Hamilton edges one step closer to title with pole

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 –

7 thoughts to “Hamilton edges one step closer to title with pole”

  1. Qualifying review as reported by Formula1.com.

    Mercedes have owned the Circuit of The Americas in recent years and they just about carried that performance advantage into this year’s edition on Saturday, with Lewis Hamilton putting himself in the box seat to clinch a fifth world title with a brilliant pole position.

    Championship rival Sebastian Vettel was a very close second, but he will start fifth, courtesy of a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently for a red flag during free practice earlier in the weekend.

    Hamilton judged qualifying impressively once more, setting a strong banker lap with his first Q3 effort and then improving on his second run to take an 81st pole position and third consecutive pole at Austin. Worryingly for his rivals, Hamilton has always won the United States Grand Prix when starting on the front row.

    Kimi Raikkonen was third quickest, but he’ll be promoted to the front row courtesy of his Ferrari team mate’s grid penalty, while Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo will also be promoted one place for Sunday. Intriguingly, Raikkonen will start on the ultrasoft tyres, with Hamilton and Vettel on the supersofts, and that could give the Finn more grip off the line and subsequently provide a great battle for the lead into the uphill Turn 1.

    Esteban Ocon, currently without a seat for 2019, earned the accolade of best of the rest in the Force India, a fraction ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, with Haas’s Romain Grosjean, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Force India’s Sergio Perez completing the top 10 in Texas.

    Ferrari may have set the pace when teams headed out in the dry for the first time in FP3, but Mercedes upped their game in the first segment of qualifying with Hamilton powering to the top of the timesheets, nearly four-tenths of a second clear of team mate Bottas.

    Championship leader Hamilton was so relaxed, he had time to hug actor Matthew McConaughey after getting out of the car. His title rival Vettel was 0.4s back in the Ferrari, with the German facing a battle to keep the championship alive going to Mexico, particularly given he will have the aforementioned penalty.

    McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was the highest profile driver to fail to make it through, the Spaniard getting knocked out at the death courtesy of a fine lap from Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. His team mate Pierre Gasly looked very quick, finishing seventh quickest overall as Honda’s latest spec power unit stretched its legs.

    Unfortunately, both Toro Rossos will start from the back of the grid after Honda opted to fit fresh engines to both cars, triggering grid penalties. There wasn’t much luck for Max Verstappen in their sister team Red Bull, with the Dutchman limping back to the pits with suspected rear suspension damage – thought to be the result of a heavy kerb impact – which ended his participation for the day.

    Williams duo Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne were also eliminated. It was the 23rd consecutive time Vandoorne has been out-qualified by his team mate and the 11th straight race he has failed to make it into Q2.

    While Mercedes sent both drivers out on the supersoft tyres for the first runs, Ferrari opted to split strategies for the race, with Raikkonen taking the ultrasofts and Vettel following his title rival by running the supersofts. Raikkonen used the softer rubber to his advantage, slotting into top spot.

    Vettel was just over two-tenths slower in second, with the red cars suddenly showing a burst of pace. Hamilton did two quick laps but still ended up six-tenths of a second adrift in third, with Bottas fourth. Further back, there was a mighty effort from Leclerc, with the Sauber driver up in sixth.

    The Toro Rossos didn’t set a time while Verstappen didn’t run at all, with Carlos Sainz, who complained about huge oversteer in the final corner, missing out on the pole position shoot-out to Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg by just 0.002s. However, it means the Spaniard will have a free choice of tyre compounds for Sunday’s race.

    Kevin Magnussen continued his record of never having out-qualified a team mate in Austin, the Haas driver ending up 12th, with Grosjean seventh, ahead of the Force Indias of Ocon and Perez.

    With honours split between Mercedes and Ferrari after the first two segments of qualifying, it was perhaps unsurprising that just 0.088s separated the title rivals after the opening runs of Q3.

    Hamilton was the driver in front, heading Vettel with Bottas a fraction further back in third and Raikkonen a distant fourth. The quartet headed back to the pits to tweak their set-ups and get a splash of fuel before heading back out for one more flying lap before the chequered flag.

    Bottas was first to cross the line, slotting into second just 0.049s off Hamilton, but both were demoted as Raikkonen sailed to the top of the pile. Hamilton was improving, though, and he inched back ahead. Could Vettel topple his rival? No, the German missing out by just 0.061s.

  2. This was a dominant display in qualifying and Lewis Hamilton admitted he was in a “different headspace” for pole. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Mercedes Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton says being in a “different headspace” going into qualifying helped him beat the Ferraris to pole for the United States Grand Prix.

    Hamilton’s third pole in a row comes as he bids to secure a fifth F1 title at Austin on Sunday.

    He beat championship rival Sebastian Vettel, who will start fifth thanks to a grid penalty, by 0.061s and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen by 0.070s.

    Hamilton said: “I knew it was going to take perfection and neat laps to take them.

