Lewis Hamilton is edging towards his fifth championship after achieving his ninth Formula 1 pole position of the season in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix. Title rival Sebastian Vettel will start fifth following grid penalty.
Vettel was Hamilton’s closest challenger on pace at the Circuit of the Americas qualifying, but has a three-place grid penalty for speeding under the red flag conditions during practice.
Hamilton had the advantage after the first runs in Q3, but came under attack from both Ferraris on his second run.
Kimi Raikkonen, who will start alongside Hamilton on the front row, briefly took top spot with a lap of one minute, 32.307 seconds, only for Hamilton to retake it by 0.061 seconds.
Vettel then completed his lap, a one minute, 32.298 seconds, to split the pair, subsequently saying over the radio that he tried everything he could to beat Hamilton.
Valtteri Bottas was 0.379 seconds off his Mercedes team-mate and ended the session fourth fastest ahead of the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
Both Silver Arrows drivers, Vettel and Ricciardo will start the race on the supersoft Pirellis having used that compound to set their Q2 times – although Raikkonen used ultrasofts.
Esteban Ocon was best of the rest in sixth position for the Racing Point Force India team, just ahead of Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg.
Romain Grosjean was eighth ahead of Sauber driver Charles Leclerc, with Sergio Perez tenth for Force India.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr was the quickest of those eliminated in Q2 in P11 after failing to capitalise on team-mate Hulkenberg, who had a lock up into Turn 1, not improving on his second run.
Sainz set his best time of one minute, 34.566 seconds to close to just two-thousandths from Hulkenberg and complained of “oversteer in the last corner, I don’t know why” costing him.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was P12 after also failing to improve on his second run thanks to losing time in the first sector.
Toro Rosso pairing Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, who will both drop to the back of the grid thanks to Honda power unit change penalties, did not set times during Q2 and ended up P13 and P14 respectively.
Because both did at least take to the track, they were classified ahead of Max Verstappen.
The Red Bull driver could not run in Q2 after a failure in the right-rear corner when running over an exit kerb in the first segment of qualifying.
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso was P16 having been eliminated in Q1 by Hartley’s last gasp improvement.
Alonso was 0.441 seconds up on Hartley after the first sectors of their final laps, but the Toro Rosso driver turned that deficit into a 0.088 seconds advantage over sectors two and three to jump the McLaren.
Alonso will move back ahead of both Toro Rossos on the grid once the penalties are applied.
This put Alonso ahead of Williams pairing Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll in 17th and 18th respectively, with 0.118 seconds separating the two.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson briefly elevated himself out of the dropzone in the final flurry of Q1 laps, only to be shuffled back down to P19 by the chequered flag.
Stoffel Vandoorne brought up the rear in the second McLaren, lapping two-tenths slower than Ericsson.
So Sunday’s United States Grand Prix will be the race in which Lewis Hamilton can achieve his fifth world championship. Starting on pole is the best ideal position for the Mercedes driver as title rival Sebastian Vettel has to fight back from. Hamilton just need to outscore Vettel by eight points to win the title. It can be done come race day. Best of luck!
United States Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m32.237s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m32.307s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m32.616s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m33.494s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m32.298s
6 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m34.145s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m34.215s
8 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m34.250s
9 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m34.420s
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m34.594s
11 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m34.566s
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m34.732s
13 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault –
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m35.294s
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m35.362s
16 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m35.480s
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.536s
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m35.735s
19 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda –
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda –