Hamilton fastest at COTA pipping Vettel for pole; Bottas P3
In just completed qualifying at the fantastic purpose-built F1 track Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Mercedes’ ace Lewis Hamilton pipped Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for pole by a mere 0.24 seconds. Hamilton had been looking the strongest by far in all three qualifying sessions setting track record after track record. But Vettel managed to show the Ferrari’s true pace in his final opportunity. The German 4-time world champ put it all together with time running out in Q3 to vault up to P2 on the grid and give himself a chance to take the fight to Hamilton and keep his own championship aspirations on life support. After Ferrari’s wretched three-race run of self-induced bad luck all Hamilton has to do is win the race and see Vettel finish 6th or lower and the Englishman will win his own fourth F1 title. Vettel showed on Saturday that he intends to make that as difficult as possible.
Vettel’s superb last-minute effort pushed Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas back to P3, while the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen qualified P4 and P6 respectively. Unfortunately for Verstappen, the young Dutchman will have to start from the back of the grid due to a host of penalties for equipment changes on his car. Vettel’s Ferrari stablemate Kimi Raikkonen seemed to regress a bit as qualifying entered its crucial phase, dropping from a front row contender down to no better than a P5 time. The Force Indias of Esteban Ococn and Sergio Perez qualified P7 and P10 respectively and Carlos Sainz willed his factory Renault all the way up to P8 in his maiden drive for the team after making the leap from Toro Rosso. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was the 9th fastest qualifier, making best use of some new aero upgrades added to his car for this weekend at COTA.
Top 10 qualifiers for then United States GP:
|4||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:35.991||1:34.495||1:33.577||14|
|6||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:34.899||1:34.716||1:33.658||13|
|7||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:35.849||1:35.113||1:34.647||17|
|10||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:36.358||1:34.789||1:35.148||19|
In other F1 news, endurance racer and this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winner Brendon Hartley came in to replace Sainz at Toro Rosso and put in a creditable effort in his first time back in a single seater in about 6 years. The New Zealander ran P18 in qualifying and will be partnered by a returning Daniil Kvyat for Sunday’s GP, though whether the out-of-favor Russian remains with the team for the next race in Mexico remains highly doubtful.
Tomorrow’s US GP airs live on NBC at 3PM Eastern here in the States. Hope to see you then to find out whether Hamilton can wrap up his fourth world title or if Vettel can extend the championship hunt for at least one more contest!