R ed Bull-Honda is one in thin air Power. Already at an altitude of 2,280 meters in Mexico, Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon were in the fastest car. Even 800 meters above sea level in Sao Paulo, Verstappen drove Ferrari and Mercedes away. Albon only lost two tenths to third-placed Lewis Hamilton.
Another proof that Red Bull and Honda are once again among the top contenders. Team boss Christian Horner thanked his driver: “The Pole was my best birthday present.” Horner was 46 years old.
Officially, Verstappen celebrated his second pole position after the Hungarian GP this year. On his own account, it is his third best time in training. The one from Mexico was revoked for disregarding the yellow flags.
Even the first Q3 round would have been enough for the Dutchman for the best starting position. The two-time season winner made a mistake in turn 9. In the second attempt, Verstappen put a flawless lap on the track. He was just about the fastest in the twisty second sector and surprisingly was able to keep this lead on the straights.
What drove Sebastian Vettel to the mocking remark: “It's suspicious how fast the Red Bull Honda suddenly suddenly is on the straights. 'Verstappen countered:' Look at the sector times. I was the fastest in the middle section. There are the curves. “
Ferrari slower than usual on the straights
Ferrari achieved the highest top speed with 331.3 km /h, but was no longer above the sum of all straights as fast as in other races of the season and as wellin Friday training and the third morning training session. Charles Leclerc took the Red Bull only a tenth on the straights, the Mercedes two. The day before, the delta was seven and eight tenths respectively.
Therefore, it briefly looked as if a protest might threaten after qualifying. Red Bull had already approached the FIA in Austin with a request for clarification about possible engine tricks. Thereupon, in two technical directives, it declared manipulations with the gasoline flow rate or misappropriation of coolants for combustion in the engine to be illegal.
But Red Bull no longer wanted to take the second step, regardless of the GPS measurements in the qualification would show. “We have played our part. Now it's time for Mercedes. They know more about it than we do anyway, ”said sports director Helmut Marko.
Everything stayed calm in the world champions' camp. The reduced advantage of Ferrari on the straights gave no reason to. At Ferrari, the narrow training defeat of 0.123 seconds with the highest top speed is of course interpreted differently. Team boss Mattia Binotto said the same thing to those who believe Ferrari had rowed back as he did in Austin: 'We haven't changed anything on the engine.' It's amazing how close they are to us on the straights. ”
Perfect setup only at the last minute
Helmut Marko explained the gala performance of Verstappen and the RB15 by saying that the best compromise between downforce and top speed had been found. Only at the last moment did the Red Bull engineers hit the bull's eye with the vote: “We still had too much understeer in the infield in the third practice session. Max lost two tenths in three corners. We were able to correct that up to qualification. ”
Mercedes engineers drew a comparison with Mexico. “Red Bull is always good at it on the high-altitude tracks. Even on the straights. From this one has to conclude that Honda has advantages on the electrical side. That is exactly the part in the drive that is from theThe strong performance does not come as a surprise to Verstappen: “We have continuously improved in the second half of the season, and we were quick in Interlagos last year. Right after the summer break, some engine penalties diluted our true performance. But for a few races we have had a car again with which we can race for victories. '
Marko goes even further:' With the exception of Singapore and Russia, we have always been able to win recently. Even in Austin. Max could easily keep up with Bottas for four laps. Then a piece of the sub-floor broke. That cost us downforce and drove up tire wear. Now we were finally able to bring out the qualities of our package. “
Ferrari's concerns about tire management
Sebastian Vettel was with his second Fairly satisfied starting position. He knows that the tougher task awaits him on Sunday: “Red Bull and Mercedes were stronger than us in the long run on Friday. We were able to improve our car, but I can't yet say whether it's enough to keep up with the others in tire management. I'm cautiously optimistic. ”
Vettel sees the best chance of cracking the Red Bull in front of his nose at the start. Even if the approach to the first corner is only 195 meters long. But then after the Senna-S there is also the back straight. The opponents will of course watch the Ferrari's starting laps closely again. It is one of the phases in which the red rockets have always ignited their afterburner in the past.
Charles Leclerc will start the Brazilian GP from 14th on the grid with medium tires. Team boss Mattia Binotto cursed a mistake made by his child prodigy in the last corner: “Without him, Charles would probably have driven the fastest lap.” The Monegasse has received a penalty for using the fourth engine. The choice of the middle tire compound already gives an idea of the tactics. Leclerc should drive a long time in the first stint to make up for time when theSoft starters have turned to the pits.
If the temperatures stay as on Saturday, it will be a difficult undertaking. The soft tire does not degrade much more than the medium rubber. Leclerc is therefore hoping for warmer weather. And the benefit of its fresh engine. Vettel is not worried in the team-internal duel: 'Although I have an older engine in the car, I have saved a lot so far and have enough power free.'