Hamilton gains 15 places in Brazil sprint qualifying as Bottas overtakes Verstappen to take pole

Briton started from the back of the grid after being stripped of his Friday qualifying results due to a DRS infringement

By Yuri Coghe
Hamilton gained no less than 15 positions during the sprint qualifying session in São Paulo on Saturday (Photo: F1/Twitter)

The São Paulo sprint qualifying session had great action on both sides of the grid on Saturday.

Valtteri Bottas overtook Max Verstappen for the lead at the start, keeping first place in the 24-lap race to take his third pole position of the season and 19th overall.

His Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton, had set the fastest time on Friday to start the sprint qualifying on first place but was stripped of his result Saturday morning due to a DRS infringement.

Further reading: Hamilton leads Verstappen to set grid for Sprint Qualifying but faces possible disqualification

The seven-time world champion had to start from the back of the grid, then, managing to gain 15 positions in the half an hour race for a memorable performance that saw him move past Lando Norris in the final lap.

Hamilton will start Sunday’s race in tenth, however, due to a five-place grid-penalty for adding a fifth Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) to his power unit.

Verstappen was fined 50,000 euros for touching Hamilton’s rear wing after the Friday qualifying session to inspect the component. The Red Bull driver violated parc ferme rules that say “no operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorized by the same officials or by the applicable regulations.”

Bottas had soft tires as opposed to Verstappen starting on the mediums, something the Finn thinks worked in his favour.

“We knew the soft would be a benefit for the start and it worked, and then it was all about trying to survive until the end,” said Bottas after the session. “I’m glad it worked out perfectly.”

“The start wasn’t the best,” said Verstappen. “I think our pace was quite good, but sometimes here you just can’t pass. We will try again tomorrow.”

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. also overtook Verstappen at the start but lost the position back three laps later. The Spaniard finished third, one position ahead of Sergio Perez, to claim a point for Ferrari. The Mexican driver put pressure on Sainz for third but to no avail.

“The first three corners I just went onto the attack,” said Sainz. “It was a bit tight with Checo and Max but we made it stick.”

Norris, celebrating his 22nd birthday, enjoyed a beautiful move on Charles Leclerc on lap 9. Norris was sixth, one position ahead of Leclerc. They will both move one position ahead on Sunday’s grid due to Hamilton’s penalty.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel will also gain one place in detriment of the Mercedes driver. They finished the sprint qualifying in eighth, ninth and tenth, respectively.

Championships repercussions

Verstappen added to his drivers’ championship lead by claiming two points in the session for finishing second, taking his gap to Hamilton to 21 points now.

Mercedes took advantage of Bottas’ three points to double its lead to Red Bull in the constructors’ championship, now at two points.

More track action

Canadian Nicholas Latifi, who outqualified Williams teammate George Russell for the first time on Friday, managed to stay ahead of the Briton to finish 16th. Russell came right behind in 17th.

Lance Stroll, the other Canadian on the grid, finished 14th.

Kimi Raikkonen fell to last when the Alfa Romeos made contact on lap 2. The Finn eventually finished on P18, just ahead of the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher, 19th, and Nikita Mazepin, 20th. Antonio Giovinazzi kept his 11th place in the accident but dropped to 13th eventually.

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo (P13), Alpine’s Fernando Alonso (P12) and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda (P15) couldn’t repeat the top-10 performance of their teammates.

The São Paulo Grand Prix is scheduled for Sunday at 12:00 PM EST, 9:00 AM PST.

See the full São Paulo sprint qualifying results below:

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