SAO PAULO – Kevin Magnussen shocked Formula 1 in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix by earning pole position for the Interlagos sprint race on Friday.
It was the first pole after 142 races for the Danish driver, who celebrated by grimacing in front of the cameras before the end of the third qualifying session. Then he jumped into his car and punched the air in the drizzle. He gave his Haas team boss Guenther Steiner an emotional hug.
“The team put me on the track at exactly the right time,” said an exultant Magnussen.
Asked if he expected to earn pole, he replied: “Not even close. It’s incredible.”
Magnussen started in F1 in 2014 and returned to the series this year after a year of absence replacing Russian driver Nikita Mazepin.
On the team radio, Magnussen was even more excited: “I’ve never felt like this in my life,” he said. A few minutes earlier, when he was told he was in first position, he replied: “You’re kidding.”
Meanwhile, Haas teammate Mick Schumacher, who is still looking for a place for next season, finished in 20th and last place.
Steiner said Thursday he has yet to decide whether Schumacher will compete for the team next year, adding that he hopes a decision will be made next week. Schumacher has only earned 12 points this season. Magnussen has a measly 24.
Magnussen was nearly five seconds faster than Schumacher. World champion Max Verstappen was second by almost two tenths of a second. George Russell of Mercedes was third.
Qualifying was delayed by the rain, which helped Magnussen. The last five minutes of the session were severely affected by the wet track.
Haas spoke of Magnussen’s pole position with a hint of disbelief: “What did we just do?” the team posed on Twitter. “That was a Viking performance!”
Friday’s results will set the grid for Saturday’s sprint race, which will determine the starting positions for Sunday’s race at Interlagos.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who will start in the sprint from fifth position, will be penalized by five positions on the grid for Sunday’s race. The Spaniard added a new internal combustion engine for the weekend, sixth of the season to be penalized.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who is still struggling to secure second place in the drivers’ championship, was first in Friday’s free practice. He had a design on his helmet in collaboration with Disney.
“It’s for the Black Panther movie, a movie that represents a lot of my country,” said the Mexican driver. “The helmet itself is unique and I really like it.”
Perez will start in the sprint, which should return in the rain, in ninth position.