Kevin Magnussen claimed the pole position in the Brazilian Grand Prix Qualifying. We won’t blame you if you are rubbing your eyes after reading the title. The headline may seem challenging to believe, but it is the truth. Kevin Magnussen posted the fastest time of 1:11.674 seconds in changeable conditions where the rain played hide and seek with the Interlagos circuit on several occasions. In the final stages of Qualifying in Q3, 9 of the top 10 drivers started their laps on soft tires, Charles Leclerc being the exception who started Q3 on intermediates.
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Kevin Magnussen took full advantage of the changing conditions
Magnussen posted the fastest lap time on his first run, 0.2s faster than Max Verstappen. After the top 10 drivers made the first runs, the rain started to get heavier. George Russell caused a red flag 8 minutes before the end of the session after he beached his Mercedes in the gravel lap. Russell lost control of his car under braking and went onto the gravel. He was nearly close to going onto the escape road, but to avoid hitting the barriers, he spun around 360 degrees, and his rear wheels got stuck on the gravel trap. The incident caused the session to be Red Flagged.
Everyone was waiting in the pits for the session to improve; however, during that time, the rain got heavier, and Magnussen’s chances of retaining his P1 spot for Saturday grew even more. Whether Kevin Magnussen was doing any rain dance behind the scenes cannot be confirmed, but the delight on every Haas mechanics’ face during that waiting time was visible. The session eventually resumed, but the conditions for not favourable for any dry tyre running. Cars left the pits on intermediate tyres, and cars returned to the pits after scouting the track for any complimentary racing line.
Magnussen’s first pole position was confirmed after the chequered flag was waved. This is the first pole of Magnussen’s Formula 1 career. This is also the first pole of the Haas F1 team. The last time an American outfit in Formula 1 achieved pole position was way back in 1975 when Tom Pryce of the Shadow-Ford team got the pole position.
The Q1 session started a few minutes late, on a damp track, after rain fell after FP1 and before Qualifying.
Teams bolted onto the track immediately at the start to get the feel of the surface and take advantage of the drying conditions as the threat of more rain was looming. The teams started Q1 on intermediate tyres. Pierre Gasly was the first driver to take on soft tyres, and his improved pace saw cars racing into the pits to use the same compound.
Charles Leclerc was nearly eliminated in Q1 as he followed the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda on the track. Tsunoda was also on a fast lap and wanted to avoid yielding his position to Leclerc. Leclerc was furious with Tsunoda and threw many choice words at the Japanese driver. After Q1 ended, the drivers who found themselves at the bottom of the timing sheets were Nicholas Latifi of Williams. The surprising pair of Alfa Romeo drivers, Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas. Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri. Failing to replicate his FP1 performance and starting the sprint race dead last, Magnussen’s Haas teammate, Mick Schumacher.
The Q2 session saw the return of the rain to the circuit. The rain started slowly, and drivers clocked times on dry tyres. After the initial runs, Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz were on the verge of being eliminated from Q3. However, before the cars could get onto the track in the final part of Q2 to improve time, the rain started to get heavier, especially in the second sector.
This meant there was virtually no chance for anyone to post faster times. Alex Albon missed going into Q3 by just 0.044s. Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, and Lance Stroll also failed to qualify for Q3.
In the final Q3 session, teams knew that the initial minutes were crucial to post a competitive time. Kevin Magnussen, the first to leave the pits, capitalized on that chance exceptionally well. His first run of 1:11.674 proved to be the pole-snatching time. Max Verstappen was 0.2s slower than Magnussen, and George Russell was third. In his second run, Russell beached his cars and caused the red flag.
The initial times in Q3 were also set on soft tyres. However, living up to its reputation of providing unpredictable conditions, dark clouds engulfed the circuit again, and rain began to fall onto the track; we don’t know how many times.
The moment practically sealed the pole position for Magnussen. He will start the sprint race alongside Max Verstappen in the front row. George Russell will take some solace from the fact that he qualified third on the grid ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris. Sainz, Ocon, and Alonso qualified P5, P6, and P7 ahead of a very disappointed Lewis Hamilton. Sergio Perez will start P9, and Charles Leclerc will be in the 10th spot on the grid.
Charles Leclerc was left fuming by Ferrari’s strategy
Ferrari’s strategy woes this season have been the topic of discussion among analysts and fans throughout the year. The Brazilian GP qualifying event saw another incident, which can be quantified as Ferrari’s terrible misreading of the conditions. The team set Leclerc out on wet intermediate tyres when everyone else left on dry soft tyres. Immediately, it became evident to everyone that the rainfall Ferrari hoped to arrive at the start of Q3 won’t come, and they screwed Leclerc’s chances of posting any competitive time. After they realized they had messed up again, Ferrari called Leclerc into the pits for dry tyres.
Sergio Perez was another victim of Ferrari’s inadvisable strategy call
But before Leclerc could improve, the session was red-flagged due to Russell’s incident. And after the rain got heavier, there was no chance for anyone to improve on their lap times. Leclerc made his feelings known to his pit wall at the end of the session. Leclerc also not only destroyed his chances of qualifying higher on the grid. He also managed to throw out of the window any possibility Sergio Perez had of posting a competitive time. Perez was extremely unfortunate because he left the pit lane behind Leclerc. Perez couldn’t find a gap to pass the slow-going Leclerc, so he couldn’t do much rather than follow a slow Ferrari around the circuit.
Kevin Magnussen delivered the perfect birthday gift to Gene Haas
Gene Haas will celebrate his 70th birthday on the 12th of November, 2022. What more of a gift can he ask from anyone, which Magnussen gave him this Friday evening? It should also be noted that even though Magnussen got lucky when the session was red-flagged, his performance was no fluke. He managed to clear Q1 and Q2 entirely on merit. Even in Q3, he posted his time on the exact tyre and in the same conditions as everyone else.
His pole lap achievement can be explained as him being in the right place at the right time. In post-qualifying debriefing, Magnussen said: “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.”