Close call leaves Lewis feel­ing ‘dis­re­spected’

World Cham­pion avoids a near miss with Sirotkin but takes pole any­way

Sport360 - - Brazil Grand Prix - By Philip Dun­can @philip­dun­canF1 ✉ ed­i­to­rial@sport360.com

Lewis Hamil­ton will start the first race of his cham­pi­onship pa­rade from pole po­si­tion af­ter he avoided sanction for a near-miss dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing for the Brazil­ian Grand Prix.

On vir­tu­ally the iden­ti­cal piece of In­ter­la­gos tar­mac where he passed Timo Glock to sen­sa­tion­ally win his maiden ti­tle here a decade ago, there was fur­ther drama for Hamil­ton on Satur­day.

At first, it ap­peared as though the Mercedes star was at fault. In at­tempt­ing to jump out of Sergey Sirotkin’s way, he in­ad­ver­tently drove into the Rus­sian’s path with the pair only inches away from a 150mph shunt.

Sirotkin turned sharply to his left, nar­rowly avoid­ing Hamil­ton’s Sil­ver Ar­rows, be­fore run­ning over the grass on the exit of Turn 11.

Given the speed at which Sirotkin ap­proached Hamil­ton’s Mercedes, the ini­tial ev­i­dence sug­gested the Wil­liams driver was on a fly­ing lap, and Hamil­ton was caught nap­ping.

But both par­ties later con­firmed that the rookie Rus­sian was, like Hamil­ton, only pre­par­ing for a speedy run. As such, Hamil­ton was not sum­moned to the stew­ards, with the five-time world cham­pion in­stead point­ing the fin­ger at Sirotkin for reck­less driv­ing.

“As far as I was aware no driver be­hind me was on a quick lap,” Hamil­ton said.

“I was mak­ing sure I had the gap to the driver in front, but then all of a sud­den I saw a car com­ing out of Turn 11 at high speed so I was like ‘oh my God is that some­one on a fly­ing lap?’

“I moved to the left and that was where he de­cided to go. He wasn’t on a quick lap so I don’t know what his think­ing was.

“It was quite a dis­re­spect­ful move in the sense that it was dan­ger­ous.

“It was kind of strange and com­pletely un­nec­es­sary.”

Hamil­ton’s high-speed run-in with the Wil­liams came dur­ing the sec­ond phase of qual­i­fy­ing as drops of rain threat­ened to have an im­pact on the re­sult.

In the end, the wet weather stayed away, and Hamil­ton did what he al­ways seems to do, pulling a lap out of nowhere to claim his 10th pole of the sea­son when it was Fer­rari and Se­bas­tian Vettel who seemed to hold the ad­van­tage.

Vettel pro­vi­sion­ally qual­i­fied sec­ond, just 0.093 sec­onds adrift of Hamil­ton, but is fac­ing a grid penalty for Sun­day’s race af­ter he bizarrely lost his cool when he was called to the weigh­bridge in his Fer­rari.

Keen to get back on track in the fight for pole, Vettel an­grily ges­tic­u­lated with the of­fi­cials be­fore he drove off at speed and broke the scales.

“They shouldn’t call us when the con­di­tions are chang­ing like that,” Vettel said.

“It’s un­fair and I wanted them to hurry up.”

The Ger­man’s im­pend­ing pun­ish­ment could pave the way for Valt­teri Bot­tas to be pro­moted a place, and an all-Mercedes front row, as the Sil­ver Ar­rows bid to be­come only the sec­ond team in his­tory to win five con­sec­u­tive con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onships.

Fer­rari must outscore them by 13 points on Sun­day to take the team fight to the fi­nal race in Abu Dhabi. Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikko­nen qual­i­fied fourth.

It is 12 long years since Fer­nando Alonso won the last of his two ti­tles at In­ter­la­gos, but in the penul­ti­mate race of an F1 ca­reer which has fiz­zled out since he re-joined McLaren in 2015, the Spa­niard fin­ished a mis­er­able 18th.

The year started with great hope for the Wok­ing mar­que af­ter they pushed through a di­vorce from Honda to team up with Re­nault power.

But Bri­tain’s most dec­o­rated For­mula One out­fit – in­deed the team to have won more races in Brazil than any other – are in freefall with Alonso’s team-mate, Stof­fel Van­doorne, last of the 20 run­ners.

“It was quite dis­re­spect­ful in that it was dan­ger­ous” – Hamil­ton

Thumbs up for the fans, thumbs down for Sirotkin: Lewis Hamil­ton is all smiles af­ter qual­i­fy­ing on pole in Brazil.

Fum­ing: Se­bas­tian Vettel was in­volved in a bizarre bust-up with race of­fi­cials.

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