Bottas nips Vettel for USGP pole
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, trying to keep his championship hopes alive, won the pole position for the USGP by only 0.012s over the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and 0.067s over the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. His lap of 1m 32.029s on the first run in Q3 was not matched by any driver on their 2nd runs.
Bottas has to win tomorrow to keep any chance of winning the championship alive, and hope Hamilton finishes way down the pack... It seemed so unlikely, but now, not so much.
Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top-5 in the 2nd Ferrari and Mercedes respectively.
As it turned out, no one improved their position on the final runs, meaning Bottas' impressive opening gambit was enough to secure a first pole at COTA and the 11th of his F1 career. But he finished just 0.012s ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel felt he had the pace to take pole for the United States Grand Prix in Austin after being “too conservative” on his opening Q3 lap cost him P1 to Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
Vettel entered qualifying at the Circuit of The Americas looking to continue Ferrari’s pole position streak into a seventh race, only to fall 0.012 seconds shy of Bottas’ pole time and qualify second overall.
Vettel set his fastest lap on his opening run in Q3 as drivers struggled to improve in the closing stages of the session, but revealed afterwards that he had left some margin for fear of losing the lap altogether by exceeding track limits.
“It was OK. I don’t know the gap, it was very small, like one or two hundredths - that is always there,” Vettel said.
“I had a very good first lap, and I had some margin in maybe the last sector where I was maybe taking it a little bit too conservative, making sure that I finished the lap and set the lap first, and then improved on the second lap.
“Unfortunately I didn’t improve, so my plan didn’t quite work, but overall it was good. I think we will have a strong race tomorrow.
“The car felt a lot better today than yesterday, which is obviously what we needed. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
“I think Q3 was a bit more of a difficult session than Q2 for example,” Verstappen said.
“I found the grip was maybe not the same but of course that’s the same for everyone.
“It was just a bit harder to get your lap out and I think in general it is very positive for us to be that close in qualifying.
“I think we are definitely improving and learning and also looking ahead for next year and we are definitely going in the right direction.
“In general I’m very pleased. The whole weekend has been smooth and we didn’t really have a lot of trouble with set-up or whatever, so to be here in the top three - of course I would like to be sat in the middle - but it’s still very positive.”
Alex Albon secured his third consecutive top-six finish for Red Bull, with Carlos Sainz finishing best of the rest in seventh and taking the lead in his qualifying head-to-head with McLaren team mate Lando Norris 10-9, as he beat the Briton by a position.
Daniel Ricciardo – who opted for only one run in Q3 – was the leading Renault in ninth as Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10 for Toro Rosso having made it three Honda-powered cars in the pole position shoot-out.
Nico Hulkenberg was a couple of tenths shy from joining his Renault teammate in Q3 as he was left to settle with the 11th-fastest time, a tenth quicker than the lead Haas driver of Kevin Magnussen.
Overall, it wasn’t the ideal day for Hamilton, the Briton usually dominating around Austin, but he’s still in a strong position for Sunday, considering he only needs an eighth-place finish or better to secure a sixth world championship.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport
Valtteri Bottas (1st, 1:32.029): "This is very satisfying - it's been a while since we've last been on pole, so this is a great feeling. I was struggling with the car yesterday, but we've made a number of changes overnight and today the car felt much better. I knew going into qualifying that the car had the potential to fight at the front, I just had to get a good lap together. I'm very pleased with my first lap in Q3; it wasn't quite perfect, but good enough to put us on pole. It's always an advantage to start from the front; now it's up to me to try and maintain the lead at the start tomorrow. Our long runs looked good yesterday, so hopefully we can get a strong result in the race."
Lewis Hamilton (5th, 1:32.321): "This must be one of the worst qualifying sessions I've had in a long time. Clearly the car had the capability to be on the front row, I just couldn't put the lap together. Valtteri did a great job, so congratulations to him. Now I'll have to try and figure out what went wrong today and how I can get myself to the front. It's going to be a tough challenge trying to get past two Ferraris, a Red Bull and Valtteri, but I'll continue to work at it and hope that I can do a better job tomorrow."
