Lewis Hamilton moved one step closer to claiming a fifth Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship title by taking pole position for tomorrow’s United States Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver, who will claim the title if he outscores title rival Sebastian Vettel by eight points or more, claimed top spot in qualifying with a lap of 1:32.237. That was good enough to edge Vettel by 0.061s. The Ferrari driver is also due to take a three-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s race due to a failure to slow sufficiently during a red flag period in FP1. He will start the race from P5.
Third place in qualifying went to Kimi Räikkönen in the second Ferrari, with the Finn’s countryman Valtteri Bottas fourth in the second Mercedes.
Hamilton went quickest in Q1, with the Briton posting a time of 1:34.176. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas went through in P2 ahead of the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen.
Elsewhere, there was trouble for Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver had made light work of progressing to Q2, his opening time of 1:34.766 putting him sixth in the closing stages, behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
The Dutchman might have improved but he suffered suspension damage on his next lap and was forced to crawl back to the pits. With his team unable to repair the damage in time for Q2, Verstappen was ruled out of the remainder of the session. He qualified in P15 but when penalties are applied to Toro Rosso drivers Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, 13th and 14th respectively in qualifying, Verstappen should start from P13.
At the bottom of the order, the drivers in danger as the clock counted down the final two minutes were McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne and the other Williams of Lance Stroll.
While all improved on their final laps, so too did rivals around them and as the laps played out the only one of the five to improve his position was Stroll who moved from P20 to P18, ahead of Ericsson and Vandoorne.
In Q2, Räikkönen set the pace on ultrasoft tyres, the Ferrari man posting a lap of 1:32.884. Behind him, Vettel, both Mercedes drivers and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo completed their opening runs on supersoft tyres. Vettel took P2 ahead of Hamilton, Bottas and Ricciardo.
While Ricciardo opted to sit out the final runs (there being little danger from rivals further back), both Mercedes drivers and Vettel bolted on ultrasofts and took to the track, but all three bailed out of their runs before the flag and like Ricciardo they will start on supersofts tomorrow. Sauber’s progressed in P6, ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, and 10th-placed Nico Hulkenberg.
The German Renault driver was lucky to make it through. Team-mate Carlos Sainz looked to be on a good final lap but a small mistake in the final corner cost him and he was eliminated in P11, just two thousandths of a second off his team-mate. Also ruled out were 12th placed Kevin Magnussen of Haas, Gasly, Hartley and Verstappen.
In Q3 it was Hamilton to the fore again, with the championship leader taking his 81st career pole with a time of 1:32.237. The margin was fine though, and Vettel’s time of 1:32.298 saw him finish 0.061s behind his title rival.
Behind them, Räikkönen was third ahead of Bottas and Ricciardo took fifth spot, his first-run time of 1:33.494 proving good enough to take the position more than sixth tenths of a second ahead of sixth-placed Ocon. Seventh place went to Hulkenberg, with the German finishing ahead of Leclerc and Perez.
2018 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.237
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:32.298
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:32.307
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes GP 1:32.616
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:33.494
6 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:34.145
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:34.215
8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 1:34.250
9 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:34.420
10 Sergio Perez Force India 1:34.594
11 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:34.566
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 1:34.734
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso No Time
14 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso No Time
15 Max Verstappen Red Bull No Time
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:35.294,
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:35.362
18 Lance Stroll Williams 1:35.480
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:35.536
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:35.735