Lando Norris felt he should have been on pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix after a McLaren blunder left him only seventh on the grid for Sunday’s 71-lap race.
Triple world champion Max Verstappen claimed his 11th pole of the season following a qualifying session which ended abruptly after a huge storm hit Interlagos.
Charles Leclerc took second for Ferrari ahead of the Aston Martin pair of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished fifth and sixth respectively for Mercedes.
But Norris will line up only seventh after McLaren left their star man in the pit lane for too long as the downpour approached.
Verstappen was one of the first on track as the majority of the 10 remaining drivers queued for the start of Q3.
However, Norris, who had looked to be a contender – indeed he was the fastest man in Q2 – was told to stay in his garage.
As day dramatically turned to night, Norris emerged on track but he could not get his McLaren up to speed in the changing conditions.
Both Lando and Oscar qualify in the top 10. 🏁
It was a qualifying which had plenty of promise, but ended prematurely due to the weather.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) November 3, 2023
Verstappen saw off Leclerc by three tenths but Norris finished 1.2 sec back, while his team-mate, Oscar Piastri, who was one of the last to join the circuit, span off at the final corner.
Sergio Perez, who joined the McLaren men in arriving late to the drama, was following Piastri. He had to back out, leaving him only ninth.
Moments later, the running was called off as heavy rain turned the 2.68-mile track into a swimming pool.
Amid the wild weather, a grandstand roof blew off at the the final corner but no serious injuries were reported.
“The car was amazing and easily quick enough to be on pole, so I am pretty gutted,” said Norris.
“I don’t know how to feel. I am disappointed. It is another disappointing qualifying. It is a shame.”
Verstappen said the Red Bull machine – which has this year carried him to a third world title and a record 16 victories from the 19 rounds so far – was “bouncing around like a kangaroo” in the opening phase of the session.
But he delivered at the pivotal moment when he wasted no time in putting in a Q3 lap.
“We did not know when the weather would hit but this is insane,” said Verstappen.
“It seems that it will be very close in the race. You saw that in qualifying and I expect the same on Sunday.”
Hamilton vowed not to leave Interlagos empty-handed after team-mate Russell took Mercedes’ sole victory of the season here a year ago.
However, the seven-time world champion, who is approaching two years without a win, faces an uphill task after he finished seven tenths back.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 3, 2023
Russell’s chances of following up his maiden win with another triumph on Brazilian soil also suffered a setback.
Russell, under investigation for impeding Alpine’s Pierre Gasly in the pit lane in Q1, was a tenth behind Hamilton. Hamilton now holds an 11-9 qualifying record over his younger team-mate with two rounds remaining.
Daniel Ricciardo put his name in the frame to bump Perez out of Red Bull next year following a display in Mexico hailed as “remarkable” by Christian Horner.
But after he qualified fourth, before finishing seventh, Ricciardo hit a stumbling block in Sao Paulo when he fell at the first hurdle.
The 34-year-old Australian will line up from only 17th place for Sunday’s grand prix, one spot behind AlphaTauri team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.
A 24-lap sprint race will take place here on Saturday before the main event on Sunday.