Verstappen not surprised by Hamilton’s qualifying pace

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen was not surprised to see Lewis Hamilton claim provisional pole for the Formula 1 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Hamilton dominated qualifying on Friday afternoon, topping all three segments to book his place at the head of the grid for Sprint Qualifying on Saturday by 0.4s.

However, the Mercedes driver will start Sunday’s race from sixth at best after he took a new internal combustion engine, his fifth of the season.

“You know when they take a new engine naturally they have a bit more power for a weekend, so for me it’s not a big shock,” said Verstappen.

“I’m just happy to be second, that’s a good position to start from.

“Of course, you always want to be closer but sometimes you just have to be realistic, and there was not much more in it.”

Verstappen heads into the weekend with a 19-point buffer over Hamilton in the drivers’ championship, with a maximum of 29 points on offer.

A first-place finish in Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying draws three points, with Sunday’s race worth the usual 25 plus a bonus point for fastest lap.

“There are not that many points to gain in the sprint race,” Verstappen noted.

“I hope of course to have a good first lap and see from there. Of course, the most important one is on Sunday.”

Though enjoying a clear single-lap pace advantage, Hamilton was circumspect when it came to his chances in the race itself.

“Max is obviously starting on pole now,” he said.

“It’s going to be very hard obviously to catch him, but I’ll do my best to try and get through the field.

“I don’t know what tomorrow will hold. I think the weather will be perhaps better tomorrow, which makes it a little bit more difficult for everyone.”

Conditions on Friday were overcast, with minor drizzle reported at times.

That is expected to clear for Friday, with temperatures in the low 20s and partly cloudy skies.

It’s then forecast for conditions to improve further on Sunday, with the mercury nudging the mid-20s for race start at 14:00 local time.

Hamilton and Verstappen will next be on track for Free Practice 2 at 02:00 AEDT on Sunday morning, with Sprint Qualifying to begin at 06:30 AEDT.

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