    “The first lap was good, but being that I was less than one tenth ahead I knew the next lap these guys would improve also so there was no room for error.

    “Considering there’s been some Q3s in the past races where I have had to bail out the second one as it was not good enough, I was very strict with myself today, to pull through the second lap.

    “The approach for us has been very sturdy, we’ve not been getting ahead of ourselves.

    “I’m so happy. It was a different feeling today coming in. I don’t know why.

    “I don’t know if I slept longer or what but I was in a different headspace going into qualifying which is weird, but it was a good one.”

    Hamilton said it was not a perfect lap but was pleased to overcome the Ferrari’s apparent advantage in the first sector through the rest of the track.

    “There’s so many different variables, you are really just on your tippy toes the whole way, trying to catch it and grab it, utilise grip,” he said.

    “The first section for some reason they were particularly quick there.

    “Some of that it is Turn 1 I would say mostly, they generally have a car that’s better in corners like that. The rest of the lap was good, there were no mistakes.

    “The first lap was quite good but there was a little bit of time in a couple of corners, Turn 11, Turn 12, maybe 13 and a little bit in 20.

    “That second one I was able to capitalise.”

  3. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel commented that the team’s performance was boosted by ditching recent upgrades. Motorsport.com has the story.

    Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari’s surprising return to form at the United States Grand Prix is linked to it rolling back recent upgrades.

    With just 0.061 seconds separating Vettel and pole position man Lewis Hamilton in qualifying at Austin, the German believes that Ferrari is back to its best following recent struggles.

    And he suggests that his car has been working better thanks to Ferrari abandoning a number of developments that it has brought in recent races.

    “We went back with our car quite a long way, and it seems to work better that way,” explained the German.

    In Austin, Ferrari trialled a major floor update that it hoped would help better make use of a new design concept that it introduced but never raced in Japan.

    However, after a difficult Friday in America, the team elected to go back to the same configuration it had raced in both Russia and Japan.

    Although Vettel knew that a three-place grid penalty for a red flag infringement in FP1 would mean he could not start from pole, he thought he could have been fastest overall.

    Asked if he felt he could have bettered Hamilton’s pace, Vettel said: “I think if it less than one tenth [off] you will always think there was a little bit left.

    “I was happy with the laps I had and overall it was a positive surprise to see how competitive we were today, given how far behind we were in the last events.”

    Hamilton reckoned that, based on what was seen in qualifying, there was nothing to separate Mercedes and Ferrari in America.

    “I think it shows this weekend, we are pretty much on par performance-wise, I think,” he said. “That is the max for all of us.

    “We can go up and down with small improvements, and we are dicing around with the same kind of improvements, but they have gone back with potential improvements and their car is better in that sweet spot.”

  4. Max Verstappen says Red Bull was left “amazed” by the freak suspension breakage that put him out of the qualifying for the United States Grand Prix.

    The Dutchman damaged the lower right rear wishbone on the kerbs at Turn 15 during Q1 in Austin.

    Although he managed to get his car back to the pits, the breakage and the fact the driveshaft had been pulled out meant he was unable to return to the circuit and he will start 15th.

    Although some drivers were advised to steer clear of the kerbs in qualifying, Verstappen said there had been no concern from his side of the garage about running over them.

    “Everybody was taking them,” said Verstappen. “We also drove like that the last two years and again today was all fine, so it is really unexpected.

    “Everything was well within the limits of everything, so there was nothing crazy. As you can see, everyone else was doing it as well.

    “So that is why we are a little bit amazed how it happened.”

    Verstappen says the kerbs will not be a problem for him on Sunday, however, because the racing lines are different.

    “In the race it should not be a problem as you don’t use that much of the track anyway for tyres and whatever. So it should be alright.”

    Red Bull was unclear if Verstappen’s gearbox had been damaged in the incident, and would have little choice to replace it and move further down the order if there was a problem.

    “If that is the case, then we take a penalty and we start a little bit further back but it is not going to change the world,” he added

    Even without the suspension problem, Verstappen was sceptical about being able to mount a proper challenge to Mercedes and Ferrari.

    “I think they were too quick,” he said. “We never thought we had a chance in qualifying. I think we have a good race car. I felt good in qualifying with the laps I did.

    “Hopefully we can clear the midfield quite quickly and we can still be in the race like last year and have a good fight with them.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  5. Bottas and Ocon escapes punishment for Q3 infringement and will remain on the grid without positions drop. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Formula 1 drivers Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon have escaped punishment after being investigated for driving unnecessarily slowly on their respective in-laps in United States Grand Prix qualifying.

    Formula 1 drivers Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon have escaped punishment after being investigated for driving unnecessarily slowly on their respective in-laps in United States Grand Prix qualifying.

    Mercedes driver Bottas qualified third for the Austin race while Ocon put his Racing Point Force India sixth on the grid.

