Brazilian Grand Prix: Bottas on pole as Hamilton crashes out
Lewis Hamilton crashed out early, leaving it to team-mate Valtteri Bottas to seize pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
This wasn't the way Lewis Hamilton wanted to celebrate his championship - spinning into a corner, crashing into the barriers, and getting the session a red flag. He took a while to respond to his team's request that he confirm he was unhurt, and when his answer came he sounded both shaken and weary. The medical car shot round to pick him up and take him back to the garage, and he was walking perfectly well but refused to remove his crash helmet. No time on the clock for him - back of the grid.
Kimi Raikkonen had a spat with the Ferrari team over the radio, as they expressed unwarranted concern about his fastest lap time, and concluded: "I am boxing this lap!"
"Box, then. Box!" followed the answer. He did, and stayed at the top of the table while he watched everyone else try to beat his mark. They did not.
OUT: Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber), Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso), Lance Stroll (Williams), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).
The rain started to fall in Q2, but the attention was on Hamilton, hood pulled up on his team jacket and giving a quick media conference while the rest of the field continued to fight for pole.
It was his team-mate Valtteri Bottas who got the best time to begin with, a tenth of a second ahead of both Ferraris, but then Sebastian Vettel did even better, setting a new track record.
There was all sorts of confusion at the weighbridge when neither Max Verstappen nor Fernando Alonso were sure whether they were being summoned in by the red light or not. Nobody seemed to be any clearer in the garage either, but fortunately it didn't distract either of them from going through to the final shootout.
OUT: Esteban Ocon (Force India), Romain Grosjean (Haas), Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren), Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso).
Bottas was the one setting the pace again as the weather worsened, but once again Vettel nicked the lead off him.
This time, though, the Finn hit right back, to clock a 1.08.322, a whole three-hundredths of a second faster than the leading Ferrari.
Raikkonen was quickest in the first sector but couldn't consolidate that in the rest of the lap to take P3, and Verstappen will line up alongside him.
TOP TEN: Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Sergio Perez (Force India), Fernando Alonso (McLaren), Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), Carlos Sainz (Renault), Felipe Massa (Williams).
QUALIFYING IN SUMMARY
With Hamilton at the back of the field and Bottas still able to get second place in the drivers' championship, Mercedes' race tactics will be interesting.
Still, at least the champ will have some swift company back there - Daniel Ricciardo has another grid penalty so he'll be working his way through the field tomorrow too.
When Alonso was told that he'd be starting in P6 rather than P7 due to the Red Bull's demotion, his reaction was a straightforward, "Yes!" Fair.
Leaving aside the early Hamilton exit, Ocon's departure in Q2 was pretty unusual - the Force India seemed to be doing OK on the track, and Sergio Perez's position proved that.
ONE TO WATCH
Felipe Massa in his final home race before retirement will be looking for a decent send-off. Admittedly, that's what he wanted when he was planning to retire last season as well, but he really means it this time.
Vettel - Bottas - Verstappen