If you consider yourself a fan of “one-shot qualifying,” then the F1 Sprint Shootout at the São Paulo Grand Prix gave you a taste of what you love.
In the third and final portion of qualifying Saturday morning, the ten remaining drivers each waited a few minutes before jumping onto the track, giving themselves each just one shot at laying down their best lap of the session.
It made for quite the frenetic finish.
Winner: Lando Norris
Perhaps the most despondent driver following qualifying on Friday?
Norris managed just a seventh-place finish in qualifying on Friday, and while he was bumped up into sixth following a two-place grid penalty handed down to George Russell, it was little consolation given the pace Norris showed earlier in the qualifying session.
“Not at all the result we wanted. We showed strong pace in the dry, but we just didn’t do a good enough job of getting on track at the right time with the rain coming in,” said Norris after qualifying. “A real shame, it’s pretty disappointing for the team as it’s a big opportunity missed today. A tough start to the weekend but we’ll do our best tomorrow in the Sprint to score positive points.”
Norris indeed showed that pace on Saturday, as he posted the best lap in SQ2 to charge into SQ3 on a positive note.
He kept that going to secure pole position, his first of the season.
Speaking with Naomi Schiff trackside after the session, Norris admitted he was surprised. “I feel like we made up for yesterday, my first pole in a long time, I’m happy.”
However, Norris does know he’ll have a challenge on his hands later today.
“The pace has been good all weekend, the car’s been really strong … the Red Bulls are always quick, Max is always quick, it’s not going to be an easy race.”
Loser: Esteban Ocon
As SQ1 was drawing to a close, Ocon was in desperate search of the lap he needed to advance into SQ2.
Instead of finding that lap, he found the front left of Fernando Alonso’s AMR23, and then he found the barrier.
As Ocon was working through the first sector he jumped on the throttle coming out of Turn 2, and while Alonso seemingly left enough room for him to pass, Ocon fought a quick bit of oversteer and caught Alonso’s front left. That caused a puncture to Alonso’s front left tyre, but the bigger result was that it spun Ocon into the barrier, and out of SQ1.
And brought SQ1 to an early close thanks to the ensuing red flag.
Immediately after the incident, Ocon pointed the finger at Alonso, complaining that the Aston Martin driver turned into him. But replay views from every angle illustrated that Ocon had snapped off the elevated curb at Turn 2, and endured a bit of oversteer that brought him right into Alonso’s car.
Here, you can be the judge:
Making matters worse for Alpine? They now face an uphill battle to get Ocon’s A523 ready for both the F1 Sprint race later today, and the Grand Prix tomorrow.
Following a disappointing qualifying session on Friday for the São Paulo Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo said that AlphaTauri was faster than they showed.
“It’s frustrating because we were definitely faster than what we showed, and there was the potential for Q2, and maybe even Q3, but we didn’t get it right on the last lap. I didn’t get the tyres in the right spot for the start of the lap, so I came too hot into Turn 1, and we lost a chunk of time in the first Sector,” said Ricciardo following Friday’s session. “From then on, the lap started to spiral a little. On the other hand, I’m happy with the improvements I found in the car compared to the morning. I’ll have a look tonight at how we can extract the performance for the remainder of the weekend.”
He certainly extracted that performance on Saturday.
Ricciardo turned in a stunning lap at the end of SQ2, finishing fourth in the session behind only Lando Norris and the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez. That put Ricciardo ahead of both Ferrari drivers, and both Mercedes drivers. Joining him in SQ3? teammate Yuki Tsunoda.
The two drivers continued that pace in SQ3, with Tsunoda qualifying sixth — ahead of both Ferraris — and Ricciardo in eighth, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Oscar Piastri.
From a disappointing Friday to battling with Ferrari and McLaren on Saturday? A tremendous session for AlphaTauri.
The contact between Ocon and Alonso did more than bring out the red flag.
It ended any chance of Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant advancing to SQ2.
The pair finished at the bottom of the timing sheet for SQ1, with Sargeant in P20 and Albon in P19.
Brazil is shaping up to be a tough weekend for the team, as the Williams duo will also start at the back of the field in the Grand Prix tomorrow. Albon is set to start in P15, with Sargeant slated to start P19. The team is locked in a fight with both Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri for seventh place in the Constructors’ Championship, and while they have a 12-point advantage over both teams, they are certainly on the back foot in that fight this weekend.
Winner: Sergio Pérez
Friday was another disappointing day for Sergio Pérez, who failed to get the timing right ahead of the rain and settled for a ninth-place finish in qualifying for the São Paulo Grand Prix.
But he got things right during qualifying on Saturday.
Pérez put his RB19 into the second row, where he will start alongside George Russell of Mercedes. Perhaps more importantly, Pérez will also start ahead of Lewis Hamilton, his main competition for second place in the Drivers’ Championship.
Losers: Aston Martin
What a difference a day makes.
After Lance Stroll and Alonso put their cars on the second row for Sunday’s Grand Prix during qualifying on Friday, Saturday was a much different story. We already covered what happened with Alonso, as he was knocked out of SQ1 after Ocon clipped his front left. While the start of SQ2 was delayed, Alonso was forced to climb out of his AMR23 and watch his team work furiously to get his car ready for SQ2.
How furiously? Well, just take a look:
The session would take place without him, as Alonso was left to sign autographs during SQ2 rather than attack the circuit.
As for Stroll, a day after he advanced to his first Q3 since the Dutch Grand Prix, and put his AMR23 into P3, he too was turned into a spectator starting with SQ2. Stroll could only manage a 17th-place finish in SQ1, ending his session early.
“Just a lot of traffic on my push lap,” said Stroll after the session. “I think the car was alright, I don’t think we were too bad, I think there was just a lot of traffic out there. Short session, everyone trying to do laps.”
Thankfully for Aston Martin, the big points come on Sunday.