Based on the outcome of Q3, the start tomorrow at the front of the pack is shaping up to be quite interesting.
Lewis Hamilton will start the United States Grand Prix from pole position, after beating Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by over two tenths of a second.
It was Hamilton’s ninth pole of the season, and his first at the Circuit of the Americas. It was Mercedes’ 10th front-row lockout of the season.
Daniel Ricciardo beat his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to third, but Verstappen will start on the soft tyre – like the Mercedes duo – while Ricciardo is forced to start on the supersoft.
The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were a distant fifth and sixth respectively.
Story of the Q3 shootout
Rosberg was the first of the Mercedes to run, but he ran wide at Turn 1 so Hamilton was two tenths up on him straight away through the first sector. Rosberg’s 1m35.442s was soon eclipsed by Hamilton’s 1m35.370s, but Lewis was only ahead by 0.072s as Rosberg regained a lot of time in the final sector.
Ricciardo also dipped into the 1m35s bracket with 1m35.928s, 0.558s down on Hamilton but ahead of teammate Verstappen by just under a tenth.
Vettel was fifth after the first run, just 0.02s ahead of Raikkonen, but both were over a second off the pace.
In the second runs, Rosberg again went first – and again Hamilton was faster through the first sector by two tenths.
Rosberg improved to 1m35.215s, briefly taking pole, but Hamilton rocketed ahead with a 1m34.999s – the fastest-ever lap of the COTA track and his first Austin pole. This was despite Hamilton complaining of a “weird shift” to seventh gear on his out lap.
Verstappen briefly grabbed P3, but Ricciardo put him in his place by over two tenths to snatch back third. Meantime, Raikkonen beat Vettel by two tenths for fifth.
The battle for seventh was fought out in the closing sessions, as they only had one set of supersoft tyres to use up.
Nico Hulkenberg claimed that for Force India, ahead of the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, with Carlos Sainz qualifying 10th for Toro Rosso.
Perez and Alonso fall in Q2
At Red Bull, Ricciardo took supersofts for Q2 as Verstappen gambled on softs. Ricciardo took the top spot as a result, with 1m36.255s.
Behind him, both Mercedes opted to run on the softs, and Rosberg set 1m36.351s compared to Hamilton’s 1m36.450s, just less than a tenth between them.
Vettel and Raikkonen were fourth and fifth respectively for Ferrari, ahead of Hulkenberg.
In comparison to the Mercedes pair, Verstappen managed 1m36.857s on his softs, half a second off Rosberg, which was good enough for seventh.
Fernando Alonso complained of a lack of straightline speed from his McLaren-Honda, and was on the bubble as the clock counted down to zero. He improved to 1m36.417s with his final lap, briefly moving up to ninth, but it wasn’t enough – as Sergio Perez (Force India) and Sainz pushed him out.
Massa improved on his final lap to push Perez out by 0.15s. Perez will start 11th, ahead of Alonso, Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), Esteban Gutierrez (Haas), Jolyon Palmer (Renault) and Marcus Ericsson (Sauber).
Button suffers disastrous Q1
Gutierrez pushed out Renault’s Kevin Magnussen in the closing seconds, who will start 18th. The Mexican’s Haas teammate Romain Grosjean also beat Magnussen, but couldn’t get through to Q2, and the Frenchman will start 17th.
McLaren’s Jenson Button suffered a poor first run, 3s off the pace on softs. His final supersoft run was compromised by traffic in the closing corners, and his 1m38.327s left him prone – and he was shoved out by Ericsson.
With further improvements unfolding, Button will start down in 19th. “Traffic! Renault on the racing line at the last corner,” he moaned of Jolyon Palmer.
“[Bleep]ing disaster,” complained Palmer, who just got through to Q2 but couldn’t improve on his final lap after being forced to take evasive action for Button. His engineer replied: “Sorry, about Button I didn’t see.”
Pascal Wehrlein bounced back from his practice woes to qualifying 20th.
Felipe Nasr was only 21st fastest, and reported brake issues with his Sauber. Only Manor’s Esteban Ocon was slower, and will start last.
Hamilton set the pace in this session on supersoft tyres, a 1m36.296s, a tenth clear of Rosberg. Verstappen was third fastest, three tenths back.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||1'35.509||0.510|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||1'35.747||0.748|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||Mercedes||1'36.628||1.629|
|10||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||1'37.326||2.327|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||1'37.353||2.354|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||1'37.480||2.481|