Bottas scores USGP pole as title rival Hamilton only fifth

Valtteri Bottas achieved his eleventh career pole position and ended Ferrari’s run to the top grid slot by beating Sebastian Vettel and out-qualfying Lewis Hamilton by a significant margin.

The Mercedes driver grabbed the team’s first pole after the summer break after beating Vettel by 0.012 seconds.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third ahead of Charles Leclerc. The top four were covered by a tenth of a second.

World champion in waiting Lewis Hamilton could only settle for fifth position after aborting his second run in Q3. The championship leader seemed to be struggling for pace and starting P5 is not ideal in terms of winning title number six. However, he just needs to secure an eighth position to win the championship.

Alex Albon was sixth in the Red Bull, 0.519 seconds off the pace. He will start the race on the soft Pirelli compound compared to his teammate.

Carlos Sainz benefited from having two sets of fresh softs in Q3 thanks to completing only one run in Q1 to secure midfield honours in seventh position with a lap just three tenths slower than Albon.

Sainz’s McLaren teammate, Lando Norris, also earned a place on the fourth row in eighth, almost three-and-a-half tenths slower.

Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo, who completed his sole Q3 run on a clear track before the final flurry, was ninth fastest, 1.459 seconds off the pace, and just over a tenth faster than Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly.

The Ferrari and Mercedes drivers will start on mediums having used that tyre compound for their Q2 time, along with Verstappen – with the rest of the top ten using softs.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg was quickest of those knocked out in P11 after lapping one tenth slower than Gasly.

He briefly climbed into the top ten as he finished his final lap, only to be knocked down a place by teammate Ricciardo.

Kevin Magnussen was P12 for Haas having failed to improve on his second run, ending up 0.010 seconds quicker than Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat – who had a time that originally put him P11 deleted by going over the track limit.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was P14, just over half a tenth quicker than Romain Grosjean’s Haas.

Alfa Romeo duo Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen were both eliminated in Q1 in P16 and P17 respectively.

The pair were both in the drop zone after the first runs, with last year’s winner Raikkonen briefly climbing to P15 ahead of Gasly before Giovinazzi leaped ahead thanks to his stronger pace in the middle sector.

But Gasly then posted a time good enough to shuffle both back into the bottom five, where they ended the session well clear of the lead Williams of George Russell.

Racing Point driver Sergio Perez must start from the pits thanks to missing the weighbridge in practice two, so completed only one run and was P19.

That put him less than a tenth faster than the second Williams of Robert Kubica.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in scoring pole position. This was important grid position for the sake of the championship. Can his Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton fight back in the race? Bring on the race at the awesome Circuit of the Americas.

United States Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 01:32.029
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 01:32.041
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 01:32.096
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 01:32.137
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 01:32.321
6 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 01:32.548
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 01:32.847
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 01:33.175
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 01:33.488
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 01:33.601
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 01:33.815
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 01:33.979
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 01:33.989
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 01:34.100
15 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 01:34.158
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 01:34.226
17 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 01:34.369
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 01:35.372
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 01:35.889
20 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 01:35.808

5 thoughts to “Bottas scores USGP pole as title rival Hamilton only fifth”

  1. United States Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by

    The Circuit of The Americas has been kind to Lewis Hamilton in recent years, but it was his Mercedes team mate and the only driver who can stop him winning a sixth world crown, Valtteri Bottas, who took pole position for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix in nail-biting fashion…

    It was Hamilton who showed the most impressive pace over one lap in Friday practice, but the five-time world champion made a mistake on his final run in the middle sector, forcing him out of contention for pole position and leaving him a distant fifth.

    As it turned out, no one improved their position on the final runs, meaning Bottas’s impressive opening gambit was enough to secure a first pole at COTA and the 11th of his F1 career. But he finished just 0.012s ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.

    Max Verstappen made it three different teams in the top three positions, with the Dutchman heading up the second row for Red Bull, just 0.067s off the pace as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – who has been on pole in five of the last six races – ended up fourth.

    Alex Albon secured his third consecutive top-six finish for Red Bull, with Carlos Sainz finishing best of the rest in seventh and taking the lead in his qualifying head-to-head with McLaren team mate Lando Norris 10-9, as he beat the Briton by a position.

