This time Max Verstappen kept within track limits to take pole position in the sprint shootout at COTA, edging out Charles Leclerc to the top spot while Lewis Hamilton was once again third fastest.
The Red Bull driver had earlier spun around after hitting the kerbs in the second segment of the weekend’s shorter qualifying session, where the drivers were obliged to run mediums in SQ1 and SQ2 until switching to softs in SQ3.
In the final segment, the majority of drivers only had one new set of softs, which meant they sat in the garages for a long time until Verstappen headed out and set a lap time of one minute, 34.538 seconds.
Although track limits were again a big talking point – with the FIA having widened the white line limits exiting Turns 9, 12 and 19 to help the drivers following discussions with the teams – Verstappen had no repeat of the error that cost him pole for the United States Grand Prix.
Ferrari’s Leclerc was again his main challenger – setting the quickest time in the middle sector on his sole SQ3 run and so closing in on the 0.1 seconds gap he had to Verstappen after sector one before then falling back again in the Austin lap’s final third to end up just 0.055 seconds adrift.
Hamilton slotted his Mercedes into third, with an effort set after most of the other frontrunners – ending up fractionally behind Leclerc and 0.069 seconds adrift of Verstappen.
Lando Norris led his McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri in fourth and fifth, with Carlos Sainz sixth.
Sergio Perez had another disappointing qualifying for Red Bull Racing – finishing seventh and a massive 0.5 seconds down on teammate. But he was forced to run in SQ3 without a new set of softs as he had used all of his in Friday’s action.
The same was true of George Russell, who therefore took eighth position, and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly – P10 in the final order behind Williams driver Alex Albon.
In changing but less windy conditions compared to Friday’s session, Albon was able to rise from a Q1 exit in Grand Prix qualifying to reach SQ3 for the sprint event.
In SQ2, where seven drivers only completed one run due to lacking medium tyres to use, Ricciardo just missed out on progressing behind Albon, along with Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Zhou Guanyu.
Zhou was one of the few midfield runners to complete multiple runs in the middle segment, but his personal best at the end was not enough to reach Q3, while Stroll was left out due to a late massive double lock-up aboard his Aston Martin at Turn 12 at the end of the track’s main straight.
In SQ1, Ricciardo’s late improvement knocked out Nico Hulkenberg, who was eliminated alongside his Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda and Logan Sargeant.
Russell faces a post-session investigation for appearing to impede Leclerc going through the penultimate corners late in Q1, with the Ferrari driver joking commented: “And penalty for Mr Russell – thank you”, following the incident.
In a similar incident in Q1, Tsunoda seemed to impede Hamilton at the same point, with the Mercedes driver feeling the pair had lightly touched right-front corner to left-rear, but race control decided the clash was not worthy of further investigation.
Russell will also be among those investigated for apparently failing to follow the race director’s instructions regarding driving too slowly on in and out laps – intended to reduce traffic issues this year – alongside Albon, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Gasly, Piastri, Bottas, Tsunoda and Perez.
Albon, Piastri and Russell were pinged again for this in SQ2, this time along with Stroll, Zhou, Ricciardo and Norris.
The sprint event is next and it will be fascinating who will win the 19-lap race.
United States Grand Prix, sprint shootout results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:34.538
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:34.593
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.607
4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:34.6395
5 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:34.894
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:34.939
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:35.041
8 George Russell Mercedes 1:35.199
9 Alex. Albon Williams 1:35.366
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:35.897
11 Daniel. Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:35.978
12 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:36.087
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:36.137
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:36.181
15 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo 1:36.182
16 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:36.749
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:36.922
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:36.922
19 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:36.945
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:37.186