Sebastian Vettel snatched pole position with his final lap of qualifying at the United States Grand Prix to deny teammate Mark Webber a second straight start from the front of the grid. Once again Red Bull were a class apart with third-placed Romain Grosjean more than seven-tenths of a second adrift of Webber.
Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg continued to impress by qualifying in fourth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton. It was a disappointing day for Mercedes, though, with Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg one of a number of drivers who struggled with his tires and setup in the cooler conditions at the Austin circuit. The German failed to make it into the final 10 shootout and qualified 14th, although he will start one place higher because of a grid penalty suffered by Jenson Button.
It was another serene performance by Vettel, though, even in the tough conditions. The already crowned four-time world champion was just over a tenth quicker than Webber and is ideally positioned to claim a record on Sunday by winning his eighth consecutive race in a single season.
“It was very close with Mark, he seemed to get closer and closer as the weekend went on, so fortunately I was just able to stay ahead,” Vettel said, according to Formula1.com. “I’m very happy with pole position today, I like this place and the circuit and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s important to start on the clean side, so we’ll see what we can do.”
In his penultimate Formula One Grand Prix, Webber was clearly disappointed not to be starting from the front, believing that a mistake cost him pole.
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“The first part of my final lap was very good, I was happy with that, but I didn’t quite get Turns 19 and 20,” he explained. “If I’d done what I did there initially in Q3, it would probably have been enough, but I tried to squeeze a bit more out and it’s easy to load the car a bit too much in these conditions. Sometimes you’re happy and think you’ve given your best, but today it slipped through the fingers.”
A battle remains on for second place in both the drivers’ and the constructors’ standings. Fernando Alonso and his Ferrari team currently occupy both positions, but Hamilton and Mercedes are hot on their heels. Alonso will start a place behind Hamilton in sixth, just ahead of McLaren’s Sergio Perez, who has reacted angrily to being told that he will be replaced next season.
Heikki Kovalainen produced an impressive drive to claim eighth spot for Lotus, after being brought in to replace Kimi Raikkonen for the final two races while his fellow-Finn recovers from a back operation. Perhaps the star of the day, though, was another Finn, Williams’ Valtteri Botas. The rookie was actually quickest in Q1 and will still be delighted to claim ninth, his highest ever grid position in dry conditions.
Where to watch: The Formula One United States Grand Prix will get underway at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBC, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.