Verstappen scores pole position at COTA

Championship leader Max Verstappen beat his Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the 2021 United States Grand Prix, with Sergio Perez taking a solid third place after leading the way early in Q3.

Despite a small amount of light drizzle arriving as the final runs in the top ten shootout were unfolding, Verstappen and Hamilton were able to gain time on Perez and lock out the front row.

All the shootout runners, bar Carlos Sainz and Yuki Tsunoda, traversed Q2 on the medium compound and will start Sunday’s Grand Prix on the more durable rubber at the Austin track, where the final segment of qualifying did not feature any track limits controversy, after Verstappen and Hamilton had lost times that would have led FP3.

Perez was the pacesetter in final practice and he somewhat beat Verstappen to lead the way for Red Bull after the first runs in Q3 on a one minute, 33.180 seconds, Checo keeping his soft tyres alive best of the leading runners to set the fastest time of Q3 in the final sector.

But he was shuffled back on the second runs as Verstappen was able to gain enough with the fastest Q3 time in sector one – where light rain was falling in the final sector – and then hold on through the lap to set a one minute, 32.910 seconds.

Hamilton’s personal best – where he set the fastest time in the middle sector – was a one minute, 33.119 seconds, which put him 0.209 seconds as Mercedes missed pole at the Circuit of the Americas for the first time since 2014.

Perez ended up 0.224 seconds adrift of his teammate, but he did beat Valtteri Bottas to third, the Finn not improving on his final Q3 lap.

Charles Leclerc led Sainz as Ferrari locked out the third row of the grid in fifth and sixth, with their McLaren rivals Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris taking seventh and eighth.

Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda made it three teams side by side on Sunday’s grid, as they took ninth and tenth.

In Q2, a back straight tow from teammate Fernando Alonso, who ended up out in P14 with a best time in the middle segment 11 seconds off the pace set by Verstappen as the double world champion did not set a competitive time as he will drop to the rear of the field for the race start for taking a new engine this weekend, was not enough to get Esteban Ocon’s Alpine into Q3.

Ocon was knocked out in P11, 0.24 seconds shy of a slot in the shootout.

Sebastian Vettel will lead the three drivers dropping to the back as a result of engine-change grid penalties – the other being George Russell – as he did post a competitive Q2 time, which was only good enough for P12.

Then came Antonio Giovinazzi, with Russell losing the time that would have taken 13th for a track limits violation at Turn 9, and so he ended Q2 without a time set in 15th.

In Q1, Lance Stroll was knocked out Alonso’s late improvement, with the Aston Martin driver one of the first runners to take the chequered flag in the opening segment and missing out by 0.063 seconds.

Nicholas Latifi was also shuffled down the order and eliminated in P16 for Williams, despite setting a personal best on his final lap.

Kimi Raikkonen was one of a number of drivers to have their opening efforts deleted for running too wide through the penultimate corner and his later effort of one minute, 36.311 seconds was only good enough for P18 in front of the Haas drivers.

Mick Schumacher beat Nikita Mazepin at the rear of the field, with the latter incurring Vettel’s wrath mid-way through Q1 when the Aston came upon the Haas going slowly through the Esses in the middle sector.

The stewards noted the incident but decided it did not warrant an investigation.

So an exciting qualifying session with the speed of the Red Bulls very impressive. Congratulations to Max Verstappen in achieving his ninth pole in Formula 1 and what a brilliant team effort with Serio Perez taking third. Title rival Lewis Hamilton missed out on pole but will start on the front row. The race is going to be thrilling.

Qualifying positions, United States Grand Prix:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:32.910
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.119
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:33.134
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:33.606
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:33.792
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.808
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.887
8 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:34.118
9 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:33.475
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:34.918
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:35.377
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:35.794
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:35.983
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:35.995
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:36.311
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:36.499
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:36.796
18 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:35.500
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes –
20 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:44.549

3 thoughts to “Verstappen scores pole position at COTA”

  1. US Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by

    Max Verstappen responded to a bold lap from title rival Lewis Hamilton to take pole position at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas in front of an ecstatic 120,000 sell-out crowd…

    Verstappen looked quick in final practice – his Red Bull team appearing to have made big gains overnight – and carried that through to qualifying, where he absorbed pressure from Hamilton to take pole with a 1m32.910s.

