Valtteri Bottas put himself in the best position to keep his slim Formula 1 title chances alive by claiming his fifth pole position of the season at the Circuit of Americas, while championship-leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton could only mange fifth in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix.
After finishing fifth and sixth in the opening two segments of qualifying in Austin, Bottas upped the pace in the first runs of Q3 to set an unbeatable time of 1:32.029. Vettel got closest, posting a first-run time of 1:32.041 but with only Max Verstappen improving slightly on his final run to keep third place, Bottas took his 11th career pole, just 0.012s ahead of Vettel.
To keep his title hopes alive Bottas must win tomorrow’s race and if he adds fastest lap hope that Hamilton finishes outside the top eight.
Hamilton was able to give himself every chance of taking the four points that would bring with fifth place in qualifying thanks to a time of 1:32.321.
Hamilton set the pace in the opening phase of Q1, with the Mercedes driver setting a best time of 1:33.454 that left him a little under a tenth of a second ahead of Max Verstappen who held P2. Bottas was in third place at the end of the first sequence of runs, with Vettel fourth ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and the second Red Bull of Alex Albon.
The top six elected to skip final runs in the segment and their absence allowed Lando Norris to vault up the timesheet, with the McLaren rookie claiming top spot thanks to a lap of 1:33.353. That put him a tenth of a second ahead of Hamilton with Verstappen third.
Along with Norris a host of other drivers improved on their final runs, with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly jumping to fourth place ahead of Bottas and Vettel, and with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen jumping to seventh place ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
The improvements meant that Albon slid down the order, but in the end the the Red Bull driver’s lap of 1:33.984 was good enough for P11, just ahead of the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
Eliminated at the end of Q1 were Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen in 16th and 17th respectively, followed by Williams’ George Russell, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez and the second Williams of Robert Kubica.
In Q2, it was Albion who set the pace in the first runs. While team-mate Verstappen and the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers went out on medium tyres, the Thai racer opted for soft compound Pirellis and he took P1with a time of 1:32.898 ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Leclerc and Vettel.
Albon then sat out the final runs as the medium tyre runners from the first laps went out again on softs as a precautionary measure. As expected, though, Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas aborted their laps in order to ensure a race start on medium tyres. The Ferrari drivers, though, bolted on a second set of medium tyres and went quicker, with Leclerc topping the segment with a lap of 1:32.760.
Vettel took second ahead of Alex and Hamilton, with Max progressing in fifth place ahead of Bottas and Norris. Sainz went through in eighth ahead of Ricciardo and Gasly.
Eliminated at the end of the second segment were 11th-placed Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg, followed by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and the second Haas of Romain Grosjean.
It was Bottas who set the early pace in the final top-10 shoot-out. The Finn put in a lap of 1:32.029 to head Vettel by just 0.012s. Verstappen took third place with a time of 1:32.191, with Leclerc and Hamilton fourth and fifth.
And that was how the order remained. Desperate to find an improvement, Bottas’ rivals pushed too hard and only Verstappen made a dent on his opening time – though his 1:32.096 was not enough to make up a place.
Bottas therefore took the 11thpole position of his career, a hundredth of a second ahead of Vettel and just under seven hundredths clear of Verstappen. Leclerc will start from the back of row two, with Hamilton ahead of Alex on row three. Row four will feature the McLarens of Sainz and Norris and the last two top-10 places will be filled by Ricciardo and Gasly.
2019 FIA Formula One United States Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:32.029 7 215.658
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:32.041 0.012 7 215.629
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:32.096 0.067 7 215.501
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:32.137 0.108 6 215.405
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.321 0.292 5 214.976
6 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1:32.548 0.519 6 214.448
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 1:32.847 0.818 6 213.758
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1:33.175 1.146 6 213.005
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:33.488 1.459 3 212.292
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1:33.601 1.572 6 212.036
11 Nico Hülkenberg Renault 1:33.815 1.055 6 211.552
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:33.979 1.219 6 211.183
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Honda 1:33.989 1.229 6 211.160
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1:34.100 1.340 6 210.911
15 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1:34.158 1.398 6 210.781
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:34.226 0.873 8 210.629
17 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:34.369 1.016 8 210.310
18 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:35.372 2.019 9 208.098
19 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 1:35.808 2.455 5 207.151
20 Robert Kubica Williams/Mercedes 1:35.889 2.536 9 206.976