Lewis Hamilton had another fantastic day finishing top in final practice and then qualifying on pole for the United States Grand Prix. He could clinch the title on Sunday but with Sebastian Vettel qualifying in second, it could be a tight battle.
It was more of the same in final practice as Lewis Hamilton was again fastest but this time only 0.092 seconds quicker than Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. Valtteri Bottas was third fastest with Kimi Raikkonen in fourth as the Mercedes and Ferrari teams dominated the session.
Friday hadn’t been a great day at all for Vettel but changing the chassis of his Ferrari led to a better final practice and both he and Raikkonen were more competitive. With just 0.277 seconds between first and fourth, a much closer race than was thought on Friday looks likely.
Fifth fastest was the Red Bull of Max Verstappen but a 15-place grid penalty has been confirmed after using too many engine parts. Felipe Mass a was seventh fastest in his Williams and an impressive Renault debut for Carlos Sainz continued with an eighth place finish just behind team-mate Nico Hulkenberg. It’s not looking great for Red Bull with Daniel Ricciardo back in ninth.
There was four hours to wait before the qualifying session began. That wasn’t to allow some of the teams time to fit new engines but the organisers hoping a later start would mean more people would turn up to then watch Justin Timberlake in concert later that evening. More likely to send most off to the pub I’d imagine.
Far more exciting was seeing Lewis Hamilton continue his great form as he took pole for the United States Grand Prix. It should be a great battle on Sunday though with Sebastian Vettel also on the front row after finishing second 0.239 seconds behind the championship leader.
It certainly didn’t look as if the German driver would make the front row as he was only fourth after the first runs in final qualifying and 0.7 seconds off Hamilton.
Hamilton loves this track and has been in supreme form this weekend topping all the practice session and all three parts of qualifying too. It wasn’t the easiest of sessions though as it’s not just in the UK that there are strong winds, though it’s a bit warmer in the USA.
Third on the grid will be Valtteri Bottas with Daniel Ricciardo in fourth and only 0.469 seconds behind Lewis. Fifth went to Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen was disappointed with his sixth place finish but even more miserable due to that 15-place grid penalty.
Seventh went to the Force India of Esteban Orcan and Carlos Sainz starts eighth in his first race since joining Renault. Fernando Alonso starts in ninth with the other Force India of Sergio Perez filling tenth spot.
The other debutant, Brendon Hartley had problems with his Toro Rosso blaming locking front wheels. He could only manage 18th but starts from the back due to a 25-place grid penalty.
Speaking after finishing on pole, Hamilton said that “It is going to be a great race. It is going to be a tough one. Looking after the tyres in these conditions is going to be tough but I am the best prepared I can be.”
He’s anticipating a real battle for supremacy with Vettel on Sunday and believes it is “highly unlikely” a win in the USA will clinch a fourth world title unless his rival makes a “a silly mistake – which is very unlikely.”
Vettel seemed happier than on Friday and told reporters a key area of improvement required is in the transition from first to second sector, something he got right just in time to clinch second place on the grid. He agreed with Hamilton that wind is going to make life tricky during the race. Heat is also going to be a problem with Mercedes concerned over tyre temperatures. The forecast is that on Sunday it will be a few degrees cooler than on Saturday.
I’ll be back next week with more blogs, till then enjoy your racing and perhaps the title race might even be over by then.