SAO PAULO – British Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton secured on Saturday the pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix, the second-to-last race of the 2018 Formula One season.
Hamilton, who clinched his fifth F1 drivers’ title two weeks ago at the Mexican GP, snagged the top spot on the grid for the 10th time this season and did so in record-breaking fashion.
Earlier Saturday, German Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel posted the fastest-ever lap at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace – a 4.309-kilometer circuit in Sao Paulo’s Interlagos neighborhood – during the third and final practice session.
That mark of one minute and 7.948 seconds was eclipsed, however, before the end of the second phase of qualifying, in which Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas recorded the fastest lap of 1:07.727.
The drivers only got quicker in the third phase of qualifying, with Hamilton completing the circuit in a best-lap time of 1:07.281 and three other drivers – Vettel, Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen – all beating the best time in Q2.
Hamilton will be joined on the front row by Vettel in Sunday’s 71-lap, 306-km Brazilian GP, while Bottas and Raikkonen will start on the second row.
Dutch Red Bull driver Max Verstappen will be in the fifth spot on the grid and Swedish Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson will start sixth.
Verstappen’s teammate, Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, finished sixth in Q3 but will start 11th because a new turbocharger installed in his car exceeded his limit for the season and cost him a five-spot grid penalty.
Bottas and Hamilton are expected to clinch a fifth consecutive constructors’ title on Sunday for Mercedes (585 points), which leads Ferrari by 55 points.
Vettel and Raikkonen need to garner at least 13 points more than their Mercedes counterparts on Sunday to keep the constructors’ race alive until the season’s final race – the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Nov. 25.
The last time that happened was at the Austrian Grand Prix on July 1, when Raikkonen and Vettel finished second (18 points) and third (15 points), respectively, and Hamilton and Bottas were both forced to retire due to car failure and were not awarded any points.