Bottas storms to pole after Hamilton crashes out
VALTTERI Bottas stormed to pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix yesterday to save face for Mercedes, whose freshly-crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton crashed out early in qualifying.
Bottas posted a track record 1 minute 8.322 seconds on the 4.309-kilometre Interlagos course for his third pole of the season, despite some light rain at the end of the session.
Sebastian Vettel was second and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen third.
Hamilton, who clinched a fourth career world title at the last race in Mexico a fortnight ago, lost control and crashed into a tyre barrier. He got out unharmed but the car suffered some damage and he will start today from the back of the grid.
Hamilton came out to congratulate Bottas after the Finn topped the qualifying, and will hope to rise through the rankings at a traditionally unpredictable race after his “very unusual” mishap.
“Of course it’s unfortunate. I tend to just look at it as challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them makes life meaningful,” he said.
Up front, there seems not much between Mercedes and Ferrari whose four drivers were separated by a mere sixth hundredths in the third practice session, while in qualifying Vettel trailed by three hundredths, with Raikkonen two-tenths back.
“Lewis going out in the beginning was a shame for us but I’m glad I could stand up for us and the team,” Bottas said. “It’s really good to start on pole here. We have a good car and it will still be close with Ferrari and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
While Bottas managed to better Vettel’s time at the death, the German was not fully satisfied with his last flying lap as he admitted: “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.”
Max Verstappen placed fourth but his Red Bull team has struggled a little at Interlagos and he is not tipped to get a third victory in five races.
Teammate Daniel Ricciardo was fifth but loses 10 places on today’s grid owing to an engine part change, one of four drivers moved back owing to penalties.
Williams’ Felipe Massa meanwhile will start his last home race from ninth place before retiring after the season-ending Abu Dhabi race on November 26. Massa won the Interlagos race twice, in 2006 and 2008, while at Ferrari. – DPA
POLE POSITION: Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, right, celebrates getting pole position with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after yesterday’s Brazil Grand Prix qualifying in Sao Paulo.