Valtteri Bottas will start from pole position for tomorrow’s United States Grand Prix, as the Finn puts himself in the best position possible to keep his slim title hopes alive, with rival Lewis Hamilton to line-up in fifth place on the grid.
After missing most of the final practice session earlier this morning due to an engine issue, Charles Leclerc went out on track early to get a good feel of his Scuderia Ferrari and clocked a lap time of 1:34.696. That time was beaten by numerous drivers before Lewis Hamilton’s 1:33.454.
Following a lock-up into Turn One, Sebastian Vettel completed a faster time to jump up to fourth behind Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas. The drivers in the drop zone before the final runs were Kimi Räikkönen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Sergio Peréz, George Russell and Robert Kubica.
As the track improved, many drivers set better lap times. The biggest surprise was Lando Norris ending the session fastest on a 1:33.353, a tenth ahead of Hamilton. The chequered fell and drivers eliminated from Q1 were Giovinazzi, Räikkönen, Russell, Peréz and Kubica.
The beginning of Q2 saw Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen out on the medium compound in an attempt to make it into Q3 on those tyres to start the race on. Hamilton was fastest of the five but Alexander Albon bettered his Red Bull Racing team-mate’s time on the soft compound by less than two tenths. Vettel was slowest of the top six and three tenths off the pace of Albon’s but more importantly, nearly eight tenths clear of elimination zone.
Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, Nico Hülkenberg and Romain Grosjean made up the bottom five of Q2 going into the final few minutes.
Ricciardo improved to ninth quickest, as Kevin Magnussen was the only driver to drop into the elimination zone after being above it going into the final run. Kvyat clocked a new time to go eleventh but that was deleted for exceeding track limits and will line up thirteenth instead.
The drivers eliminated from Q2 were Hülkenberg, Magnussen, Kvyat, Stroll and Grosjean. Both of the Ferrari drivers improved their times on the soft compound, meaning they will start the United States Grand Prix tomorrow on those sets.
Into the final part of qualifying, Bottas was the driver who topped the timing sheets in the first run on a 1:32.029 ahead of Vettel by a hundredth of a second, with Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton and Albon making up the top six.
The last run saw unusually a slower track, with Verstappen the only driver of the top six to improve his time but remained in third position. Carlos Sainz Jr. managed to out-qualify his team-mate Lando Norris again in seventh. As a result, Bottas took his first pole position since the British Grand Prix in July, with Sebastian Vettel alongside him on the front row ahead of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
The only change to the grid is with Sergio Peréz, as the Mexican will start the race from the pit lane after missing the weighbridge at the end of Free Practice 2 on Friday, allowing Robert Kubica up a place into nineteenth.
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