Vettel was in trouble ahead of qualifying, with Ferrari hard at work in the garage in the minutes leading up to Q1 as they worked on his car’s brake system. Vettel made his appearance after five minutes and any panic was averted with his first flying lap. He set a time of 1:12.159 to steal P5 from Ricciardo and secure passage to Q2.
Surprisingly, given the pace they had shown in the free practice sessions, where even in the cooler conditions of final practice the team had finished seventh and ninth, Williams were the team to miss out Q3. Bottas dropped to P11 and Massa was eliminated in P13 behind Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez.
Behind the Brazillian, Kvyat, Sainz and Palmer were also knocked out. Williams slump was good news for Constructors Championship rivals Force India who saw Perez make it through in Top 10 fastest drivers.
Hamilton drew first blood in Q3 powering through a lap of 1:10.860 to take provisional pole, 0.162 ahead of Rosberg. Verstappen was third with a lap of 1:11.485, a hundredth of a second ahead of Vettel, with Ricciardo four hundredths further back and a just under a tenth ahead of Raikkonen.
Both Hamilton and Rosberg found more time on the final run but it was Hamilton who found most. Despite being in deficit to Rosberg over the first sector, Hamilton dug deep and when Rosberg crossed the line, the Briton found himself in P1 with a time of 1:10.736, a tenth ahead of his team-mate.
Behind them Raikkonen was the only one of the top six to improve and the gain meant that he vaulted to third ahead of Verstappen, Vettel and Ricciardo. Grosjean’s single run netted him an excellent seventh spot ahead of Hulkenberg, Perez and Alonso.
2016 Brazilian Grand Prix – Qualifying
P. DRIVER TEAM TIME GAP 1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG 1:10.736 2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG 1:10.838 + 0.102 3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:11.404 + 0.688 4. Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:11.485 + 0.749 5. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:11.495 + 0.759 6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:11.540 + 0.804 7. Romain Grosjean Haas 1:11.937 + 1.201 8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:12.104 + 1.368 9. Sergio Perez Force India 1:12.165 + 1.429 10. Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:11.266 + 1.530 Q2 Fastest Time: Lewis Hamilton 1:11.238 11. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:12.420 + 1.182 12. Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:12.431 + 1.193 13. Felipe Massa Williams 1:12.521 + 1.283 14. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:12.726 + 1.488 15. Carlos Sainz JR. Toro Rosso 1:12.920 + 1.682 16. Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:13.258 + 2.020 Q1 Fastest Time: Lewis Hamilton 1:11.511 17. Jenson Button McLaren 1:13.276 + 1.765 18. Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:13.410 + 1.899 19. Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:13.427 + 1.916 20. Esteban Ocon Manor 1:13.432 + 1.921 21. Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:13.623 + 2.112 22. Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:13.681 + 2.170 107% time: 1:15.817
Top 10 will start on soft tyres...