Hamilton Takes Pole at Austin; Eyes Fifth Title
AUSTIN, Texas—R.I.S.—Lewis Hamilton came even closer to tying Juan Manuel Fangio’s record Saturday afternoon, with a productive 1:32:237 final qualifying time, ahead of both Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, in preparation for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.
For Hamilton, he found it important that he finished on pole, realizing how tough it could be on race day.
“It was very important.” He said. “I did not know how close it was going to be. There was a bunch of races where the times were not as good as that. The track was very greasy and not very grippy. Big thank you to the team and the fans.”
Hamilton dominated Friday’s practice sessions, despite the heavy rain, that just got most drivers trying a lap to see how the car’s set up would be. The Briton had problems trying to adapt to Saturday’s third practice session and could only finish third best behind both Vettel and Raikkonen. But in the afternoon, Hamilton finally found his pace, and despite the gallant effort by both drivers from the Scuderia, Hamilton was able to just get his Mercedes in front for another pole.
For Vettel, things will become a little tougher for him to catch Hamilton, as the German will have to begin the race on Sunday in fifth, thanks to a penalty for speeding under the red flags in practice. Another driver that must start from nearly the back of the grid was Max Verstappen, who ran over some of the sausage curbs on the track, and one of them tore the rear right suspension area of his car, with just over five minutes left in the opening session. The Dutchman could not respond any further for the following session, even if he finished fifth and qualified in the opening session. Verstappen will start 15th on the grid. Both McLaren entries continued to fail as Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne could not move on past the opening session. American Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen could only advance past the second round and will begin the race from 12th. Another popular name, Renault driver Carlos Sainz Jr., was another non-qualifier in the second round and will start one position up from Magnussen in 11th, just missing the last round.
For the rest of the top ten, Valtteri Bottas moved up to third, while Daniel Ricciardo took a well deserved fourth. Esteban Ocon was sixth in his Force India, while Seventh went to Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault. Despite Magnussen’s failure to advance to the final round, Romain Grosjean did, and took eighth. Charles LeClerc was ninth in the Sauber, with Sergio Perez tenth in the second Force India.
Finally, Hamilton could make history on Sunday if he can defeat Vettel by more than eight points. But Hamilton realizes as he mentioned before, that Ferrari is better in racing than in qualifying and he must look out for both Vettel and Raikkonen.
“It will be tough.” Stressed Hamilton. “The Ferraris will be quick tomorrow.”
UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX
At Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
Final qualifying leaders
1 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes- 1:32:237
2 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari
3 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes
4 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing
5 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari
6 Esteban Ocon (FRA) Force India
7 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault
8 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas F1 Team
9 Charles LeClerc (MON) Sauber
10 Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. (SPA) Renault
12 Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team
13 Pierre Gasly (FRA) Toro Rosso
14 Brendon Hartley (NZL) Toro Rosso
15 Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing
16 Fernando Alonso (SPA) McLaren
17 Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Williams
18 Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams
19 Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber
20 Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) McLaren
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.