Sebastian Vettel will start his 100th Grand Prix from pole position, after continuing his domination of the American Grand Prix weekend.
After topping all three practice sessions, Vettel duly delivered to take pole, but was challenged hard by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in Q3.
However, it was the usual suspects dropping out in Q1, along with Daniel Ricciardo. Both Marussias managed to out qualify the two Caterhams, with the HRTs once again propping up the grid. But the battle for seventeenth was a tight one with Nico Rosberg at one stage looking like he may not progress beyond Q1.
He was aided by a yellow flag due to Narain Karthikeyan stopping out on circuit, meaning Ricciardo couldn’t improve and failed to make Q2 for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Q2 was once again a Red Bull lock out, with Vettel ahead of Webber and Massa the surprise performance in third, looking clearly faster than Fernando Alonso. There was problems for Jenson Button however, who suffered a loss of power when out on circuit. He managed to limp back to the pits, but the team were not able to fix the problem in time.
Having been in the top ten, he was pushed out and will start tomorrow’s race from twelfth place, with Bruno Senna just ahead in eleventh. Paul di Resta once again failed to make it through to Q3 and starts thirteenth, with Jean-Eric Vergne, Sergio Perez, Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Rosberg filling the next four grid places.
It was a widely expected pole position for Vettel, but was not as comfortable as many predicted. His fastest lap was good enough by just one tenth of a second to keep a charging Hamilton at bay with team mate Webber a full half a second back in third place.
Romain Grosjean qualified fourth, but will drop five places because of a gearbox change. His team mate, and the winner last time out at Abu Dhabi, Kimi Raikkonen, therefore inherits the position, with Schumacher comfortably out qualifying Rosberg for fifth on the grid. Massa starts sixth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, the only Force India to make it into Q3, with Alonso moving up one position to eighth thanks to Grosjean’s penalty. Maldonado, after earlier showing good speed, completes the top ten.
Following their collision in the final free practice session, the stewards decided to take no further action on Sergio Perez or Charles Pic, meaning they will start the first ever Austin Grand Prix from fifteenth and twentieth places respectively.
There is however the possibility of a penalty for Mark Webber. It is reported that he failed to stop for the weigh bridge, and at the time of writing is currently talking to the stewards. A potential grid drop could help Fernando Alonso who will need to pull out an incredible performance if he wishes to stop Vettel from winning the championship tomorrow.
Vettel just needs to outscore Alonso by fifteen points to be crowned a triple World Champion.