The Circuit of the Americas has been something of a stomping ground for Lewis Hamilton in recent years yet it was his Mercedes-AMG teammate Valtteri Bottas, the only driver who can deny the Briton his sixth World Championship title, who took pole position for Sunday’s race.
Hamilton, who needs to finish eight or better to secure his sixth crown, had an underwhelming qualifying session and continued his pole drought that has stretched as far back as August’s Hungarian Grand Prix, qualifying fifth-fastest. An error in the middle sector on his final Q3 run confined him to the third row of the grid, marking his worst one-lap performance of the 2019 season.
His session also featured a near-miss in Q2 with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, with whom he has been embroiled in a media tête-à-tête following their opening-lap skirmish at last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix. After winning that race, Hamilton admitted he took a different driving approach racing wheel-to-wheel with the Dutchman for fear of being “torpedoed”; Verstappen branded him “disrespectful”.
As their pair tried to find track position ahead of a flying lap, Hamilton forced Verstappen onto the grass as the pair came upon Danill Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. Verstappen was furious, but the stewards decided the incident warranted no further investigation.
Bottas, meanwhile, clocked a commanding first flying lap in Q3 and broke the lap record with his time of 1:32.029. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel lapped just twelve-thousandths of a second slower, with Verstappen the merest fraction behind in third. Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc had to change to a used Ferrari engine after his suffered an oil leak in FP3 and was fourth-fastest ahead of Hamilton. All five drivers posted their fastest Q2 laps on the Medium Pirelli tyre on which they will start Sunday’s race.
Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon qualified inside the top-six for the third race in succession and will attempt to make early ground by starting on the grippier Soft compound tyres.
It’s an all-McLaren fourth row, with Carlos Sainz claiming ‘best of the rest’ honours ahead of teammate Lando Norris who was the fastest driver overall in Q1.
Completing the top ten qualifiers are Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.
Ricciardo’s teammate Nico Hülkenberg missed out on a Q3 berth by less than half a tenth of a second, but will be the best-placed starter with a free tyre choice.
The Haas F1 Team had a much improved showing on home soil relative to recent qualifying sessions. Both cars progressed beyond Q1 for the first time since the Belgian Grand Prix, with Kevin Magnussen twelfth-fastest and teammate Romain Grosjean three spots further back. Splitting them are Kvyat and Racing’s Point’s Lance Stroll.
The Haas team’s improvement came at the expense of Alfa Romeo Racing, which had both cars eliminated in Q1 for the first time this season. Antonio Giovinazzi outqualified teammate and defending United States Grand Prix winner Kimi Räikkönen.
George Russell managed to get his Williams off the back row of the grid and continue his unbeaten qualifying head-to-head against teammate Robert Kubica who was the slowest qualifier for the fifteenth time this season.
The pair was split by Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, who will be starting from the pit lane as punishment for missing a weighbridge check during free practice. The Mexican used Q1 to fine-tune his car’s race set-up.
|FORMULA 1 EMIRATES UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX 2019 – QUALIFYING – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:32.029|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:32.041||+ 0.012|
|3.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:32.096||+ 0.067|
|4.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:32.137||+ 0.108|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:32.321||+ 0.292|
|6.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:32.548||+ 0.519|
|7.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:32.847||+ 0.818|
|8.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:33.175||+ 1.146|
|9.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:33.488||+ 1.459|
|10.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:33.601||+ 1.572|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:33.815||+ 1.055|
|12.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:33.979||+ 1.219|
|13.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:33.989||+ 1.229|
|14.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:34.100||+ 1.340|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:34.158||+ 1.398|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|16.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:34.226||+ 0.873|
|17.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:34.369||+ 1.016|
|18.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:35.372||+ 2.019|
|19.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:35.808||+ 2.455|
|20.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:35.889||+ 2.536|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:32.760 posted by Charles Leclerc
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:33.353 posted by Lando Norris
- Sergio Pérez will be required to start the race from the pit lane for missing a weighbridge call during practice.
Image via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport