Valtteri Bottas beat Sebastian Vettel to pole position for the Brazilian GP after Lewis Hamilton crashed out at the start of qualifying.
Bottas pipped Vettel to pole at Interlagos by less than a tenth of a second after the Ferrari driver failed to improve on his second flying lap in Q3.
It was the Finn’s third F1 pole position as Bottas took full advantage of his team-mate’s mistake and early exit.
Hamilton spun out into the barriers on his opening lap in Q1, losing control of his car at Turn Six, and is set to start at the back of the grid.
Lewis Hamilton made an early exit from the Brazilian GP qualifying session after crashing his Mercedes
Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen will share the second row with Red Bull, winners of two of the last four grands prix, expected to pose a far tougher proposition in race conditions.
But Daniel Ricciardo – beaten 13 times in qualifying this year by Verstappen – will start outside of the top ten due to an engine-related grid demotion.
Fernando Alonso produced arguably the stand-out performance of the session, though, as the Spaniard wrestled his McLaren car to sixth on the grid despite only team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne being slower through the speed trap.
“Fernando’s qualifying effort was genuinely brilliant,” said McLaren boss Eric Boullier.
Hamilton crashes out in Qualifying
Mercedes bus robbed at gunpoint
Vettel just misses out on pole position
Ferrari will rue the three hundredths of a second which denied Vettel his second successive pole position.
Running wide at the first turn, the German suffered from understeer on his final flying lap and, critically, was unable to improve on the time he had set at the start of Q3 to claim provisional pole ahead of Bottas.
“I think I chickened out a little bit on the brakes for the final run into Turn One and lost a bit too much time,” said a disappointed Vettel. “From there the lap was fine but I knew I had a bit left in the last corner which I got but by then I was too much behind.”
After Hamilton dominated Friday practice, less than a tenth of a second separated Mercedes and Ferrari in Saturday morning’s Practice Three as the Scuderia found the sweet spot of their car. Raikkonen and Vettel then topped both Q1 and Q2 and looked favourites for pole only for Bottas to snatch P1 by the narrowest of margins just before the chequered flag fell.
Hamilton vows to have fun from the back
News broke on Saturday morning that members of the Mercedes team had been robbed at gunpoint when their team bus departed the circuit after Friday practice.
The world champions now face a late night fixing Hamilton’s crashed W08 after his high-speed hit into the barriers. The damage done to Hamilton’s car looked to be extensive and is likely to result in a gearbox change.
“It happened really quickly,” said Hamilton of his accident. “It’s very unusual from me but it shows we are all human and things happen.
“I just need to take whatever bubble of negativity comes from that experience and move forwards and try and grow from it.
“I will try to have as much fun as possible tomorrow. Years ago I came from quite far behind and had a great race.”
Sunday’s race is live on Sky Sports F1 and starts at 4pm.
Brazilian GP Qualifying Timesheet Driver Team Time 1) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:08.322 2) Sebastian Vettel Ferrari + 0.038 3) Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari + 0.2016 4) Max Verstappen Red Bull + 0.603 5) Daniel Ricciardo * Red Bull + 1.008 6) Sergio Perez Force India + 1.276 7) Fernando Alonso McLaren + 1.295 8) Nico Hulkenberg Renault + 1.381 9) Carlos Sainz Renault + 1.483 10) Felipe Massa Williams + 1.519 Out in Q2 11) Esteban Ocon Force India + 1.336 12) Romain Grosjean Haas + 1.385 13) Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren + 1.622 14) Kevin Magnussen Haas + 1.660 15) Brendon Hartley * Toro Rosso No time set Out in Q1 16) Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:10.678 17) Pierre Gasly * Toro Rosso 1:10.686 18) Lance Stroll * Williams 1:10.776 19) Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:10.875 20) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes No time set * Grid penalties to be taken
The 2017 title race may be over, but the racing definitely isn’t! Get set for Mercedes v Ferrari v Red Bull in the Brazilian GP LIVE ONLY on Sky Sports F1. The race begins at 4pm on Sunday. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!