    Daniel Ricciardo – who opted for only one run in Q3 – was the leading Renault in ninth as Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10 for Toro Rosso having made it three Honda-powered cars in the pole position shoot-out.

    Overall, it wasn’t the ideal day for Hamilton, the Briton usually a menace around Austin, but he’s still in a strong position for Sunday, considering he only needs an eighth-place finish or better to secure a historic sixth world championship.

    Q1 – Norris stars as Alfa Romeos disappoint

    After a bitterly cold day for Friday practice, the conditions mercifully improved for Saturday, with bright skies and ambient temperatures hovering around 18 degrees Celsius.

    Vettel made life slightly trickier for himself by locking up heavily at Turn 1 on his first flying lap, but he easily put himself through on his next timed lap, on the soft tyres, as he clocked the sixth-quickest time.

    Hamilton was initially the man to beat, fractionally edging out Verstappen by 0.095s, with Bottas – the only driver who can stop Hamilton winning a sixth crown – 0.2s further back. But the timesheets were torn up when Lando Norris had a second run late in the session and shot to the top of the pile in the McLaren.

    Pierre Gasly hauled himself out of the drop zone in the closing stages to end up fourth quickest – but the Alfa Romeos couldn’t follow suit. Antonio Giovinazzi out-qualified team mate Kimi Raikkonen by one place as he ended up 16th, while George Russell finished ahead of a Racing Point, with Sergio Perez having different priorities as he is already condemned to a pit-lane start courtesy of missing the weighbridge in Friday practice.

    Knocked out: Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Russell, Perez, Kubica

    Q2 – Frontrunners ensure start on medium tyre

    Mercedes and Ferrari plus Red Bull’s Verstappen opted to change things up and head out on the medium tyre, in a bid to start the race on that rubber, while the rest of the field stuck with the quicker, less durable soft.

    Albon comfortably went quickest, with Hamilton the fastest of the medium runners in second. But it was beautifully tight, with Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas and Vettel separated by just 0.15s.

    For the second runs, everyone headed out on softs, apart from the Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Vettel, who opted for mediums. The duo both improved, with Leclerc going fastest by 0.022s from Vettel.

    Hamilton set the best middle sector of all on the soft, but backed off to ensure he didn’t improve so he could start on the medium. Bottas and Verstappen did the same, which means both Mercedes and Ferraris plus Verstappen will start on the mediums. The rest of the top 10 will start on the softs.

    Nico Hulkenberg missed out by half a tenth for Renault, but will be the best-placed driver with free tyre choice in 11th. Haas’s Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat – who had his last time deleted for exceeding track limits – Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Haas’s Romain Grosjean all got the boot.

    Knocked out: Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Kvyat, Stroll, Grosjean

    Q3 – Bottas makes it count with first run

    Bottas knitted everything together brilliantly on his opening flying lap, the Finn pipping Vettel by 0.012s, but finishing nearly 0.3s clear of team mate Hamilton, after the championship leader had a scrappy lap.

    Verstappen made an error, too, with a lock-up at Turn 1 to slot into third, a fraction ahead of third, with Sainz the best of the rest in seventh – 0.8s off the pace. The top nine headed back to the pits, where Ricciardo was sat as he only planned one run, to fit new tyres.

    As the second runs got under way, there were a flurry of personal bests in the first sector, but things started to tail off as their respective laps went on, with no one able to make enough of a gain to change the overall order at the sharp end of the field.

    That meant Bottas took pole by the smallest margin in COTA history, having never previously had the pace to start on the front row at the venue. Incidentally it was Mercedes’ 200th front row start, while pole gives Bottas a chance to improve on his record of having won just three races from 10 P1 starts.

    Vettel was edged into second, with Verstappen securing his best US GP start in third – his best grid slot since Hungary, seven races ago. In contrast, Leclerc fails to start on the front row for the first time in seven races. Hamilton will start off the front row in the USA for only the second time in his career.

  2. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel regrets conservative first Q3 run. The four-time world champion missed out on pole position by a tiny margin of 0.012 seconds from Valtteri Bottas. has the news story.

    Sebastian Vettel has admitted he regrets being so conservative on his first run in Q3 for the United States Grand Prix after missing out on pole position to Valtteri Bottas by just 0.012 seconds.

