Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton edged out title rival Sebastian Vettel to Pole Position ahead of tomorrow’s USA GP.
In Q1, it was both Ferrari’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel out first with Vettel able to go over 3 and a half tenths quicker than his Finnish team-mate. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was the first driver to have his lap time deleted due to track limits.
The Mercedes’ of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton were able to beat Vettel’s time with Hamilton setting the pace on a 1:34:176.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen then hit trouble with the Dutchman crawling back to the pits. The right rear suspension appeared to fail over the “sausage” kerbs, ruling the Red Bull out of the rest of qualifying.
With 6 minutes to go, both McLaren’s and both Williams’ along with the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson were in the drop-zone.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was able to improve to 13th but other drivers were able to beat his lap time and it was the Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley who pushed the Spaniard out of progressing to Q2.
Ericsson, the other McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne and both Williams’ drivers were knocked out as well. Hamilton ended Q1 quickest on a 1:34:130 ahead of Bottas and Vettel.
In Q2, Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel opted to go out on the Supersoft tyre while Raikkonen went onto the Ultrasoft. Raikkonen was able to beat both Mercedes on a 1:32:884 with Vettel slotting in behind his team-mate in 2nd.
Hamilton locked-up and lost time in the middle sector so the Brit went for a second flying lap on the same set of tyres and improved to 3rd to go nearly 6 tenths behind Raikkonen.
It was a superb first lap for Sauber’s Charles Leclerc who posted the 6th quickest time, over 2 tenths quicker than Haas’ Romain Grosjean in 7th.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen just missed out on making it to Q3 and were joined in the elimination zone by both Toro Rosso’s, who both didn’t set a lap time and the Red Bull of Verstappen.
Vettel put in a 1:33:079 on the Ultra’s whilst both Mercedes’ didn’t improve which means that they’ll start on the Supersoft tyre for tomorrow’s race.
In Q3, the first runs saw Hamilton go quickest on a 1:32:567 with Vettel less than a tenth behind in 2nd. Bottas was over a tenth behind in 3rd with Raikkonen over 4 and a half tenths back from Hamilton in 4th.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was on his own in 5th with Haas’s Grosjean, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India’s of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez and the Sauber of Leclerc, who hadn’t set a timed lap yet, in 10th.
For the final runs Bottas improved but it was the other Finn of Raikkonen who went on provisional pole position on a 1:32:307. Hamilton improved to a 1:32:237 and with Vettel managing a 1:32:298, the German will start 5th with his 3-place grid penalty.
Behind the top 4, Ricciardo was 5th ahead of Ocon, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Leclerc and Perez.
In the post-race interviews, Hamilton acknowledged the battle with Ferrari throughout the session by saying “That was very important. That was close.”
Vettel who’ll start 5th for the race, threw out some expletives when he heard about the tiny deficit to Hamilton, but was happy that Ferrari were back on form when it comes to pace in the dry.
Tune it at 7PM BST on Sky Sports F1/Channel 4 for what could be the title-deciding race.