Vettel celebrates his 44th pole position, flanked by Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean

Sebastian Vettel is once again in the pound seats to continue his run of race victories after claiming pole position for the United States Grand Prix in Austin.

The German put in an impressive final flying lap around the Circuit of the Americas to snatch pole position from teammate Mark Webber by one-tenth of a second.

With another Red Bull front row lockout and over seven-tenths of a second back to Romain Grosjean in third, it looks set to be a another cakewalk to victory for the Milton Keynes team.

Vettel and Webber headed into the final qualifying shootout with a nice advantage over the remaining eight runners – that being an extra set of Medium compound tyres at Vettel pipped Webber to pole by 0.1 secondstheir disposal – after clearing the first phase of qualifying by running only on Hard compound tyres.

Such was their pace advantage of the rest of the field, the question of who would claim pole position boiled down to a straight intra-team battle between the pair, who will race together for the penultimate time on Sunday.

Webber’s first timed attempt gave him the upper hand, but he ran wide at the end of his second flying lap, which swing the pendulum back in Vettel’s favour. Vettel still had to beat Webber’s time, however, and he just managed to move clear on his final run to earn the forty-fourth pole position of his career.

Grosjean took his Lotus onto the second row, while the evergreen Nico Hülkenberg put in another starring performance to qualify fourth-quickest in his Sauber, yet again underscoring the amazing form from both drivers, who many hope will be teammates at Lotus next year.

Hülkenberg bumped Lewis Hamilton into fifth place on the grid, while Fernando Alonso salvaged sixth place on the back of some off-the-pace practice showings in the Ferrari.

Heikki Kovalainen qualified a solid eighth-fastest in his first race outing in almost a year, while Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutiérrez both put in sterling efforts to make Q3.

For Gutiérrez, however, the good news would not last. The Mexican was flagged for a chat with a stewards after footage showed him impeding Pastor Maldonado in Q1, and he was duly handed a ten-place grid penalty for his troubles.

Maldonado and Adrian Sutil were the two high-profile casualties in Q1. The Venezuelan complained of a handling imbalance and the aforementioned traffic issues, while the unfortunate Sutil suffered a slow puncture.

Qualifying for the final two rows of the grid was a rather more closely fought affair than people had predicted. Giedo van der Garde led the charge for Caterham with the 19th-fastest time, while Jules Bianchi managed to split the Dutchman and his teammate, Charles Pic.

Max Chilton was – as is customary – the slowest to the tune of almost a second on the stopwatch. The Englishman also earned a summons to the stewards’ room (also for baulking Maldonado) and will have to serve a drive-through penalty in the first five laps of the race, on account of the traditional ten-place grid drop serving no effect at all.

Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa were the big names to tumble in the second qualifying session and will start mid-grid.

2013 United States Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:36.338  
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:36.441 + 0.103
3. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:37.155 + 0.807
4. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:37.296 + 0.958
5. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:37.345 + 1.007
6. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:37.376 + 1.038
7. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:37.452 + 1.114
8. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:37.715 + 1.377
9. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:37.836 + 1.498
10. Esteban Gutiérrez^ MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:38.034 + 1.696
Q3 Cut-Off – 1:38.078   Time Gap*
11. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:38.131 + 1.066
12. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:38.139 + 1.074
13. Jenson Button^ GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:38.217 + 1.152
14. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:38.364 + 1.299
15. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:38.592 + 1.527
16. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:38.696 + 1.631
Q2 Cut-Off – 1:39.094   Time Gap**
17. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:39.250 + 1.429
18. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:39.351 + 1.530
19. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:40.491 + 2.670
20. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:40.528 + 2.707
21. Charles Pic^ FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:40.596 + 2.775
22. Max Chilton^ GBR Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:41.401 + 3.580

* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:37.065 by Sebastian Vettel 
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:37.821 by Valtteri Bottas 
^ Esteban Gutiérrez incurs a ten-place grid penalty for impeding Pastor Maldonado in qualifying. Jenson Button incurs a three-place grid penalty for ignoring red flags displayed during Free Practice 1. Charles Pic incurs a five-place grid penalty for an unauthorised gearbox change. Max Chilton incurs a drive-through penalty (which must be served in the first five laps of the race) for impeding Pastor Maldonado in qualifying.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.