Scuderia Ferrari drivers have started in pole position in all six races since the summer break. In the last race in Mexico, Charles Leclerc inherited pole position after Max Verstappen‘s penalty.
The streak of six consecutive pole positions came to an end at the 2019 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. Sebastian Vettel lost pole position by a mere 0.012 seconds to Valtteri Bottas in a close qualification session.
Vettel was confident of doing well in the race as former team-mate Kimi Räikkönen won from second-place on the starting grid last year. Vettel said: “Tomorrow on the grid, I’ll be eight metres behind Valtteri, which will seem strange as the gap today in qualifying was definitely smaller! 12 thousandths is really very little and so I can definitely say I was a little bit unlucky.
“I have to admit that, on my first run, there was maybe some room to be faster, as my aim was to set a good time and then improve on my second set of tyres. Unfortunately, I was a bit too aggressive and maybe the track had got a bit slower and that’s where the time that might have put me on pole, escaped me.
“It’s not bad being on the front row here, as was proved by Kimi’s start last year. It will be important to get everything right at the start and not make any mistakes when it comes to our tyre strategy. We saw last Sunday that sometimes taking a risk can pay off, so we will study the situation very carefully before the start. Friday’s race pace wasn’t that strong, but I think all aspects of the car have improved today, so we will just have to see where we are in the race.”
Leclerc managed to participate in qualification without penalties due to the superb teamwork by the Ferrari mechanics to change the Power Unit on Leclerc’s car after he hit trouble in the opening lap of final free practice.
Leclerc had to be content with fourth position after missing most of the final free practice and said: “I lost some track time this weekend, having missed half of FP1 and the whole of FP3 today, so qualifying was not so easy. It’s not ideal, but it’s part of racing.
“After Q2, I was a bit more confident in the car, but in Q3, our competitors were just too quick. I do always expect more, but I think we can be satisfied with P4 today if we take all the various factors into consideration.
“My focus has now shifted to the race. The start is always tricky here and I hope that it will present us with some opportunities. The track is quite bumpy, but I like that because it makes things interesting. The way in which you deal with the bumps affects the car balance, so it is something you can influence as a driver. Our race pace was not the best yesterday, so we have worked on the car and I am optimist that the changes we have made will pay off.”
Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto was a little bit disappointed with Vettel losing pole position by such a small margin. Binotto said: “It was really tight today, which I think is good for the fight, it’s good for the sport, but as Ferrari we are a little bit disappointed, because Seb was so close to the pole time.
“It was a shame that Charles was unable to take part in the morning session because of the engine problem. The lack of running meant he had no time to get a good understanding of the car following the set-up changes we had made to it overnight. I am sure he would have done a much better job with more track time.
“It’s going to be a long race tomorrow and we will need a good start and a good strategy to do well. We hope there will be some exciting battles to provide a great show to the fans. It will be important for the drivers to get into a rhythm, while tyre degradation will be a key factor. I believe we have improved from yesterday and I am sure our drivers are in a position to challenge their rivals. It’s true that we have started from the front a few times without winning, so let’s see if this time we can turn things around.”