Formula 1

Hamilton On Pole, Vettel Alongside for USGP

Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Press Release

The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton will start on pole position for the US Grand Prix tomorrow, though he will be joined on the front row of the grid by his championship rival Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari.

Hamilton’s first lap in Q3, a 1:33.108, was enough to secure him his 11th pole of the season and set a new track record for the Circuit of the Americas. Although he did manage a second run in the session he was unable to improve on his time. The Brit also broke another longstanding record, overtaking Michael Schumacher once again for the number of front row starts in a career. He will start from the front row for the 117th time, a number that surely will keep growing over the next few seasons

“I feel fantastic. I feel fresh and healthy and wish qualifying would go on longer,” said an ecstatic Hamilton. “I hope tomorrow I can get a good start and really put the nail in the coffin.”

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Hamilton will have Vettel line up alongside him in the Ferrari as the German looks to stop the Mercedes driver form securing the drivers championship in Austin. So far the Ferrari driver has had a less than stellar start to the weekend, but after a chassis change overnight Vettel displayed his driving talent to qualify just over two tenths of a second behind Hamilton. On his final run he was able to pip the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to second place after appearing to struggle in the beginning to match the pace of the Mercedes.

Hamilton will win this year’s drivers championship if he wins the US Grand Prix and Vettel finishes sixth or lower. As long as the Ferrari runs without trouble during the race based on the evidence so far for the weekend, the chances are the championship battle will continue onto Mexico in a weeks time.

Bottas will start third in the sister Mercedes after once again being outqualified by Hamilton by over four tenths of a second. The Finn has struggled since Summer Break to match the pace of his team mate, and has qualified on average half a second behind Hamilton since the Belgian Grand Prix.

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The Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo qualified fourth with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen lining up fifth. The pair of them set identical lap times in the final session, though Ricciardo will start ahead as he crossed the line first out of the two of them. Ricciardo’s team mate Verstappen qualified sixth, but will start 17th due to penalties for an enforced engine change. Verstappen’s lap was scrappy to say the least, and was not the inch perfect run we’ve come to expect from the Dutchman, a fact he acknowledges himself.

“This was one of the worst qualifying’s of the year for me,” bemoaned Verstappen. “I made mistakes, l should have been up there with Seb. I’m not happy with myself.”

The Force India of Esteban Ocon impressed once again with another top ten start, qualifying seventh in his Pink Panther. He will be joined by Renault new boy Carlos Sainz, who was able to maximise the most out of his Renault to qualify eighth. The Spaniard appears to have settled into the Renault team immediately following his move from Toro Rosso, having outpaced team mate Nico Hulkenberg in Q1.

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As a result of a twenty place grid penalty the team opted not to run Hulkenberg in Q2, ending his day there, and robbing the fans of a chance to see a Hulkenberg verses Sainz battle for qualifying superiority. This will be the first time this season a team mate has outqualified Hulkenberg after Jolyon Palmer failed to all season. Sainz’s performance, however, shouldn’t pass under-appreciated as eighth place before penalties shows Renault he has talent.

It was a better day for McLaren too, as Fernando Alonso threw everything into qualifying, with his reward being ninth place. The lap was a reminder of the sheer talent the double world champion has, as well as a potential hint at what fans have to look forward to in 2018 when McLaren will be powered by Renault. The second Force India of Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten.

Q1 proved to be a manic affair with all twenty drivers out on track, causing traffic and problems for some drivers during their hot laps. One driver who struggled in the first session was Kevin Magnussen in the Haas. He was slowest of all in the session after some poor flying laps at the teams home Grand Prix. To add insult to injury he was also found guilty of impeding Perez on his hot lap and was handed a three place grid penalty by the stewards. To his credit Magnussen admitted his mistake immediately afterwards, crediting the incident to a miscommunication between him and his engineer.

“He was on a fast lap but I was told that he was on an out lap so I didn’t let him through,” he the media after. “I can understand if he’s pretty angry about that. I can only say it was a mistake and I’m sorry. I definitely impeded his lap and that gets you a penalty, so I’m expecting a penalty.”

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Despite his refreshing honestly, he received no sympathy from the stewards, and also collected one penalty point on his super licence for his trouble.

He was not the only driver to receive a three place grid penalty and a penalty point for impeding during qualifying, as the Williams of Lance Stroll was judged to have caused a “potentially dangerous situation.” He nearly collided with the Haas of Romain Grosjean on the exit of the penultimate corner after the Frenchman came up behind the slow Williams.

Grosjean, already on the verge of track limits, decided to try and pass Stroll on the outside during his hot lap. Only for the teenager to also move to the right as he attempted to get off the racing line for Grosjean, forcing the Haas driver to take evasive action. The stewards took a dim view on Stoll’s actions and handed him the penalty.

The grid for Sunday’s race will be heavily revised at least five drivers facing engine-related demotions, as well as Stroll and Magnussen picking up grid penalties too. Verstappen will start 17th, although the penalties elsewhere mean the Dutchman is only dropping 11 places from the sixth place he qualified instead of the 15 he was meant to lose for exceeding engine allowances. Despite both being hit by three-place grid penalties, Stroll and Magnussen actually gain one and two places respectively on the grid due to the fact that Renault’s Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley’s engine-change penalties are far larger.

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Turn 1 at the Circuit of the Americas has seen several first lap incidents over the years, thanks to it’s open nature. There are several lines you can take into it at the start and there’s the option for breaking deep into it, resulting in a fantastic chance for overtaking and carnage at the start. Add in the fact that Pole position is not on the clean side of the grid, then we could see sparks flying between Hamilton and Vettel tomorrow at the start.

United States GP Qualifying timesheet

1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
5) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
6) Max Verstappen, Red Bull (15 Place Grid Penalty for engine issues)
7) Esteban Ocon, Force India
8) Carlos Sainz, Renault
9) Fernando Alonso, McLaren
10) Sergio Perez, Force India

Out in Q2
11) Felipe Massa, Williams
12) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
13) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren (5 Place Grid Penalty for engine issues)
14) Romain Grosjean, Haas
15) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault (20 Place Grid Penalty for engine issues)

Out in Q1
16) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
17) Lance Stroll, Williams (3 Place Grid Penalty for Impeding)
18) Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso (25 Place Grid Penalty for engine issues)
19) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber
20) Kevin Magnussen, Haas (3 Place Grid Penalty for Impeding)

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