Valtteri Bottas will begin the Sao Paulo Formula One Grand Prix in pole position after edging out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in Saturday’s sprint race.
The Mercedes driver completed the 24-lap dash at Interlagos in 29 minutes and 9.559 seconds, 1.170 seconds ahead of championship leader Verstappen. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was third fastest, more than 18 seconds off the pace.
Lewis Hamilton, who began last on the grid after his Mercedes failed a technical inspection, charged through the field to finish fifth. A separate five-place penalty for an engine change means the seven-time world champion will start 10th in Sunday’s race.
“I honestly had no idea what was possible. I didn’t set a limit or a maximum,” the 36-year-old Briton said after overtaking 15 rivals in a sublime drive that drew raucous cheers from the appreciative Brazilian fans.
“Then all of a sudden I was chipping away at it much faster…you can’t give up, you’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Bottas clinched three points for the sprint victory while Verstappen extended his lead over Hamilton from 19 to 21 points.
Verstappen began the sprint from the front of the grid but was overtaken early by Bottas, who kept his composure to fend off a late challenge from the Dutchman.
“The start was the key thing for me,” Bottas said. “We gambled a bit with the soft tyre, we knew it would be a benefit at the start and it worked.”