Qualifying for the penultimate Grand Prix of the year at Interlagos took place with Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg taking his fifth pole position in a row. It was the team’s fourteenth front-row lockout of the season.
Fernando Alonso was the first causality of the session when he pulled over on the side in Q1, reporting no power, marking the second qualifying session in a row where the Spaniard has failed to set a time.
His McLaren teammate Jenson Button fared little better, shortly following him on the sidelines after being knocked out of Q1. It’s the eighth time that both McLarens have been knocked out Q1, but that didn’t stop them from having fun and entertaining the crowd. Alonso spent the rest of qualifying watching the action trackside in a fold-up camping chair, and later the pair of them decided to step on the podium and wave to the fans, despite the team’s lack of performance.
It was also a qualifying session to forget for Lotus, which had shown improved pace in the preceding practice session. Pastor Maldonado was once again knocked out of Q1 with the sixteenth-fastest time; his teammate Romain Grosjean made it to Q2 but was the slowest runner after going off-track.
Felipe Massa was lucky not to be knocked out of Q1 as his Brazilian compatriot, Felipe Nasr, got in his way whilst Massa was on a flying lap and the Sauber rookie was on his out-lap. Luckily Massa was able to put in another timed lap, but Nasr was called to the FIA Stewards over the incident to discuss his failure to drive off the racing line or at least use his mirrors. The youngster, who ultimately qualified an impressive eleventh-fastest in a car that has not even troubled the midfield all weekend, was subsequently hit with a three-place grid penalty for his troubles.
Massa made it into Q2 but again failed to impress; by contrast his Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas qualified fourth-fastest. The Finn, however, will also take a three-place grid penalty for (coincidentally) overtaking Nasr during FP1 while the track was under red flag conditions.
Nasr wasn’t the only rookie to qualify well. He was sandwiched on the timing screens by the Toro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Sergio Pérez will need to rely on his tyre management skills to gain places after qualifying his Force India a lowly 13th-fastest. Teammate Nico Hülkenberg fared much better, clocking the sixth-fastest time to put the team in a solid position to cement fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings over Lotus on Sunday.
Image via James Moy Photography