Charles Leclerc claimed pole position for the 2023 FIA Formula 1 United States Grand Prix after Max Verstappen lost a possible 11th pole position of the season to a track limits violation in the final corner of his final flyer of a close-fought qualifying session at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Leclerc claimed provisional pole with a lap of 1:34.723 but Verstappen beat the Ferrari driver’s pace over the first sector of his final lap. The three champion looked to have done enough as he crossed the line 0.005s ahead of the Ferrari driver, but within seconds Verstappen’s time was deleted for exceeding track limits in Turn 19. He dropped to sixth place at the end of the session. Lecler will be joined on the front row for the race by McLaren’s Lando Norris, with Lewis Hamilton third for Mercedes.
At the start of Q1 Verstappen made an instant impression, jumping up to P1 with a lap of 1:36.470, 0.152 clear of Leclerc. With eight minutes remaining Nico Hülkenberg moved to the top of the order in his upgraded Haas, posting a time of 1:36.235 before being quickly outpaced by Alpine’s Pierre Gasly who went seven hundredths of a second quicker than the German.
However, with five minutes remaining and just ahead of the final runs, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz set a new target time of 1:35.824, with three tenths of a second ahead of Leclerc who also improved.
Verstappen was back on track, however, and the champion returned to the top of the order with a lap of 1:35.346, 0.478 clear of Sainz. In the final moments, however, Verstappen was edged out of P1, with Hamilton moving to the top ahead of Norris. That left the Red Bull driver with P3 at the end of the session, ahead of Sainz and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Ruled out at the end of the session were 16th-placed Hülkenberg followed by Aston Martin’s Ferrnando Alonso, Williams’ Alex Albon, the second Aston of Lance Stroll and last-placed Logan Sargeant in the other Williams.
Leclerc set the pace at the start of Q2 with a lap of 1:35.888, but the Ferrari driver was swiftly eclipsed by both Mercedes drivers and by McLaren’s Oscar Piatsri who took P1 with a lap of 1:35.576. Verstappen was just behind the Australian on track, however, and when he crossed the line he was 0.085s ahead and in top spot. Sergio Pérez then moved to P5 in the other Red Bull and just 0.188 covered the closely matched top five.
In the final runs, Leclerc managed to hold on to top spot – just. The Ferrari driver was first on track and he set the benchmark at 1:35.004, almost three tenths of a second ahead of team-mate Sainz. Verstappen booked his Q3 spot in P2, just 0.004s off Leclerc and more than two tenths ahead of Hamilton.
The drop zone’s first faller was Tsunoda and the 11th-placed Japanese driver was followed to the exit by Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas, with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and AlhaTauri’s returning Daniel Ricciardo dropping out in 14th and 15th respectively.
Verstappen was first on track at the start of the final 12-minute session and the Dutchman stopped the clock at 1:35.081. However, he caught Pérez in the final corner and he ended the first run in P3 with a time of 1:35.081, behind Leclerc and second-placed Hamilton.
In the final runs Leclerc set a stern target, posting a lap of 1:34.723. Verstappen looked to have done enough but in the final corner, he slid wide and slid back to sixth.
Norris took P2 0.130 off Leclerc with Hamilton just 0.009s further back in third. Carlos Sainz took P4 for Ferrari ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell with Verstappen sixth. Behind the champion Gasly will start in P7 ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon with Pérez in P9 ahead of Piastri.
2023 FIA United States Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:34.723 - -
2 Lando Norris McLaren 1:34.853 0.130
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.862 0.139
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:34.945 0.222
5 George Russell Mercedes 1:35.079 0.356
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:35.081 0.358
7 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:35.089 0.366
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:35.154 0.431
9 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 1:35.173 0.450
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:35.467 0.744
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:35.697 0.974
12 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:35.698 0.975
13 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:35.858 1.135
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:35.880 1.157
15 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:35.974 1.251
16 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 1:36.235 1.512
17 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:36.268 1.545
18 Alexander Albon Williams 1:36.315 1.592
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:36.589 1.866
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:36.827 2.104