Lewis Hamilton has beaten his championship rival Sebastian Vettel by two-tenths of a second to take pole position for the United States Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver has looked in great form all weekend as the team as the slight edge over the Ferrari.
Hamilton mastered qualifying all season, and again was another great performance from the Brit who set a new lap record on his way to his eleven pole of the season. The Englishman could seal his fourth world title if he wins the race and Vettel is lower than fifth.
It was a great fight between the two title contenders with less than a quarter of a second between them. It could have been over half a second, as earlier in Q3 the German was over half a second down on Hamilton. While the Mercedes has looked in strong all weekend topping every session so far.
Hamilton said “The team have done a great job, the track was very difficult with the wind picking up. I love this track it is such a fantastic track to drive, I love it. It is always hot in the car, it is just the right temperature today. It is going to be a great race, a tough one, but I’m the best prepared I can be.”
Vettel added “I was happy in the end with the car. We lacked the rhythm in the first sector going into the second, but came good when it mattered. I believe our race pace has been good, especially in qualifying, but well done to Lewis today.”
Mercedes Valtteri Bottas was third fastest after losing time in the final sector and failed to improve on his final run in Q3. Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo set the same lap times however the Red Bull driver will start ahead of the Finn.
Ricciardo’s team-mate Max Verstappen was the only one of the top ten drivers to set his fastest time on the slower supersoft tyre for sixth. However, the Dutchman will drop to the back thanks to a fifteen place grid penalty because of an engine change.
Esteban Ocon out qualified Carlos Sainz who starts eighth in his first race for Renault. But the Spaniard only did run on the ultrasofts tyre in Q3. It was an impressive session for the McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who made it into Q3.
On paper, Austin should be a track where the McLaren struggles but Alonso out-qualified the Mercedes powered Force India of Sergio Perez. Williams struggles seem to continue with Felipe Massa missing out on Q3 by .04 of a second but he had over half a second over Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
Things weren’t going much better for Massa’s teammate Lance Stroll, he was complaining of a deployment problem with the hybrid power unit, that left him a second off the pace compared to Massa.
Romain Grosjean was the highest placed Haas in fourteenth. Nico Hulkenberg opted not to run for “strategic” reasons as he knows he is carrying a twenty-place grid penalty.
On his debut with Toro Rosso, Brendon Hartley qualified eighteenth, just 0.054s off Grosjean and 0.816s off his teammate Daniil Kvyat. However, Hartley was set to start on the back row of the grid regardless of his performance due to a 25-place grid penalty for a power unit change.
Pascal Wehrlein was 19th for Sauber, with Kevin Magnussen slowest for Haas. Magnussen is also being investigated by stewards for impeding Perez.