    The Ferrari driver finished the first Q3 attempts just behind his Mercedes rival, but was confident about doing better on the final run because he had taken things quite easy in the final sector to ensure he had a solid banker lap.

    But Vettel’s hopes of snatching the top spot were derailed when the track conditions fell away at the end of the session, leaving both him and the pole position man unable to improve on their final laps.

    Speaking afterwards, Vettel said such a small margin of difference between second and first was hard to accept – especially because he left time on the table during his first run.

    “Obviously it was a very nice session, really fun to drive the car this afternoon, but if you are so close to pole and just on the wrong side of it, then I guess Valtteri had a bit more fun.

    “It was okay. The gap was very small, only one or two hundredths, that is always there.

    “I had a very good first lap and had some margin in the last sector. I was maybe taking it a little bit too conservative making sure I should have finished the lap and set the lap first, and then improve on the second lap.

    “Unfortunately I didn’t improve, so my plan didn’t quite work. Overall it was good. I think we will have a strong race tomorrow as the car felt better today than yesterday which is also what we needed.”

    Bottas said that the key to his turnaround in form from a difficult practice day on Friday was a big overhaul of his setup overnight.

    “I am really happy about that, it was a nice lap at the beginning of Q3 to get those kind of laps, and on a track like this it is a good feeling,” he said.

    “Yesterday was tricky, there many things not quite right with my car but we managed to find all the reasons and it was good work this morning with finding all the details and good time. I knew how to bring it together but to bring it together was a nice feeling for Q3.”

    With the Finn needing to win the race to have any hope of taking the world championship battle on to the next race in Brazil, he said there was a level of confidence about his chances based on how strong Mercedes normally is in the race.

    “We’ve seen recently normally on Sundays we’ve been competitive, so it’s very good starting from pole here,” he explained.

    “There are some corners that are difficult to follow for the cars behind, and we have the pace. That will be the only thing in my mind for tomorrow. Only a very, very small part of the weekend is done.”

  3. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen blames Lewis Hamilton for qualifying “close call”. provides the details.

    Max Verstappen says Lewis Hamilton caused a “close call” in United States Grand Prix qualifying by driving like he “didn’t care” when several Formula 1 drivers were finishing their outlaps.

    Verstappen was passed by Hamilton as a queue of drivers prepared for their final flying laps in the second part of qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas.

    As Verstappen attempted to re-pass Hamilton into the penultimate corner, Hamilton attempted to overtake Daniil Kvyat ahead and locked up trying to avoid Toro Rosso, while in turn forcing Verstappen slightly off-track on the inside.

    “We were all lining to do our lap, to get the last corner, and I think it was Seb the first Ferrari and then Charles and then I had Dany in front of me,” said Verstappen.

    “And we were all just slowing down, and Lewis just drove by like nobody was there, and didn’t care.

    “So I was like, ‘if you don’t care, I don’t care’. I wanted to get my position back, because everyone is respecting each other at that point to start the lap. That is why is why it was such a close call.”

    Verstappen had Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso close ahead entering the final sector on their outlaps in Q2, with Sebastian Vettel further in front but slowing right down in preparation for his own flying lap.

    Meanwhile, Hamilton was warned there would be “a bit of bunching” in the final sector of the lap.

    After being told that the Ferraris were at the head of the queue and were “yet to go”, Verstappen was passed by Hamilton on the entry to the triple-right at the very end of the lap.

    Verstappen sped up and tried to re-pass Hamilton into the next corner, the penultimate turn, but Hamilton attempted to get ahead of Kvyat into the left-hander as well.

    As Hamilton moved to the left, and briefly locked his front left, Verstappen had to slow down and swerve over the kerb and run-off and briefly dip his inside front wheel onto the dirt to avoid the Mercedes.

    Hamilton passed Kvyat in the move, but as the five-time world champion slowed to create a gap to the Toro Rosso into the final corner, Verstappen charged ahead of both and Hamilton also fell back behind Kvyat.

    He had to slow almost to a stop before being able to begin his lap.

    As Verstappen started his own flying lap ahead, the Dutchman radioed his team to say: “Lewis f**ked us all, so it’s his f**king problem, what’s happening.”

    Kvyat was eliminated from qualifying in Q2 after failing to make it into the top 10 with his flying lap after the incident, and will start 13th after subsequently having the lap deleted for a track-limits offence.