Toto Wolff, Team Principal: "That was an exciting qualifying session - it was very tight, with a few cars within just a few tenths. It's been a little while since we've been on pole and it's a very good feeling to start from the front again, we've all missed it. Valtteri had a strong qualifying and put in a brilliant first lap in Q3 which was good enough to secure pole. Lewis had a trickier time, it just wasn't his qualifying session today, so we'll take a look at what happened. Tomorrow looks set to be an interesting race, it appears to be quite close between the top teams in terms of race pace. It's still all to play for from P1 and P5 on the grid, so we'll give it our all and see how it plays out."
James Allison, Technical Director: "This is our first pole since before the summer break and what a welcome pole it was - incredibly tight, incredibly exciting and fantastic to have Valtteri put our car on the top step today. It wasn't such a happy session for Lewis and a bit of a surprise because he was very strong on the first two sessions. But I think he would be the first to say that was a bit of a messy couple of laps in Q3. He'll live to fight another day tomorrow, we had good pace in the car in the long runs on Friday and we hope that we can make that count tomorrow in the race."
Sebastian Vettel (2nd, 1:32.041): "Tomorrow on the grid, I'll be eight meters 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 tires. 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 tire 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."
Charles Leclerc (4th, 1:32.137): "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."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal: "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 tire 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."
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen (3rd, 1:32.096): "It has been a good weekend so far and for us to be this competitive on this track is very positive and it shows that the car is working really well. I think in general Q3 for everyone was a bit more tricky than Q2 because of a change in grip but to be P3 and that close to P1 is a good result and I'm happy with it. Of course, we would have liked to be P1 with that margin but this is still a good start and now we just have to hope for a competitive race. We are starting more towards the front than usual at this track, the car balance is good, I think the engine power has also improved and we are all so close. A lot will depend on the tire life and strategy tomorrow but whatever happens it should be a good race and I'm looking forward to it."
Alexander Albon (6th, 1:32.548): "In the end I'm quite happy and I think we did a good job in qualifying had it not been for my mistake on the last lap. FP1 was pretty good but I struggled in FP2 and FP3 which were two difficult sessions. I found the rhythm again in qualifying and I was three tenths up on my final Q3 run before I ran wide and got my time deleted. I think as drivers we prefer circuits that don't allow you to break track limits because if there's something there to stop you, it will. It was my last lap in Q3 where you're always pushing for an extra couple of hundredths and it was one of those things. I think I was on for a 1:32.2 which isn't the same pace as the guys ahead but I was more or less there. We're the first to start on the soft tire tomorrow so hopefully it gives us a launch advantage and we can overtake a couple of cars into Turn 1. We just need to avoid the carnage and then hopefully we're in the fight. I think our race pace is always pretty good and let's see what the weather does tomorrow. If it's warmer than today, my tires will degrade quicker but then the others will have to two stop, so let's see what happens!"
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "It was a really tight qualifying today. Max is P3 and ultimately missed out on pole by just six hundredths of a second so it's ridiculously close. It's good to line-up on the second row of the grid and especially to see the cars' competitiveness at this circuit. Alex continues to make progress and is only two tenths behind Lewis, which is a good performance from him. He'll be starting the race on a different strategy tomorrow with the soft tire which sets us up for an exciting US Grand Prix, and especially Turn 1. We've been in the top three throughout every session so it's been a positive day and it's clear we've had a competitive car here this weekend. Now we just need to build on that in the race tomorrow."
Renault Sport Formula One Team
Daniel Ricciardo (9th, 1:33.488): "We've had a difficult few weeks in qualifying where I haven't been too happy with myself, but today was much better and I extracted more or less everything from the car. We'll give it a go tomorrow, I'll get the horns out and look to advance. We're starting on the Soft, maybe it's not the best tire to begin the race, but it is what it is. We're on the clean side of the grid too, so we'll be looking to make some places there and get our heads down."
Nico Hulkenberg (11th, 1:33.815): "We weren't quite good enough for Q3 today. I was lacking a bit of pace, some harmony in the car, and I couldn't quite extract that final tenth, which meant we didn't progress to Q3. I was happy with my laps, so we'll have to take that for today. I think eleventh is a pretty good starting position, we have some freedom on strategy, which sometimes works in favor. I'll be ready to attack and fight again tomorrow."
Alan Permane, Sporting Director: "We can be reasonably pleased with today's qualifying but, of course, our target is to always have both cars in Q3. Our Friday high fuel pace looked very strong here, as has been the case at the last few races. We're looking forward to Sunday and we'll be aiming to maximize our chances to get both cars solidly into the points."
