Max Verstappen will start the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix from pole position after a near-perfect lap outqualifying Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by over a tenth of a second at Autódromo José Carlos Pace.
With Aston Martin Red Bull showing strong pace throughout the weekend, the Dutchman was delighted to finish the day fastest, “I’m very happy with pole here today and the car and engine were performing really strongly together,” said Verstappen
After not setting a time in the first practice of the weekend, Verstappen finished the Friday with third fastest in Free Practice 2. For the third session he moved into the second fastest on the timesheets before topping the times in qualifying.
“We made a few improvements overnight and even after Free Practice 3 we made some final touches to the car and it really came alive in qualifying.
“Straight away from Q1 the car was flying and even though Q3 was a little more tricky as the temperature increased the car still felt good. Going fastest in the middle sector and to be on pole by over a tenth here is a strong performance for us and Honda.“
With qualifying out of the way, focus switches to the race, Verstappen is confident for Sunday with the Red Bull having shown strong race pace recently.
“Normally we have a quick race car so hopefully that will be the same in the race and I really enjoy driving on this track. I’m expecting an exciting and hopefully an enjoyable race, so now we just have to finish it off tomorrow,” he added.
Teammate Alex Albon finished qualifying in sixth place, but due to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc having a ten-place grid penalty, will start from fifth place on the grid.
The Thai-British driver lost time on Friday after sliding into the barriers in the first session of the day. A steady performance in the second practice saw him finish ninth-fastest before out-pacing Valtteri Bottas in Free Practice 3 to finish fifth.
A competitive qualifying saw the top-six drivers covered by 0.427 seconds with Albon slowest of the top three teams, leaving him a little disappointed with the result.
“All in all it wasn’t a bad comeback coming into qualifying but I’m still chasing for that final bit,” explained Albon.
“Yes, it’s my first time here but I don’t like that excuse, and I don’t want to make excuses in general. I think it’s quite a tricky track, with long corners and low speeds. It’s very thermal sensitive so if you make a little mistake in one corner, you pay the price in the following four or five corners.
“Even in my second run I had a little snap into Turn 2 and then the tyres are too hot for the rest of the lap. They’re very fine margins here but it’s fun. There aren’t many tracks like this and I enjoy driving here, I just wanted to be a bit quicker today.
“Max did a great job and it was a good Saturday for the Team. Our race pace looks pretty good and with Charles’ penalty we start fifth so we have every reason to be in the mix.”
Team Principal Christian Horner had more than just his birthday to celebrate with Verstappen grabbing pole position, “That was the perfect birthday present from Max today with pole position in São Paulo.” said Horner.
“This is a track where Mercedes have dominated qualifying for the last five years so it was a great performance. Max was quickest in every session of qualifying and it’s also good to see Alex getting closer and closer to the pace as well.
“Pole position is all credit to the Team, they’re doing a fantastic job and all praise to Honda as well at what is a power-sensitive circuit, especially at this high altitude. It’s a great effort all around and I think this result is all about teamwork.
“It’s important for us to get a good start as this is a track you can overtake at. We need to have a clean first lap, get our heads down and then do the best we can.”