Verstappen grabs pole for Brazilian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen describes his win as the best birthday present for his Red Bull boss Christian Horner. (AP pic)

SAO PAULO: Max Verstappen secured the second pole position of his career to mark his Red Bull boss Christian Horner’s 46th birthday in style on Saturday when he topped the qualifying times for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

The 22-year-old Dutchman, who had given Horner a cream cake earlier in the day, produced a best lap in one minute and 7.508 seconds to outpace four-time champion Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari in a final flurry while newly-crowned six-time champion Lewis Hamilton settled for third for Mercedes.

Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc qualified fourth, but faces a 10-place grid penalty after taking a new engine, ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes and Alex Albon in the second Red Bull.

Pierre Gasly was seventh for Toro Rosso ahead of Haas’s Romain Grosjean, Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo and Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas.

“Yes boys, that was really good!” said Verstappen on team radio. “That’s the best birthday present – isn’t it Christian?”

Horner praised Verstappen for topping the times in all three parts of qualifying with a dazzling display of his speed at the undulating Interlagos circuit.

“The car was really good,” said Verstappen. “The track temperature was changing and we had to adjust a little bit for that, but the car was really flying – I’m really happy with pole position.”

Vettel said: “I had a bit of a wobble on the exit on my first run, but I think Max improved his time so fair play – it’s his pole position. He did it and let’s see what happens and what we can do tomorrow.”

Hamilton said: “Congratulations to Max. That was a great lap by him. We seemed to be quite competitive in Q3 and then we seemed to lose some ground – or they gained! I think we’ve been down on power compared to the others, but I gave it everything I had.”