Lando Norris set the fastest time of the Sprint Shootout to recover from a frustrating qualifying at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, in a session held up by a collision between Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.
There was no rain to disrupt proceedings but the session was still delayed after the bizarre crash, when the Alpine was starting a flying lap and Alonso had backed off so was on the outside of Turn 3 letting cars through. While Alonso appeared to tighten his line just as Ocon was set to pass, the Frenchman had a snap of oversteer that pushed him wide and he hit his former teammate, sending Ocon flying into the barrier on the outside of the track at high speed.
The crash red flagged SQ1 and ended it prematurely, leading to Ocon being eliminated alongside Lance Stroll, Zhou Guanyu, Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant. The incident also meant the clean-up operation and barrier checks delayed the start of SQ2, with Aston Martin unable to repair Alonso’s car in time to take part.
The second session started just four minutes before the whole qualifying session should have ended, but it was worth the wait for the likes of Norris and Ricciardo, who impressed with the fastest and fourth-fastest times respectively. Norris achieved his on used mediums in another sign of the raw pace McLaren failed to capitalize on on Friday, while Ricciardo managed his time with just one run.
Those improvements nudged the Haas pair of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg down to 11th and 12th ahead of Pierre Gasly and Valtteri Bottas, with just 0.196s covering the Finn – who set the slowest time with Alonso not running – and Tsunoda who was 10th in SQ2.
A major factor of the final part of qualifying was the availability of tires, although those with multiple sets of new softs still only opted for a single run. That led to a busy final few minutes of SQ3, with Norris and Max Verstappen – both on new softs – closely matched throughout before Norris snatched pole by 0.061s.
“Honestly, it felt like one of the worst laps I’ve done, so I’m a bit surprised,” the McLaren driver said, but lines up ahead of both Red Bulls with Sergio Perez in third.
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton are fourth and fifth ahead of a very impressive performance from Yuki Tsunoda, who beat Ricciardo – who ended up eighth – by just over 0.1s, sandwiching Charles Leclerc, with Carlos Sainz and Oscar Piastri rounding out the top 10.