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Lewis Hamilton Wins Pole Position in Controversial F1 Qualifying in Brazil

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2018

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 10: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 10, 2018 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Lars Baron/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for Sunday's 2018 Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix after finishing fastest in qualifying on Saturday. 

Hamilton was quickest in Q3 at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace circuit in Sao Paulo to earn his 10th pole of 2018 and the 100th pole for Mercedes overall.

Formula 1 @F1

QUALIFYING CLASSIFICATION: Career pole No. 82 for @LewisHamilton #BrazilGP 🇧🇷 #F1 https://t.co/7h0gn11aic

The world champion's day wasn't without controversy after he appeared to block Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Williams' Sergey Sirotkin in separate incidents during Q2. Hamilton hasn't yet been called to the stewards for investigation, though.

There were similar problems for Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who received a fine but avoided a grid penalty after allegedly damaging the weighbridge scales while he was waiting to change to soft compound tyres in Q2.

Sky Sports F1 🏎 @SkySportsF1

Sebastian Vettel summoned to the stewards after breaking the scales during qualifying for the #BrazilGP... https://t.co/NwPTjq1MmD https://t.co/1WaDFzUdSU

Ted Kravitz @tedkravitz

Update: Vettel fined €25 grand and reprimanded but as he did turn engine off and they did get car weight no disqualification. We have a race tomorrow!

It means Vettel will keep his place alongside Hamilton on the front row for Sunday's race.

Vettel was fastest in the third and final practice session earlier in the day. The Ferrari driver was slightly quicker than Hamilton.

Mercedes man Valtteri Bottas led Vettel's Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in third:

                          

Q1

Heavy rain proved the undoing for several drivers during the first qualifying session. Renault's Carlos Sainz and fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso of McLaren were among those eliminated.

The opening to qualifying belonged to Max Verstappen after the Red Bull Racing star set an early pace that Hamilton and Ferrari duo Vettel and Raikkonen couldn't match.

Formula 1 @F1

Q1 CLASSIFICATION: @Max33Verstappen leads the way #BrazilGP 🇧🇷 #F1 https://t.co/TeY8So4C9z

Hamilton's vehicle looked to be having problems similar to those the champion experienced during FP3:

Formula 1 @F1

Hamilton had smoke coming out of his car in FP3... Looks like he still has a problem in qualifying 🔎 #BrazilGP 🇧🇷 #F1 https://t.co/m5BMHrtqSS

Ferrari couldn't finish quicker than Verstappen, but there was a symmetry about the times their main drivers clocked:

Sean Kelly @virtualstatman

Raikkonen and Vettel have identical times in Q1 (1:08.452). I like consistency :) #BrazilGP

                         

Q2

Grim weather was still looming ahead of Q2, but the session's start wasn't without controversy after Vettel's incident. Ferrari also wanted to begin the session on soft compound tyres and Vettel didn't want to wait to get them fitted.

He didn't turn off his engine on the weighbridge and allegedly wrecked the scales when he sped off it. Nevertheless, Ferrari's bold strategy with the tyres paid off as both Raikkonen and Vettel finished in the top 10. 

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson detailed the exact nature of Vettel's perceived wrongdoing:

Andrew Benson @andrewbensonf1

Vettel facing an investigation refusing to turn off the engine when being weighed by the FIA, "which makes it difficult to get a stable result" and "drove off the scales under its own power, and by doing so, he destroyed the scales" https://t.co/7O86JwOGFE

Mercedes ultimately owned the session, even if Hamilton also had his troubles:

Channel 4 F1® @C4F1

Bottas sets a new lap record of 1:07.727 on the supersoft tyres - then Vettel goes P2 just 0.049 slower on softs! ⚡️😮 Hamilton may face a penalty after close shaves with both Sirotkin and Raikkonen 😬 #C4F1 🇧🇷 #BrazilGP https://t.co/Hyd1aXukya

Hamilton appeared in hot water when he drove toward Sirotkin, forcing the Williams driver onto the grass:

Formula 1 @F1

Close shave between Hamilton and Sirotkin #BrazilGP 🇧🇷 #F1 https://t.co/E1oD7gnTW5

With Sirtokin slowed considerably, Hamilton might have faced a potential three-place grid penalty. There had been a similar collision earlier in the session between Hamilton and Raikkonen.

Charles Leclerc produced a stunning lap of his own to finish eighth-fastest on slick tyres in tricky conditions. The 21-year-old Sauber ace will be racing for Ferrari next season and offered a tantalising glimpse of his talent.

Bottas' lap stood as the quickest, with Vettel and Hamilton not too much slower:

Formula 1 @F1

Q2 CLASSIFICATION: It's so tight between the top three 👀 #BrazilGP 🇧🇷 #F1 https://t.co/VKcAwXvt15

Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were among those eliminated.

       

Q3

The final qualifying session saw Hamilton seize provisional pole from Vettel with just under five minutes remaining. Bottas and Verstappen couldn't change it, finishing third- and fourth-fastest respectively, with Hamilton actually stretching his advantage on his final run.

Ferrari had one more chance to spoil the champion's day, but neither Raikkonen nor Vettel could post times quick enough to snatch pole away at the end.

Hamilton revelled in his performance amid the downpour:

Formula 1 @F1

HAMILTON: "That was some qualifying session - the weather was going up and down. I'm really happy to be in Brazil. I've got Senna's design on the back of my helmet. I appreciate the love I get here." #BrazilGP 🇧🇷 #F1 https://t.co/AXLWTSVpPV

Meanwhile, Vettel remained upbeat despite the looming prospect of an investigation:

Formula 1 @F1

VETTEL: "It was good fun, I had a tiny lock up in Turn 8, so on my second run I thought I'd go for it... it was very close but just a bit too much" #BrazilGP 🇧🇷 #F1 https://t.co/H5hT6OLtCA

Vettel's attitude is likely still positive after he avoided incurring a penalty before the race. Now with both he and Hamilton up front, a thrilling afternoon's driving awaits those in attendance on Sunday.