    Mercedes came to Austin having taken every pole during the hybrid turbo era, which began in 2014, but they looked to have lost their edge early in qualifying, with Hamilton 0.399s off the pace in Q2.

    Somehow, Hamilton found more pace in the final runs of Q3, and was a quarter of a second up after two sectors, but lost time in the third, and while he took provisional pole by a fraction, Verstappen was running quicker behind him.

    Despite light rain starting to fall in the final few seconds, Verstappen kept his foot in and carried the momentum through the final sequence of corners to take pole, with his team mate Sergio Perez third.

    The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was fourth, however he’ll drop to ninth courtesy of a five-place grid penalty for exceeding his engine allocation. That’ll promote Charles Leclerc one place to fourth, the Ferrari driver edging out team mate Carlos Sainz.

    Daniel Ricciardo was the leading McLaren in eighth, ahead of team mate Lando Norris, with AlphaTauri duo Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda closing out the top 10.

    Q1 – Leclerc goes quickest as Red Bull edge Mercedes

    Daniel Ricciardo, fresh from having taken his hero Dale Earnhardt’s iconic 1984 Nascar for a spin earlier in the day, set the early pace, from Verstappen and Norris, as the Mercedes duo seemed to lack the pace to contend at the sharp end.

    Both Red Bulls did cool down laps before going again, with Verstappen pumping in the quickest time, 0.017s ahead of Perez, who has kept his team mate honest all weekend.

    Mercedes sent Hamilton and Bottas out for a second run on used soft tyres and while they improved, they remained outside the top five. And with just a few moments to go, Leclerc gave Ferrari P1 by 0.19s as the track ramped up.

    At the other end of the classification, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were in the drop zone. Alonso got himself out with his final lap, and that demoted Lance Stroll, who had a lap deleted earlier in the session and could not react.

    He was joined in the drop zone by Nicholas Latifi, Raikkonen, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin – with Antonio Giovinazzi surviving a spin on his final lap to become the only Alfa Romeo to progress into the next segment of qualifying.

    Knocked out: Stroll, Latifi, Raikkonen, Schumacher, Mazepin

    Q2 – Verstappen shines with cracking lap

    Medium tyres were the order of the day for Mercedes and Red Bull, with teams keen to avoid starting the race on the soft tyre that isn’t expected to last very long in race conditions.

    Verstappen set a blistering pace to top the charts, 0.333s quicker than Hamilton, with Norris, Leclerc, Bottas and Sainz completing the top six. Perez and Ricciardo put themselves under pressure after exceeding track limits which triggered the deletion of their lap times.

    They went again, with Perez slotting into seventh and Ricciardo ninth, pushing Tsunoda into the drop zone. But the Japanese driver was already on a lap that looked strong, and he squeaked into the final segment of qualifying for the second straight race in 10th.

    That left Esteban Ocon – who had a tow from Alonso – out in 11th, with Vettel completing just one run to end up 12th. He’ll be heading to the back of the grid, though, courtesy of a suite of penalties for engine component changes.

    Giovinazzi was 13th, ahead of Alonso – who like Vettel will start from the back because of engine penalties – and Russell, who had his final lap deleted for exceeding track limits.

    Knocked out: Ocon, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Alonso, Russell

    Q3 – Verstappen wins titanic battle with Hamilton

    Mercedes headed out early doors, with Bottas taking provisional pole, 0.089s quicker than Hamilton, with Norris slotting into third.

    But Perez’s first run was enough to put him top of the pile, 0.19s ahead of Verstappen, as Red Bull commanded the front row with one final run to go.

    Hamilton found something extra on his second attempt and was on course to set Verstappen a challenging target. But he lost two tenths in the final sector and only scraped into P1.

    Verstappen seized his opportunity to take his fourth pole position in six races, ninth of the season and Red Bull’s first front row start in Austin since 2013, with his title rival lining up alongside him in second for the seventh time this season.