Haas F1 Team
Kevin Magnussen (12th, 1:33.979): "Not a bad afternoon, it could be worse, I guess. We're just outside the top ten with a free choice of tires for tomorrow. I don't know if that's an advantage, we'll see about that. I haven't looked too much into that myself. I had the car underneath me today, I'm pretty happy with qualifying in terms of my own performance and the team's. We've built up over the weekend and we've had some fairly strict aero programs to get through – it upset the weekend a little, but we did a good job with what we had. We're in the ball park."
Romain Grosjean (15th, 1:34.158): "I think we got the complete maximum from the car with P15 in Q1 and again in Q2. We've had a complicated weekend with a brilliant car in FP1, then in FP2 we tried a different aero package which obviously had a massive issue in high speed. I reverted to the FP1 package in FP3 and unfortunately had some rear wing issues. We had to change the rear wing to anther spec for qualifying. I think I was losing something like half a second on the straight. There wasn't much I could do. We'll see what happens tomorrow. If it's hotter it might work better for the tires, but at the minute we're lacking a lot of top speed."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: "Not too bad of a day today. We got both cars into Q2, so compared to Mexico last week, that's a good improvement. We just need to get our strategy right tomorrow with the tire choice. Maybe we can make some progress in the race. Maybe we can bring some points home – hopefully. That's what we're going to try to do. It's cool outside and that normally helps us. We're going to try our best to get points."
McLaren F1 Team
Carlos Sainz (7th, 1:32.847): "Great quali today! We managed to extract the absolute maximum out of the car. Two very good laps in Q3 means I'll be starting again right behind the top teams in P7. I'm expecting a challenging day tomorrow because the wind is changing again from where it was yesterday, and that can make our race trickier. So, heads down, good work tonight and let's make sure we finish it off tomorrow. Congratulations to the whole team again. Both cars leading the midfield is always a good sign."
Lando Norris (8th, 1:33.175): "A reasonable qualifying. It was a decent job through Q1 and Q2. I just had some traffic on my Q1, run one laps, which meant I had to use a second set of tires, and I only had one set for the final quali. I always had a better second run and so in Q3, when I only had one chance, I struggled a little bit more as everyone ahead of me had two sets of new tires. P7 for Carlos and P8 for me is as good as we could get today."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: "Another well-executed qualifying session by Carlos and Lando, together with the team maximizing everything we have in our cars. All here at the track pulled together with the team at home last night, making the right conclusions and finding more performance for today. This even allowed us, for the first time this year, to save one set of tires for Carlos in Q1, giving him the chance for two shots in Q3. When looking at the gap to the cars in front we're definitely making progress. However, we still need to be cautious for tomorrow with the ambient conditions changing quickly here which may affect our car performance. Starting P7 and P8 puts us again in a very good position tomorrow to score points. We're looking forward to another exciting race."
Racing Point F1 Team
Lance Stroll (14th, 1:34.100): "Q1 went well, but in Q2 I locked up into Turn 1 and that really put me on the back foot for the rest of the lap, which is a shame. I would have liked to be in the top ten and I think that's where we deserved to be given our overall performance across all the sessions. That can happen in qualifying when you're pushing the limits, and the midfield margins are so tight that a small error can cost you a couple of places on the grid. Now we focus on the race: I'm hoping to pick some places off at the start and race for points. That's the goal for tomorrow."
Sergio Perez (19th, 1:35.808): "After missing the weigh bridge yesterday, I will have to start the race from the pit lane tomorrow. It's a big shame, but I'm determined to make up for the disappointment with a strong race. We have set up the car totally for the race so hopefully that will pay off. With a fresh power unit too, we will push to make the difference, fight hard and see what we can achieve."
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer: "Lance has been pretty comfortable with the car this weekend and progressed smoothly to Q2. He will start the race from P14 and, with a strong start, he has a good chance of scoring some points. The long run pace yesterday looked encouraging and there are a couple of good overtaking opportunities on this lap. He will be competitive in the race. With Sergio, we are obviously carrying the penalty from yesterday, which made qualifying a formality more than anything else. Knowing he will start from the pit lane, Sergio simply set a time to ensure he qualified for the race."
Alfa Romeo Racing
Antonio Giovinazzi (16th, 1:34.226): "We were expecting a lot more today, especially after an FP3 session where we looked pretty good, but in the end I missed out on a place in Q2 for a very small margin, less than a tenth. Starting where we are, the race will be difficult. We will need to understand how to maximize our race pace, believe in ourselves and see where that takes us."
