Max Verstappen put together a lap when it counted in Brazil, whilst Aston Martin delivered a very promising performance.
There were plenty of question marks heading into qualifying at Interlagos. This is a normal consequence of sprint weekend formats, which give teams limited running. Starting the weekend with a strong baseline set-up before optimising the car in just 60 minutes is crucial.
Despite these obstacles, Max Verstappen and Red Bull went fastest in qualifying. Despite leaving the pits relatively late in the final Q3, the Dutchman overcame the tricky conditions and put himself in Pole Position.
Just behind was Charles Leclerc, also relatively late to start his final run. In typical fashion, the Monegasque driver managed to extract the potential within his SF-23. On a weekend where Mercedes is showing lukewarm pace so far, his starting position will be crucial in the constructors’ Championship.
Huge performance for Aston Martin
The second row is all Aston Martin, with the British outfit showing what their latest upgrades are capable of. After a disastrous weekend in Mexico, Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso have looked competitive since FP1 at Interlagos. Aston’s ability to quickly extract performance from its package is hugely significant.
Lance Stroll managed a season-best to qualify in P3, marginally ahead of Fernando Alonso in P4. Considering this is the team’s first double-Q3 appearance since Belgium, Mike Krack’s team will be hopeful they can build upon this momentum in what remains of 2023.
The Mercedes duo were shy of their customer teams after the chequered flag, though a two-place grid penalty drops George Russell further down the order.
McLaren were perhaps the biggest losers from the ominous weather in Brazil. Poor strategy saw both drivers leaving the pits relatively late at a circuit where – so far – Pole Position seemed achievable.
The Midfield scrap
Nico Hulkenberg had another strong session for Haas, putting the VF-23 on P11. Once again, the American outfit proves competitive enough on low-fuel – let’s see how this translates over a race distance.
Alpine were fairly anonymous in qualifying, one of the main losers from Aston Martin’s resurgence. Points should be attainable this weekend, albeit at greater difficulty – following their post-session penalties for impeding.
AlphaTauri were within six-tenths of the fastest time in Q1, but this wasn’t enough to qualify for the second elimination round. After an impressive weekend in Mexico, the AT04 seems to have taken a step back at round twenty of the season.
Alfa Romeo will be disappointed with their qualifying. Valtteri Bottas argued that being sent out too early (and therefore missing out on track evolution) was costly. In any case, the Swiss outfit has failed to prove their solid outing in Qatar can be replicated consistently.