With the skies darkening rapidly over Interlagos as the session unfolded, by the time Q3 started, the odds at that stage appeared to be on it becoming a one-lap shootout, and so it proved.
Red Bull called the shots for Verstappen to ensure he was at the front of the pit-lane queue, and he delivered a time none of the other nine drivers could match to score the 31st pole position of his career, and 11th this season.
“When we lined up to go out for Q3 you could see the sky was black, and I was like, ‘Well, if that rain hits, it's going to be a lot',” remarked Verstappen.
“Then we went for the lap and the first sector felt alright, but the rest felt shocking. I think what happened is that throughout the lap, the rain was coming in, and although it was not hitting the track yet, the wind was increasing a lot, and it changed direction to a tailwind in the middle sector.
“The car was just sliding all over the place, and I was shouting on the radio, ‘What the hell happened? We are nowhere!', but the team told me to keep pushing because they said everyone was struggling out there.
“I've never experienced something like that, such a big influence on car balance, but you could see the incoming weather was quite extreme.”
Ferrari driver Leclerc finished three-tenths of a second adrift as Verstappen took full advantage of being the first car out on track, and has revealed he almost aborted his lap believing himself to be far off the pace.
Echoing the Dutchman's comments, Leclerc said: “In Q3, as Max said, I've never experienced that in my career.
“The wind change was crazy, and there was just absolutely no grip from sector two onwards, which was extremely confusing because you had no idea where the balance would be in the corner you were going into.
“Luckily, I kept it more or less tidy, even though I was doubting whether to come in at the end of the lap. It felt so bad that I was like, ‘Okay, this is not good enough. I'm P10 for sure'. Luckily, I wasn't and second place is good.”
As to whether he can challenge Verstappen on Sunday, Leclerc knows he faces a tall order against a driver who has set a new record for the number of race wins in a season, with his victory in Mexico last Sunday his 16th of an astonishing campaign.
With little to go on from the sole practice session with regard to long-run pace ahead of qualifying, Leclerc said: “On these sprint weekends, it's very difficult to get a read within a few laps.
“Fuel levels for everybody are very different in FP1, and with this format, so very difficult to have a proper read as to who is fast and who is not.
“The feeling was okay, but whether this will be enough to challenge Red Bull, that's another story because this year, unfortunately, they are very, very strong, much stronger than us going into Sunday.
“So we've got a lot of work to do. Realistically, I would say, maybe not.
“But as always, if there's the opportunity to pass at the start and then block him for all the other laps, then I'll take that.”