A surprised Lando Norris kept the Red Bulls behind him to put his McLaren in pole position for Saturday’s Sao Paulo sprint race.
The Briton lapped 0.061 quicker than triple world champion Max Verstappen in the sprint shootout qualifying with Mexican Sergio Perez third fastest and 0.134 off the pace in the second Red Bull.
“Honestly, it felt like one of the worst laps I’ve done so I’m a little bit surprised,” said Norris, who qualified sixth for the main grand prix, after setting a time of one minute 10.622 seconds.
“But it’s a good surprise, I feel like we’ve made up for yesterday. My first pole in a long time so I’m happy.”
Mercedes’ George Russell was fourth fastest, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda qualified sixth with teammate Daniel Ricciardo eighth and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc between the two.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will line up ninth and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri 10th for a 100km race in which only the top eight score.
The first phase of the shootout was red-flagged with 33 seconds remaining after Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso collided at turn three.
Ocon branded his former teammate an idiot over the team radio after he slammed into the barriers, but double world champion Alonso said the Frenchman had driven into him.
Television replays suggested Ocon suffered oversteer and lost control before the impact, with Alonso returning to the pits with a puncture and playing no further part in the shootout.
“I didn’t see the replay yet, someone told me he locked the car apparently. It was one of those situations, wrong place, wrong moment,” said Alonso.
Alonso’s teammate Lance Stroll qualified 17th, less than a day after he and Alonso qualified third and fourth for the grand prix.
The second phase was delayed for barrier repairs, with plenty of work for the Alpine and Aston mechanics ahead of the later sprint race.
The session was dry and sunny, unlike Friday’s qualifying for Sunday’s main race that was halted under dark skies streaked by lightning as 100kph winds and rain swept in, damaging structures including the roof of one of the grandstands.
Organisers said six fans were treated by the race’s staff but no one sustained major injuries.
Some of the affected structures had already been repaired by Saturday morning, although parts of Sao Paulo remained without power and fallen trees could be seen in the streets.
Sunday is expected to be sunny, with some clouds in the sky but no rain, according to weather forecaster Climatempo.
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