Kevin Magnussen took a sensational first Formula One pole position, in his 100th race for the Haas team , after a weather-affected qualifying for Saturday’s sprint race at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. The Dane was on top when George Russell spun and beached his Mercedes into the gravel at Interlagos, bringing out the red flags to halt the session with eight minutes remaining and rain falling.
The team had timed it right, Magnussen first out of the pitlane with the track still dry and no chance of anyone else then going faster than his lap of one minute and 11.674 seconds.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, his second world title already won but with records to set in the last two rounds of the season, will join the Dane on the front row while Russell qualified third despite his error. “I don’t know what to say,” Magnussen said as U.S.-owned Haas, eighth overall and with one of the smallest budgets in the paddock, were left with one driver at the front and the other at the back. Magnussen’s German team mate Mick Schumacher, whose future is uncertain, qualified last.
Under the sprint format first introduced last year, the fastest driver in Friday qualifying takes pole for the record books even if he does not start Sunday’s main grand prix from the top slot.
That final grid is decided by the 100km sprint, which also awards points to the top eight.
Saturday will be the third such race of the season, with Verstappen winning the two previous ones at Imola and in Austria.