    Perez secured only his third top-three start of 2021, having missed out on the front row by just 0.015s, with Leclerc securing back-to-back top four starts courtesy of his promotion following Bottas’ penalty.

    With Sainz promoted to fifth, Ferrari will have two cars in the top five on the grid for the first time since Baku, 11 races ago.

  2. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen feared late drizzle would scupper US Grand Prix pole chance. has the full story.

    Max Verstappen wasn’t sure that he would snatch pole position from Lewis Hamilton’s grasp at Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix after drizzle started falling on his final run.

    The Red Bull driver was locked in an ultra-tight fight with his F1 championship rival for the top spot throughout qualifying, with little separating them.

    After the first runs in Q3, Red Bull held the advantage with Sergio Perez topping the times ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton.

    But for the second runs, Hamilton went out first and managed to move to the top of the timesheets as he extracted more pace from his Mercedes.

    Verstappen needed a supreme effort to respond but, with spots of rain arriving for the close of qualifying, he feared that he had missed the best window of track conditions.

    “In Q3, my first lap wasn’t amazing, but then in the final lap it also started spitting,” explained the Dutchman.

    “[There was] a bit of drizzle in the last sector especially, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to hang on to my time. But it was enough and, of course, to put the lap time in and be on pole position, and also to be P1 and P3 as a team, I think it was a very strong performance.”

    Perez had been in contention to grab his first F1 pole position but reckoned that he lost the opportunity to stay on top thanks to the rain.

    “We were really close on that final lap,” said the Mexican. “I think we did a great job as a team. Unfortunately, my final attempt wasn’t as good throughout the lap.

    “I improved through the first sector quite a bit but I wasn’t able to just keep it progressively. I think the rain was a bit too hard in the final sector, there were spots of rain. I lost a bit of grip in two corners and I could just see my delta going off.”

    But despite the qualifying results setting up an intriguing grid for the race tomorrow, Perez reckoned the predictions of high tyre degradation meant that the fight for the win was wide open.

    “I think the qualifying position is not too relevant,” he said. “I think tomorrow we’re going to have a very long race. There will be a lot of degradation with these tyres, but I’m looking forward to it.”

  3. Lewis Hamilton commented that Mercedes ‘fell back a little’ through practice, and why qualifying was a bit of a struggle. has the details.

    Lewis Hamilton found qualifying for the United States Grand Prix to be “a bit of a struggle” after missing out on pole to Formula 1 title rival Max Verstappen in Austin.

    Hamilton and Mercedes set a blistering early pace in practice on Friday at the Circuit of The Americas, but Red Bull hit back on Saturday as Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez took a provisional 1-2 in Q3.

    Hamilton was able to improve on his second run in Q3 to take provisional pole away from Red Bull, only for Verstappen to find more time and secure pole position by two-tenths of a second.

    Perez fell 0.015 seconds shy of Hamilton’s time at the end of the session, ensuring the Mercedes driver clung on to a front-row start for the race.

    Hamilton was heard apologising over team radio to Mercedes after the session, but was told by engineer Pete Bonnington: “We can do something from there, definitely.”

    “I gave it everything today,” Hamilton said in the post-session interview in parc ferme with ex-NASCAR and IndyCar driver Danica Patrick.

    “It was a bit of a struggle through qualifying. I think from Q1 onwards, we kind of fell back a little bit.

    “And those guys [Red Bull] were incredibly quick through qualifying. So I was happy with my last lap.

    “Of course there’s always areas that we can improve, but I think that was pretty much everything we had.

    “We will just work as hard as we can, tomorrow, it is good positioning for tomorrow so hopefully it will be a good race down to Turn 1.”

    Hamilton will enter Sunday’s race at COTA looking to reclaim the lead of the drivers’ championship from Verstappen, who sits six points clear with six races remaining this season.

    But the Mercedes driver will be without the support of team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the head of the pack as the Finn needs to serve a five-place grid penalty.

    Bottas qualified fourth, three-tenths back from Hamilton, but will start from ninth place after Mercedes took a fresh engine ahead of the race weekend.

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