Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday’s United States Formula 1 Grand Prix from pole position ahead of title rival Sebastian Vettel after obliterating the lap record at the Circuit of the Americas in qualifying.
The Mercedes driver claimed a clean sweep in all three preceding practice sessions and carried that momentum into Saturday afternoon’s showdown for pole by topping all three stages of qualifying. His final Q3 lap, a 1:33.108, put him two-tenths of a second clear of Vettel, who has to finish inside the top-five in Sunday’s race to keep his slim championship hopes alive.
Vettel’s run to start on the front row of the grid marked a fine recovery for the Ferrari driver. The four-time World Champion was all at sea in Friday’s practice sessions, but an overnight change of chassis saw the German able to push Hamilton all the way.
His charge was enough to demote Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas to third-fastest.
For once, the Finn will not start alongside his countryman and bitter rival Kimi Räikkönen. The Ferrari driver posted an identical Q3 time to Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, but as the Australian’s lap was posted first he will start from the second row of the grid.
Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen qualified sixth-fastest and described his performance as his “worst of the year”. The Dutchman was left ruing two mistakes on his final run and felt that he had the pace to challenge Vettel’s eventual front-row effort.
It will be academic in the end, however, as Verstappen became the fourth driver of the weekend – alongside Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley – to earn a grid penalty for fitting new power unit elements. Verstappen’s 10-place grid penalty means he will start Sunday’s race from sixteenth place.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon overcame illness with a sparkling showing to claim seventh-fastest, while Carlos Sainz Jr was similarly impressive in his first outing in Renault colours by qualifying a superb eighth-fastest.
His teammate Nico Hülkenberg ostensibly had the pace to join the Spaniard in the top-ten shootout, but opted not to set a time in Q2 to save tyres for Sunday’s race given his grid penalty.
Fernando Alonso yet again outshone the capabilities of his McLaren-Honda by hauling the MCL32 into Q3 with an impressive lap. The two-time World Champion managed to outqualify a frustrated Sergio Pérez in the second Force India; the Mexican earlier found himself baulked by the field’s serial blocker, Kevin Magnussen, in Q1 which saw the Dane earn a grid penalty.
Also incurring a blocking penalty was Williams rookie Lance Stroll, who clumsily ran Romain Grosjean off the circuit before the final corner while trying to get out of the Frenchman’s way during Q1. Despite the near-miss, Grosjean managed to scrape into Q2 but could manage no better than fourteenth-fastest behind Williams’ Felipe Massa, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne.
Marcus Ericsson put in one of his best qualifying performances of the season and nearly made Q2 on merit, despite his Sauber Ferrari’s clear horsepower deficit. The Swede fell just eighth-thousandths of a second shy of overhauling Grosjean in Q1, but with grid penalties for a number of his rivals he will start the race in the midfield.
Formula 1 debutante Brendon Hartley was solid in his first Formula 1 qualifying appearance and finished 18th-fastest ahead of Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Magnussen’s Haas.
Sunday’s 56-lap United States Grand Prix will start at 14:00 local time (GMT -5).
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Tyre|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:33.108|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||1:33.347||+ 0.635|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:33.568||+ 1.319|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||1:33.577||+ 0.349|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||1:33.577||+ 0.578|
|6.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||1:33.658||+ 0.323|
|7.||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||1:34.647||+ 2.428|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||1:34.852||+ 2.565|
|9.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Honda MCL32||1:35.007||+ 1.688|
|10.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||1:35.148||+ 1.914|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Tyre|
|11.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||1:35.155||+ 1.718|
|12.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||1:35.529||+ 2.092|
|13.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren-Honda MCL32||1:35.641||+ 2.204|
|14.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||1:35.870||+ 2.433|
|15.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||no time|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*||Tyre|
|16.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||1:36.842||+ 2.020|
|17.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||1:36.868||+ 2.046|
|18.||Brendon Hartley||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||1:36.889||+ 2.067|
|19.||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||1:37.179||+ 2.357|
|20.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||1:37.394||+ 2.572|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:34.822 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:33.437 posted by Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen (6th) will serve a 10-place grid penalty for the use of new power unit elements above his car’s allocated limit.
Stoffel Vandoorne (13th) will serve a 5-place grid penalty for the use of new power unit elements above his car’s allocated limit.
Nico Hülkenberg (15th) will serve a 20-place grid penalty for the use of new power unit elements above his car’s allocated limit.
Lance Stroll (17th) will serve a 3-place grid penalty for blocking Romain Grosjean during qualifying.
Brendon Hartley (18th) will serve a 25-place grid penalty for the use of new power unit elements above his car’s allocated limit.
Kevin Magnussen (20th) will serve a 3-place grid penalty for blocking Sergio Pérez during qualifying.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team