Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the third and final Sprint Qualifying this year, having started from second on the grid with three-lap old P Zero Red soft tyres. The Finn took advantage of its extra speed to claim the inside of the first corner and take the lead from Red Bull's Max Verstappen (on pole with a new set of P Zero Yellow mediums). Bottas then managed his tyres successfully to the finish.
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz finished third, also on the soft tyre, making it two soft tyre runners on the Sprint Qualifying podium.
The other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton was sent to the back of the grid for a technical infringement but made up 15 places during Sprint Qualifying after starting on the medium tyre. He will begin tomorrow's grand prix with a five-place grid penalty following an engine change.
There was a wide split of starting tyres for the 24-lap Sprint Qualifying, with 11 of the drivers on the medium C3 and the other nine on the soft C4.
Sprint Qualifying weather conditions were similar to yesterday's FP1 and 20 degrees lower than FP2, getting underway in 18 degrees centigrade ambient and 30 degrees of track temperature.
The final free practice session took place this afternoon, with Alpine's Fernando Alonso going fastest on the soft tyre ahead of Verstappen. Most of the work in that session concentrated on preparation both for sprint qualifying, with the teams assessing whether to start on the soft or the medium, and for tomorrow's race.
Possible Race Strategies
Tomorrow all the compounds can play a key role. The fastest strategy for the 71-lap Brazilian Grand Prix should be a two-stopper but a lot will depend on track temperature; the weather should be a little warmer. Today the P Zero Red soft and P Zero Yellow medium tyres showed similar performance but higher levels of wear than expected. On paper, a two-stopper using the medium followed by two sets of P Zero White hard should be the fastest option. Another possibility (really close in terms of overall race time) is to use all three compounds: starting on the medium and then using the hard for the central stint, before finishing on the soft. But a one-stop is another possibility. This could be medium to hard, to benefit from a long opening stint and gain track position, or alternatively soft to hard (although this would require more management, with the cars full of fuel at the start of the race). Under Sprint Qualifying regulations, the drivers are allowed to start the grand prix on whichever compound they choose, irrespective of the tyres used in Sprint Qualifying today.
Mario Isola: "The high level of track evolution together with the average track temperatures brought back the soft as an option for Sprint Qualifying. The extra speed of the soft tyre might have helped at the beginning, with the Mercedes of Bottas as well as the Ferrari of Sainz making excellent starts to move into the top two positions. It then became a question of managing the soft tyre in the later stages of the race, which Bottas achieved brilliantly to win Sprint Qualifying and start tomorrow's grand prix from pole. For tomorrow, due to forecasted warmer track temperatures, we're expecting what should in theory be a two-stop race with all compounds able to play a role. With both soft and medium compounds used extensively during Sprint Qualifying and many teams splitting their strategies, there will be plenty of data to analyse tonight."
Check out our Saturday gallery from Interlagos, here.