Kevin Magnussen will start on pole position for Saturday’s sprint race at the Brazilian Grand Prix after providing the biggest shock of the Formula One season.
The 30-year-old Danish driver, in his 140th Grand Prix, took advantage of a rain-affected qualifying session at Interlagos to put his Haas on top of the time sheets to land his first pole.
Magnussen will start Saturday’s 24-lap dash – which determines the grid for Sunday’s main event – ahead of world champion Max Verstappen, with George Russell third.
Russell beached his Mercedes in the early moments of Q3 which aided Magnussen’s drive to glory.
The nine-minute delay, and arrival of additional rain, meant no other driver could improve on their time.
Russell lines up in third ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, with Lewis Hamilton only eighth.
As Russell’s stricken Mercedes was towed away from danger at Turn 4 and the rain began to fall, Magnussen could not believe his luck.
“You are f****** kidding me,” he said when informed he headed the order. “Don’t f****** kid me. I have never ever felt like this in my life. Don’t celebrate yet.”
But as the clock ticked down and the rain continued to fall, the session fizzled out with Magnussen and his Haas mechanics allowed to go wild as the Dane’s surprise pole was confirmed.
Magnussen’s F1 career looked to be over when he was deemed surplus to requirements by Haas at the end of 2020.
“I don’t know what to say,” an emotional Magnussen said, moments after stepping out of his car.
“The team put me out on track at the right moment. We were the first out of the pits. I did a decent lap and we are on pole. It is incredible.
“Thank you to the whole team for this opportunity. I got back after a year out and it has been an amazing journey. I will be on maximum attack tomorrow.”
The Briton, who won so brilliantly in Brazil last year, hoped the short venue in Sao Paulo would offer him a greater chance of victory than at next weekend’s final race in Abu Dhabi. However, he will line up down the order on Saturday.
“That is motor racing,” said the seven-time world champion.
“I was the last car out so I got the earliest part of the rain. I lost too much tyre temperature in the pit lane, too, so it was just unfortunate, but congratulations to Kevin.”
Charles Leclerc’s season has been blighted by a catalogue of Ferrari errors and there was further woe for the Monegasque on Friday when he was the only man sent out in Q3 on wet rubber, while the asphalt was still dry.
Leclerc did not post a time and was forced to pit for slick tyres. But Russell’s accident and the sprinkling of rain left Leclerc in no man’s land.
“Beautiful, f****** beautiful,” he fumed over the radio.