferrari bizarrely sent the Monegasque out on intermediate tyres at the start of Q3.
Interlagos is hosting the third and final Sprint of the 2022 season, with Verstappen seeking to complete a hat-trick of wins after victories in Imola and Austria.
The grid for Sunday's full-length race, in which Verstappen will be looking for a record-extending 15th victory of the season, will be dictated by the result of the Sprint, which also offers points to the top eight finishers.
Sao Paulo GP: Qualifying Result, Top 10
1) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) George Russell, Mercedes
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
6) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
7) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
8) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
9) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
10) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
Spectacular scenes as Magnussen takes pole
Magnussen's F1 career appeared to be over when he was let go by Haas at the end of the 2020 season, but he returned as a short-notice replacement for Russia's Nikita Mazepin at the start of this year.
The Dane, who drove for McLaren and Renault before joining Haas in 2017, has impressed throughout 2022, but Friday's Qualifying triumph put a fairytale ending on his return to the sport.
The result was a popular one throughout the paddock, with even drivers who had missed out on a rare shot at pole expressing their delight at their rival's success.
"I came in as this arrogant little kid thinking I was the king of the world," Magnussen told Sky Sports F1. "I had a lot of lessons after that, showing how difficult it actually is in this sport.
"Now I'm on pole position so I'm just going to enjoy it."
While there was fortune attached with the timing of the rain, Magnussen's place at the top of the timesheet was fully earned.
Aside from Leclerc and Perez, the other eight drivers had a clear shot at a flying lap on fresh soft tyres, and it was Magnussen who emerged fastest.
The Haas was the first car out on track, but the advantage from that - as the rain strengthened - was only marginal at best
Russell's spin, during which he narrowly avoided the barrier but then ended up in the gravel, saw the session stopped, and as the rain got heavier, it dawned on Magnussen and the crowd that a special moment was occurring.
Having been told over radio he was top of the timesheet as the rain intensified, Magnussen expressed his excitement but warned his team it was not over.
That caution soon gave way to celebrations, with only Perez and Hamilton bothering to take to the track - on intermediate tyres - in the remaining eight minutes of the session.
"I still can't really believe it," Magnussen added.
"What a phenomenal job the team did to put me out on the pitlane as the first car to give me the best piece of track. It was starting to rain so that was the crucial part."
The Brazilian crowd cheered as pictures on big screens around the track showed Magnussen celebrating in his car, before Haas team principal Guenther Steiner emerged from the pitwall to take acclaim from spectators on the home straight.
While there are no points awarded for Qualifying, the pole represents a prized moment for one of F1's smallest teams, who only came into the sport in 2016.
Rain creates early Qualifying chaos
Rain began to fall about an hour before the start of Qualifying, adding intrigue to a session that already appeared to be well poised, with the top three of Perez, Leclerc and Verstappen having been separated by eighth thousandths of a second in first practice earlier on Friday.
Heavy showers turned to a steady drizzle as the session approached, ensuring there were no delays, but also that a drying track would create plenty of jeopardy.
All 20 cars came straight out on intermediates at the start of Q1, but Pierre Gasly switched to slicks around the halfway point and promptly went to the top of the timesheet, prompting the rest of the field to follow suit.
After that the timesheet constantly changed as the track rapidly improved, with both Verstappen and Hamilton finding themselves in the bottom five after the chequered flag had waved, but both kept their cool to jump up the standings and advance to Q2.
The big losers were Alfa Romeo, with both Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu making Q1 exits despite having appeared to have strong pace in dry conditions.
They were joined by Williams' Nicholas Latifi, AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda, and remarkably, Magnussen's team-mate Mick Schumacher, leaving a Haas at either end of the timesheet.
The track continued to improve for most of Q2, before the rain began to intensify in the closing stages.
Verstappen was comfortably fastest this time around, but Hamilton was once more exposed as he sat ninth - just two places clear of the drop zone - in the closing stages of the session.
Thankfully for the seven-time world champion, it was at that moment that conditions finally deteriorated to the point where no further improvement was possible.
Sao Paulo GP Qualifying Timesheet
|1) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1:11.674|
|2) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.203|
|3) George Russell||Mercedes||+0.385|
|4) Lando Norris||McLaren||+0.589|
|5) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+0.683|
|6) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+0.751|
|7) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+0.830|
|8) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.937|
|9) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+3.927|
|10) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||no time|
|Out in Q2|
|11) Alexander Albon||Williams||1:11.631|
|12) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||1:11.675|
|13) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||1:11.678|
|14) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||1:12.140|
|15) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||1:12.210|
|Out in Q1|
|16) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||1:15.095|
|17) Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||1:15.197|
|18) Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||1:15.486|
|19) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||1:16.264|
|20) Mick Schumacher||Haas||1:16.361|