    The Russian felt Hamilton had triggered “the mess”, but was puzzled by both drivers’ behaviour.

    “I don’t know what they were doing to be honest, it was quite stupid – I mean, not stupid but just not necessary,” Kvyat said.

    “Just I don’t understand why they were racing on the out-lap so much, and yeah, in the end it just made a mess for all three of us, compromised the lap for all three of us. I had to start lap with a very cold tyres, but still… it was OK.

    “Normally you want to have an order, but some drivers don’t respect that order, and then this mess happens.

    “And I think it was Lewis who triggered this. It doesn’t matter, for him its Q2, he is already in Q3 by miles. But for me that was the problem.

    “In the end, he tried to be the first, but he started the lap behind both of us, so I didn’t understand what it was all about.

    Verstappen went on to qualify third, while Hamilton – who can win his sixth title on Sunday – will start fifth.

  4. Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff have both indicated that rival Ferrari has lost straightline performance in Austin, but they stopped short of attributing the change to a technical directive on fuel flow that was issued by the FIA this weekend.

    The TD was a response to an enquiry from Red Bull Racing which explored possible loopholes in the measurement of fuel flow. It was intended to test a theory about what Ferrari might be doing, a ploy that teams regularly use when they have questions about rivals.

    The FIA duly confirmed that the systems proposed by Red Bull would not be legal.

    On Saturday Valtteri Bottas gave Mercedes its first pole position since July, and Ferrari appeared not to show such a significant advantage in terms of lap time gained on the straights compared to its two main rivals. Ferrari drivers did however still top all the speed trap tables.

    “What’s come out this week is quite interesting to see,” said Hamilton. “Obviously today, I think they’ve lost a bit of power. It will be interesting to see how that continues or how that reflects in the race tomorrow.

    “They are still quicker than us generally in the straights. Hopefully our car will be strong throughout the race. Yesterday’s running was good and today was a little difficult. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day.”

    Wolff declined to suggest that the technical directive had led to the change in comparative performance in qualifying between Ferrari and rivals Mercedes and Red Bull.

    “Certainly the three teams were much closer together in terms of straight line performance here in the US,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say this is down to any specific event.

    “It’s just a fact that we’ve won our first pole position since July, since Hockenheim, and we were really in the mix.”

    Asked by for his thoughts on the FIA ruling he said: “I think it’s very strong that the FIA issued a TD clarifying the situation, with some very clear wording.

    “But this is a process that is standard, it’s happened before, and part of the role of the governing body.”


  5. COTA to close in winter for “extensive” repairs following complaints from the drivers about the bumpy track surface during the United States Grand Prix weekend. has the news story.

    The Circuit of the Americas is to close this winter for major work to address the bumps that Formula 1 drivers have complained about over the US Grand Prix weekend.

    The undulations also caused problems for MotoGP riders when they visited the Texan venue in April.

    Some surface grinding was undertaken at the track on Friday night, and more was planned for Saturday evening.

    However, the major work is to begin next month, with extensive excavations to remove pipes under the track.

    “The guys worked all last night and tonight they’re doing it again in the pit out area,” COTA boss Bobby Epstein told

    “There’s a massive grinder coming. It’s not easy on our guys, because our staff work pretty hard for the weekend, and they already have a lot of hours. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a big burden.

    “We’re actually closing the track for most of December and half of January to fix the problems. We did some of the repairs last year before MotoGP, so I wouldn’t say we’d have to do the whole thing.

    “Certainly it will involve the entire back straight, the pit out and part of Turn One, there’s a part of a hump before Turn Nine, Turns 18-19. So it’s pretty extensive. I know what the bill is!”

    Epstein explained that the problems can be traced to heavy rain, and specifically to damage around pipes caused four years ago, and which has caused the ground to settle in places.

    “We excavated nine feet deep to put the track here, and brought in special soils. However clearly the flood of 2015 caused some very serious heaving, and we haven’t fixed those areas since then, and it’s just gotten worse.

    “There’s been some washout around pipes. There are pipes under the track, and in 2015 the water followed those pipes, not just inside but around them. It caused erosion that left this void, and then you get some heaving and shrinking.

    “We know it’s a problem and it’s scheduled for a big repair. Those pipes are coming out. But we didn’t think it was going to affect the F1 cars like this.”

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