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Hamilton crushes São Paulo GP qualifying but Verstappen joins him on the front row

Hamilton crushes São Paulo GP qualifying but Verstappen joins him on the front row

Hamilton crushes São Paulo GP qualifying but Verstappen joins him on the front row

Hamilton crushes São Paulo GP qualifying but Verstappen joins him on the front row

Lewis Hamilton will start from top spot on the grid for the São Paulo Grand Prix sprint event after dominating qualifying at Interlagos.

With a fresh internal combustion engine for this weekend in his Mercedes, Hamilton was out on his own across all three sessions.

It was a crucial hour-long run for the seven-time F1 champion who knows he faces a five-place grid penalty for Sunday's main event given the ICE change.

At best, should Hamilton win the sprint and start on pole position, he will line up sixth on the grid, and then it will be a case of where title rival Max Verstappen finishes.

After the first run in Q3, Verstappen was a quarter-of-a-second slower than Hamilton and a tenth-of-a-second up on Valtteri Bottas, and that was as close as the Dutch driver could manage as he was unable to improve on his second run.

Hamilton, however, saved his best for last with a lap of one minute 07.934secs to leave Verstappen trailing by almost half-a-second.

Crucially for Verstappen, Bottas was unable to get ahead of him despite the Finn improving but was still 0.097s down to line up third ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly was again a superb fifth, seeingly becoming his default position of late, with the Frenchman followed by Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

Completing the top 10 are McLaren pair Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, with Alpine's Fernando Alonso lining up 10th.

Hamilton had a scare in Q2 as his initial lap of 1.08.659s was deleted for exceeding track limits but after a cool-down lap, Hamilton used the same set of tyres to ensure himself of a place in the top-10 with a 1:08.386s.

Hamilton lowered that benchmark to 1:08.068s, with Bottas again second and while Verstappen was third quickest, he was half-a-second down.

Alonso edged out team-mate Esteban Ocon to reach the top 10 by 0.052s, with Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel 12th quickest ahead of AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda followed by Alfa Romeo duo Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.

At the end of Q1, it was Hamilton who held the upper hand by a third of a second to team-mate Bottas, with Verstappen six-tenths of a second adrift down in sixth.

Leading those to drop out was Aston Martin's Lance Stroll, who will start 16th ahead of the Williams duo, although not in the order you would expect.

For the first time in conventional qualifying - bearing in mind Nicholas Latifi finished ahead of George Russell in sprint qualifying at Monza - the Canadian beat the Briton after a 34-race losing run since they became team-mates at the start of last season.

The margin of success for Latifi was 0.056s as Russell failed to make into Q2 for only the second time this year.

Unsurprisingly, on the back row will be the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, with the German eight-tenths of a second behind Russell and a quarter-of-a-second up on his Russian team-mate.

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