    Both were summoned to the stewards on Saturday evening for allegedly breaching Article 27.4 of the FIA’s F1 sporting regulations, “driving unnecessarily slowly on an in-lap during qualifying”, after the chequered flag in the final part of qualifying.

    However, the stewards have decided to take no further action.

    They deemed both drivers had exceeded the specified maximum time between safety car lines but accepted neither had driven “unnecessarily slowly or in a manner to adversely affect any other driver”.

    A grid penalty for Bottas would have elevated his team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s championship rival Sebastian Vettel ahead of Sunday’s potential title-deciding grand prix.

    Vettel set the second-fastest time in qualifying but was demoted to fifth for a red-flag offence on Friday.

    He needs to avoid being outscored by Hamilton by eight points to stop the British driver claiming the title in the US.

  6. Toto Wolff believes the race stewards had no choice but to penalise Sebastian Vettel. Motorsport.com provides the news story.

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the United States Grand Prix stewards had no choice but to give Sebastian Vettel a grid penalty for Sunday’s Formula 1 race.

    Ferrari driver Vettel should be lining up alongside title rival Lewis Hamilton at Austin but will instead start fifth after picking up a three-place grid penalty for a red-flag infringement in practice.

    Vettel received some sympathy from fellow drivers for the “harsh” penalty, but while Hamilton’s team boss Wolff claimed he would prefer to see the protagonists go wheel-to-wheel into the first corner he believes it was right to punish Vettel.

    “The stewards have a really tough job because you have rules and you need to be consistent in the rulemaking,” said Wolff.

    “The rule says you need to reduce speed, do not be above the delta time. If you fail to do so, you’re getting a penalty.

    “I don’t think the stewards have any choice in their decision-making.

    “From a racing point of view of course you’d like to have the two championship contenders going wheel-to-wheel into the first corner.

    “From a racing standpoint this is what I’d like to see. But it’s very easy to hit out. If you are the police, there are regulations, and you need to act upon them.”

    Vettel’s penalty matches those earned already this season by the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon for the same offence.

    Wolff’s other driver Valtteri Bottas avoided a penalty for a minor infringement in qualifying, when he and Ocon were found to have driven too slowly on their respective in-laps after the final session had ended.

    It means polesitter Hamilton, who can claim a fifth title on Sunday if he outscores Vettel by eight points, maintains a three-car buffer between himself and Vettel.

    Vettel will need to pass Ricciardo’s Red Bull, Bottas and the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen to stay in mathematical title contention should Hamilton take victory.

    Wolff said Mercedes may yet implement team orders to seal the championship and he is “still wrestling” with the decision.

    “The objective for Valtteri is to really go for it at the beginning,” said Wolff. “He hasn’t got a lot to lose.

    “If at the end we find ourselves in a situation where we again need to evaluate the points we will do that.

    “I know from the points we are looking solid but everything can happen in this sport and Ferrari has come back strong, it’s what we have expected.

    “That’s why I’d like to keep all options open for tomorrow.”

  7. Daniel Ricciardo has revealed that he was advised before qualifying at the United States Grand Prix to steer clear of the kerbs that put Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen out of action.

    Verstappen’s hopes of a good grid slot for the Formula 1 Austin race were wrecked in Q1 after his right rear suspension was broken when he ran over the kerbs at the exit of Turn 15.

    The damage to the suspension and driveshaft could not be fixed before Q2 finished, and it left the Dutchman down in 15th.

    Although some drivers were told after Verstappen’s incident to avoid hitting the kerbs, Ricciardo says that his engineer had warned him before the session.

    “This morning already I saw a few cars use them and I think Max was one of them,” explained Ricciardo.

    “I had a look on the data before qualifying to see how much it puts through the car, the impact, and already my engineer advised me not to do that. So I was going to stay off them.”

    Ricciardo said that he had already been cautious about abusing the track limits after his steering got damaged last year in the closing stages of Q3.

    “I remember I hit the one last year, on the last lap of qualifying coming out of the last corner,” he said.

    “I remember hitting that one and it knocked the steering and tow out, so even when I used it last year it did something. So it isn’t really worth it, unless it is the last corner where you don’t really care.”

    Ricciardo managed to qualify fifth, and felt there was little chance of doing any better with both Mercedes and Ferrari well clear of Red Bull this weekend.

    He suspects the edge his rivals have is because Austin has turned into a power track like Silverstone – where Red Bull’s downforce advantage does not bring any benefit.

    “Part of my explanation is that it is a bit like Silverstone now, where the first sector is a power sector as opposed to a downforce sector,” he explained.

    “Turn 2 is full, Turn 3 is full, 4 is full, 5 is full, 6 was like a micro-lift that is as good as full now. So if we have got more downforce we are not gaining there, we are losing because if they are full with more power then it is being magnified.

    “They [Mercedes and Ferrari] also have more beans to use in qualifying. The race will bring it back. But they are quick around here.

    “Ferrari is more a surprise than Mercedes. I knew Mercedes would be fast but Ferrari found some [pace] as well.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

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