German takes ninth pole position of season as second-placed Hamilton suffers brake problems.
Nico Rosberg launched himself back into the 2014 Formula One title fight by claiming pole position ahead of championship-leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton as the Briton suffered brake problems.
Both Mercedes drivers have complained of braking issues in the build up to tomorrow race at the Circuit of the Americas, but while Rosberg suffered in final practice, it was Hamilton who was set back in qualifying. The title leader finished at the top of the timesheet in the opening segment of the hour-long session but thereafter he slipped back, with Rosberg taking the honours in Q2 and the crucially running faster and faster in the final 12-minute shoot-out. He eventually finished four tenths clear of his team-mate, who leads the championship battle by 17 points.
Behind the Mercedes pair, Valtteri Bottas took his sixth third place qualifying position of the year, the Finn finishing three tenths ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa.
With 18 cars contesting qualifying, the decision had been taken to alter the qualifying format, with just four cars being eliminated from each of the opening two segments.
With last year’s US GP winner Sebastian Vettel set to start from the pitlane having changed both his power unit and his gearbox, his Red Bull team opted for a single run in Q1. By the end of that run the champion was in ninth, but as the times began to improve he slid back to a finishing position of 17th. Only Lotus’ Romain Grosjean went slower in the opening phase. The Frenchman struggled with balance and on his final run he slid wide at Turn 12, thus ruining his chances of making the cut. He duly apologised over the team radio saying that the car was “not the same one as this morning”.
The battle then was for P15 and P16 and as the final runs began the men in those slots were Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez. Neither could find the necessary improvement, however. In the end, Gutierrez was well wide of the mark, finished over three tenths off the P14 time of Force India’s Sergio Perez. Vergne was more unfortunate, finishing just five hundredths of a second behind the Mexican.
At the front, Hamilton finished ahead of the Williams due of Massa and Bottas, with Rosberg fourth ahead of Fernando Alonso and the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button.
After the first runs in Q2 the drop zone saw Nico Hulkenberg in P11, with Sauber’s Adrian Sutil, Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado and Perez backing up the German.
And surprisingly, it was Sutil who made the leap forward, the German giving Sauber its first top-10 start of the season with a lap of 1:38.378, just under a tenth clear of Maldonado in P11. The Venezuelan finished ahead of Perez, Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat in P14. The Russian was also facing a 10-place grid drop due to a change of ICE prior to the session, the seventh such unit used by the rookie so far this season.
Ahead, Rosberg topped the Q2 timesheet, finishing almost a second clear of Hamilton with a time of 1:36.290. It might have been only a segment of the session overall but it was the first time all weekend that the German had ended a timing phase ahead of the championship leader. Third place went to Massa, with team-mate Bottas fourth. The remaining Q3 slots were taken by Ricciardo, Alonso, Button, Magnussen, Kimi Raikkonen and the impressive Sutil. Button, though, is also facing a grid penalty, of five places, for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Rosberg was again the pacesetter in the first runs of final 12-minute segment. The German’s opening effort of 1:36.282 was 0.161 quicker than Hamilton and 0.7s clear of Bottas., with Massa fourth ahead of Button. Sutil, meanwhile, elected to remain in the Sauber garage during the opening exchanges.
And Rosberg maintained his ascendancy in the final run. The German, second out on track after Daniel Ricciardo, lit up the timing screen with three purple sectors to log a lap of 1:36.067. Hamilton, meanwhile, was clearing the first sector with a personal best time but some way shy of Rosberg’s time. Matters worsened with a scrappy second sector of 38.4 seconds and despite putting in a session best third sector he finished almost four tenths down on the German. Afterwards, the title leader admitted that he had struggled with brake problems throughout the session.
Behind them Bottas finished third ahead of Massa. Ricciardo took fifth place ahead of Alonso, with Button seventh, though facing a grid drop. His McLaren team-mate Magnussen finished eighth, with the final top 10 places going to Raikkonen and Sutil.
2014 United States Grand Prix – Qualifying Result
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.303 1:36.290 1:36.067 202 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.196 1:37.287 1:36.443 163 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:38.249 1:37.499 1:36.906 194 Felipe Massa Williams 1:37.877 1:37.347 1:37.205 205 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:38.814 1:37.873 1:37.244 176 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:38.349 1:38.010 1:37.610 167 Jenson Button McLaren 1:38.574 1:38.024 1:37.655 178 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:38.557 1:38.047 1:37.706 169 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:38.669 1:38.263 1:37.804 2210 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:38.855 1:38.378 1:38.810 1511 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:38.608 1:38.467 1612 Sergio Perez Force India 1:39.200 1:38.554 1613 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.931 1:38.598 1614 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:38.936 1:38.699 1715 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:39.250 1016 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:39.555 1017 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:39.621 318 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:39.679 8