Newly-crowned champion Lewis Hamilton beat Sebastian Vettel to pole position by 0.093s in a tight qualifying session for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton's new track record of 1:07.281 was quick enough to claim his tenth pole position of the year and Mercedes 100th in Formula One.
Vettel was called to the stewards after qualifying over the way in which he completed a random weight check early in the second session. The FIA's technical delegate, Jo Bauer, claimed the Ferrari driver did not turn off his engine when requested -- which is required for the process to be completed -- and then drove away from the scales under his own power, "destroying the scales".
Replays showed Vettel waving frantically at the FIA technicians as he arrived at the scales and urging them to complete the weighing process as quickly as possible. The German said he felt it was unfair that he was called in to the pits during a critical part of the session with the threat of rain in the air. The investigation found that he had in fact turned his engine off, but did not follow the normal procedure of doing so before being pushed onto the scales. Because he had not breached a specific regualtion, Vettel escaped a penalty and will start second on the grid, although he was reprimanded and fined ?éČ25,000.
Valtteri Bottas beat fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen to third position, although the two men were split by just 0.01s. The top four were covered by just 0.175s overall, which promises to provide a tight fight on Sunday afternoon. Significantly, the Ferrari drivers set their fastest times in Q2 on the soft compound, which means they will start the race on a more durable tyre than the Mercedes and Red Bulls, which both opted for the super-softs.
Red Bull have been the third fastest team all weekend and in qualifying they settled into that position. Max Verstappen out-qualified teammate Daniel Ricciardo by 0.002s, although the latter faces a five-place grid penalty for the new turbocharger Red Bull fitted to his car on Friday.
The Sauber drivers excelled in the session and claimed seventh and eighth. IndyCar-bound Marcus Ericsson impressively out-qualified Charles Leclerc, who will join Ferrari next year. Romain Grosjean claimed ninth position for Haas ahead of Pierre Gasly, with Toro Rosso running the upgraded Honda engine this weekend.
While Vettel's incident was the main talking point from Q2, Lewis Hamilton was also involved in a noteworthy incident. The Mercedes driver appeared to block Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin as they both approached the hill at Juncao, where Hamilton famously passed Timo Glock to win his first championship 10 years ago. Hamilton had moved off the racing line as Sirotkin approached, but as he did so Sirotkin moved to the left as well, forcing the Russian into evasive action across the grass to avoid contact. Sirotkin was on an out-lap at the time rather than a hot-lap and cleared Hamilton of any blame in the media pen immediately after the session. No investigation was launched into the incident.
On the track, Charles Leclerc stole the show with a stellar performance and another reminder of why Ferrari has opted to promote him to their team in 2019. The Monaco native had been relegated into the drop zone after the first runs in Q2, with Kevin Magnussen edging to 10th position with a lap as light rain intensified slightly. At the final runs the rain worsened again and Sauber offered Leclerc the option of aborting and returning to the pit-lane but Leclerc refused, saying he wanted to stay out and try to improve. It proved to be an inspired decision, as Leclerc hooked together a superb lap to jump into the top ten.
Magnussen was a surprise elimination from the session as Haas faltered in qualifying after being comfortably in the top ten throughout all three practice sessions. Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon joined him, along with Renault's Nico Hulkenberg and Sirotkin.
Carlos Sainz dropped out of qualifying in Q1 after the Renault driver was caught out by a late flurry of lap times that saw him slip down the order. His last-minute attempt was not enough to fight back and he finished 0.005s off a place in Q2. The first qualifying session was punctuated by the fear of a rain storm, with teams sending drivers out early as grey clouds lingered ahead of the session. Williams' Sirotkin was the man who made the surprise progression to Q2 ahead of Sainz.
Brendon Hartley was eliminated for Toro Rosso while teammate Gasly escaped the drop zone with his final lap. Lance Stroll was 19th, with the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne either side of him and set for another difficult race from the back end of the grid.