Valtteri Bottas has beaten Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by a hundredth of a second to take pole position for the United States Grand Prix. The Mercedes took pole as the track improved by three tenths early on before Vettel closed the gap.
Bottas needs a win to keep his championship alive and ensure that his teammate Lewis Hamilton drops out of the points. Vettel led the top four of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, who were covered by just over a tenth.
The Finn’s pole position ended six consecutive pole positions by Ferrari stretching back to the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August. While Hamilton appeared to struggle at a circuit, he has won at five times and is looking to wrap up the title this weekend. Alex Albon was sixth three tenths off the pace.
The top four and Sunday will be the first time a Ferrari hasn’t started on pole since before the summer break. But Albon lost his fastest lap for exceeding track limits, finishing the session four-tenths off the pace.
Hamilton was forced to abandon his final run, after losing time in the second sector, meaning he ended up fifth and two tenths down. He only requires an eighth place in Sunday’s race to wrap up the 2019 title. But it was his worst qualifying of the season and in the United States.
The Ferrari and Mercedes drivers will start on mediums having used that tyre compound for their Q2 time, along with Verstappen, with the rest of the top ten using softs.
Bottas said, “It was a nice lap in the beginning of Q3, you rarely get those. Yesterday was a bit tricky. I knew how to put it together and it was a nice feeling to actually do it in Q3.”
Vettel added, “Overall happy. Let’s see for tomorrow and have a good start and then a good race. All of us are on the medium tyre so nobody had an advantage there. The first lap for sure is important but it’s a long race after that.”
Hamilton told Sky Sports, “Nothing to do with the car, just me. I just didn’t pull the laps out together today and clearly, the car had the capability to be on the front row and I just didn’t do it today. It’s my fault.”
The top three teams had a clear advantage over the midfield led by McLaren, Carlos Sainz seventh three tenths ahead of his teammate Lando Norris. The McLaren appeared to be handling in a similar to Mexico, with Sainz having two sets of tyres going faster. Norris even managed to top the first session of qualifying.
Daniel Ricciardo only managed a single run in Q3, going ninth a second and four-tenths off the pace, beating the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly by a tenth. Nico Hulkenberg missed out on a place in Q3 going a tenth slower than the Frenchman and was ninth before being knocked out by Ricciardo.
Kevin Magnussen was the highest place Haas going twelfth fastest for the teams home race. He was a hundred ahead of the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat, who lost a place after his time was deleted for exceeding track limits.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was fourteenth going just over half a tenth quicker than t Romain Grosjean’s Haas. Alfa Romeo duo Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen were both knocked out in Q1 in sixteenth and seventeenth places respectively.
Raikkonen briefly made it through, before Gasly improved to get through to Q3. Gasly then posted a time good enough to shuffle both back into the bottom five, where they ended the session well clear of the lead Williams of George Russell.
Racing Point driver Sergio Perez must start from the pits thanks to missing the weighbridge in practice two, so completed only one run and was 19th fastest. That put him less than a tenth faster than the second Williams of Robert Kubica.