Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying: Lewis Hamilton takes pole in rainy Interlagos
New Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton took pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
Dark clouds hovered ominously as the cars took to the track - and Hamilton's Mercedes continued to smoke, just as it had been during free practice.
It was no wonder he was quickly bumped down the time sheets, eventually finishing P4. It was Max Verstappen who led the way, with the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel tucked in behind him.
Daniel Ricciardo? Well, he already knew he'd have a five-place grid penalty after a marshal sprayed a fire extinguisher at his exhaust back in Mexico - damaging his turbocharger and forcing another change of technology in his car. He took it unsurprisingly quite easily during Q1.
Fernando Alonso radioed in to complain about rain plus a front wing scraping the track, so it wasn't much of a surprise to see him in the dropzone.
OUT: Carlos Sainz (Renault), Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso), Fernando Alonso (McLaren), Lance Stroll (Williams), Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren).
Huge queue from the pitlane as everyone tried to get back out on track immediately before the rain started to pour.
The Mercedes duo were fastest to clock their laps, with Valtteri Bottas leading his team-mate and setting a lap record, while the Ferraris were caught out on their hot laps as the precipitation began.
An increasingly edgy Hamilton managed to cut up Sergey Sirotkin and Raikkonen on the same lap, which was interesting - and may result in a penalty after the incidents have been assessed.
Vettel might also find himself in trouble - called to the weighbridge, refusing to turn off his engine, driving off, and destroying the scales.
Sauber's Charles Leclerc pulled a brilliant lap out of the bag just as the clock ticked to zero, securing P8 and knocking Kevin Magnussen out.
OUT: Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Sergio Perez (Force India), Esteban Ocon (Force India), Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), Sergey Sirotkin (Williams).
A fascinating front of the grid in store tomorrow - not at the very front, mind, where Hamilton took pole with Vettel alongside him, then Bottas in P3 and Raikkonen next to him, with the Red Bulls coming next, before the application of grid penalties.
But behind them, the Saubers locked out the fourth row, with Haas's Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly following them.
TOP TEN: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), Charles Leclerc (Sauber), Romain Grosjean (Haas), Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso).
QUALIFYING IN SUMMARY
The odd weather created a drama-inducing amount of caution from all the teams as they panicked about tyres and strategy. Maybe that's why some of the senior drivers looked so uncertain and made such bad decisions, with Hamilton and Vettel the notable culprits and Alonso's cavalier use of the kerbs possibly contributing towards the bumps on his car.
Hamilton's wobble was quite uncharacteristic - and had there been a title left to win, it might have been particularly impactful.
ONE TO WATCH
Always Charles Leclerc. What a driver he is - and what a great prospect it is to watch him next season in an even more competitive car.
Hamilton - Bottas - Vettel