Lewis Hamilton says he has “no idea” where Mercedes’ Formula 1 engine rivals Ferrari and Honda’s superior performance came from during Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying.

Ferrari has led the way in terms of outright power for much of the season, with its engine becoming the subject of scrutiny in recent months, but it was Max Verstappen’s Honda-powered Red Bull that dominated qualifying at Interlagos to claim pole position.

Hamilton ended up third-quickest behind Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and Verstappen, who was 0.191s faster than the recently-crowned six-time world champion.

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“It’s obviously great for the sport that we have another manufacturer that’s starting to produce good engines and helping their team get up there,” Hamilton said of Honda’s engine development.

“I don’t fully understand it because we’ve only had the few engines that we have, so I don’t know if you can bring upgrades to the engines once you have a new one.

“Anyways they were very quick and we’ve got work to do for sure. My boys back home are working as hard as they can for next year.”

Asked if he was surprised by Red Bull’s performance in Brazil, Hamilton replied: “Of course. I don’t think in the last race they had that speed deficit to us.

“On top of that they are quickest in the middle sector, so they obviously still have the same amount of downforce but obviously more power this weekend.

“Considering we are at a higher altitude, I have no idea where that comes from.”

Nevertheless, Hamilton was still satisfied to place his car on the second row of the grid after a late improvement on his final flying lap in Q3 enabled him to leap up to third, splitting the Ferrari duo.

“It’s not too often it goes particularly easy but it was definitely a challenging session,” he explained.

“I think P3 was really strong for us and then once we got to qualifying, these guys had great pace and we were losing out to Max on the straights by quite a chunk, which was the majority of where the time was coming from.

“I just kept chipping away at it and the last lap was really as good as it could for us.

“In all honesty the car felt really good, just lacking a bit of pace on the straights but maybe tomorrow that will put us in a good position in terms of longevity.

“Otherwise I’m happy to be able to split the Ferraris, it always puts a smile on my face.”