Kimi Raikkonen (17th, 1:34.369): "It's a disappointment to be out in Q1 after a good morning session. I made a mistake braking into turn 12, locked a wheel and that cost me at least three tenths, which would have placed me four or five places higher and into Q2. That was pretty much it after that – without the mistake, I would have easily made the cut. We'll have a lot of work to do to get back into this but we are going to try our best."
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: "We had made some big steps forward this morning and were quite confident going into qualifying, but in the end we fell short. It is disappointing to lose both cars in Q1, even though the margins were so small that a single tenth of a second here or there would have placed us in Q2. It will not be easy to make up ground starting from the back, but we will try to recover what is possible and make the best use of whatever opportunity we will get."
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda
Pierre Gasly (10th, 1:33.601): "I've felt strong in the car this weekend and we were in the top 10 in all of the sessions, it felt good as I could push the way I want. We've made it into Q3 for three races in a row, so we can be pleased with that. I'm satisfied with the performance today, and I like the way the team is working together. Tomorrow is the day that counts and hopefully we can continue the run of points to help us in the Constructors' Championship. Our race pace on Friday was good, but the McLarens are fast and the Renaults look strong, so I'm expecting a very tight battle tomorrow! Starting on the soft compound is clearly not ideal as it's a similar story to Mexico, but I think if we have a strong first stint we can look at scoring some points."
Daniil Kvyat (13th, 1:33.989): "The whole weekend I was struggling with the car, but when we got to Q2 the car felt more alive and I started to understand what the car needed to improve. I'm happy with the laps I did in Q2 as it was a good recovery from a tough weekend so far, it's a nice confidence boost to be able to find good pace when it mattered most. It's a shame my last lap got deleted as I only went off track by the smallest of margins, but rules are rules. We will do our best from P13 tomorrow and I think it can be a very strong race. I've always felt better on Sunday's this year, so I hope I can extract some good pace out of the car tomorrow."
Jody Egginton, Technical Director: "Following a productive Friday, Saturday - although a bit tighter in terms of lap time spread across the midfield - has pretty much gone to plan for Pierre, with Q1 being navigated without any problem and the first run in Q2 being enough to get into Q3. Finishing P10 is a good result. Dany's Qualifying session was shaping up OK. However, his best Q2 time was deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 19, which means he was demoted from P11 to P13. The focus now switches to ensuring that we are well prepared for tomorrow's race in order to maximize our opportunities in what we expect to be another exciting midfield battle."
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: "Verstappen, Albon and Gasly have shown good pace all weekend, to qualify third, sixth and tenth respectively. Kvyat starts from 13th on the grid and he can still finish in the points from there. Looking at the qualifying times, it looks very close throughout the field and both our teams have been very competitive. As overtaking is possible here we hope that all four cars will finish higher up the order than their starting positions."
ROKiT Williams Racing
George Russell (18th, 1:35.372): "I'm really enjoying driving the circuit and the conditions are warmer than yesterday. As the team predicted, we are further away than normal, and this track doesn't suit our car at the moment. There was slightly more time on the table and getting the tires in the optimum window on an evolving circuit is challenging, nevertheless it was a good lap. I'll go out there tomorrow, have fun and gather more information for next year."
Robert Kubica (20th, 1:35.889): "The track is really nice to drive and probably the best of the modern circuits. FP3 and my last quali run were good for me, but the gap to George is big. We made a few changes ahead of qualifying to help our race pace, so hopefully that will pay off tomorrow. Overall, it has been ok."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer: "As we anticipated yesterday, the weather conditions were quite different today, helped by the relatively late sessions. The work we completed overnight was beneficial and both drivers were immediately happier with the car in FP3. With conditions expected to be stable from FP3 to qualifying, we made minor alterations and gave each driver a Q1 program which maximized their track time. This gave each the best opportunity to prepare their tires and to push the car to the limit. The team worked very well together to execute an excellent Q1 session and both drivers did a good job, making the most of their opportunity on this fantastic COTA track. We knew where the car would be today but, nonetheless, we worked very hard to maximize what we had. Based on high fuel running yesterday, we expect to be more competitive tomorrow and, like last weekend in Mexico, we will go into the race hoping to fight with both Haas and Alfa Romeo."
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