Nico Rosberg has brought Lewis Hamilton shining streak in Austin, Texas to a close after beating the Brit to pole position. Lewis had topped every session at the Circuit of The Americas going into qualifying but will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix from second place after Rosberg secured pole position by four tenths of a second.
Going into qualifying, Lewis Hamilton had set the fastest time in each of the three practice sessions. Including a table topping time in FP3, over eight tenths of a second faster than Nico Rosberg. Elsewhere, Sebastian Vettel faces a pit-lane start for tomorrows race thanks to a full power unit change, as Daniil Kvyat receives a ten place grid penalty for a sixth engine change of the season and Jenson Button drops five places for an out of sync gearbox change.
Come the start of Q1, Perez became the first man to hit the track in front of many Mexican fans with the Circuit of The Americas being the closest Grand Prix for them as it stands.
Straight from the off some drivers were on the soft tyres but the pace being set was far from flying. Perez was one of the drivers using the softer compound tyres from the off and opened the times. But in the end he only just found his way through to Q2 by just 5 hundredths of a second to Jean-Eric Vergne.
Hamilton however was in a class of his own once more, shooting all the way to the top and leaving the rest behind. Even Rosberg was unable to be within touching distance at the chequered flag as the German lingered over a second back. That gap was even enough for both Williams drivers to slot in and show they are the ‘best of the rest’ once more.
As expected by many going into qualifying, Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull team opted not to push too hard in Q1 and the reining World Champion finished in 17th. With his enforced pit-lane start all Vettel had to do in qualifying was to finish within 107% of the top spot to show he is competitive enough to start the race. For comparison, Vettel’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo finished Q1 in tenth place,
Vettel and Vergne were joined out in Q2 by Gutierrez and Grosjean. Romain had a chance to get his Lotus into Q2 alongside Maldonado however he ran wide on his last lap and finished the session in 18th.
Moving into Q2 where another four drivers were eliminated from qualifying, Daniil Kvyat led the pack away from the pits.
Valtteri Bottas slotted his Williams at the top from the off but he would only be there for a moment as Rosberg romped to the top, a second faster than the Finn. This time Hamilton couldn’t even out do his team-mate and returned to the pits for the mid-session break two tenths back.
After completing that lap, Hamilton reported vibrations on his tyres and returned to the pits. In the end, he never returned to the track in Q2 to try and improve on his second place. That left him watching from the garage as Rosberg laid down a marker and topped the second stage of qualifying by a second following a storming 1:36:290.
At the other end of the table, the drivers dropping out of qualifying were Maldonado in 11th, followed by Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniil Kyvat. One of the drivers making it into Q3 was Adrian Sutil. The German managed to get his Sauber into the top 10 shoot-out for the first time this season with the team still yet to secure a point.
For the start of Q3 nine out of the 10 drivers flowed straight onto the Circuit of The Americas with just Sutil sitting in his garage.
From them nine drivers, it was Daniel Ricciardo who posted the first time of the session. His 1:38:120 was an easy time for some to beat and was even slower than his fastest Q2 time.
For the battle of provisional pole Valtteri Bottas laid down the first marker with his 1:36:906. However, his Williams was far from the pace the Mercedes could reach as Rosberg and Hamilton moved ahead. This time Lewis was able to get his Silver Arrow to within two tenths of a second to Nico as the German kept his front wing provisionally ahead.
With just over three minutes remaining in Q3, all drivers began to take to the track for their final qualifying runs in America. Ricciardo was once again the man leading the field away from the pits, and this time it included Adrian Sutil.
In the first sector of Rosberg’s final flying lap, the German was able to go purple and find another tenth of a second. This sector had usually been where Hamilton held the advantage but when it mattered he was unable to find the time.
Moving on through the lap Rosberg went purple in the middle sector and increased his time by two-tenths of a second to Hamilton at the flag. Whereas Hamilton dropped more time in the middle and final sector before finishing the lap four tenths back to Rosberg.
This left Rosberg on pole for tomorrow’s United States Grand Prix with Hamilton tucked in behind. Valtteri Bottas lingered half a second back but secured third place with his team-mate in fourth. Meaning the top four in Austin is a Mercedes one-two followed by another Williams three-four. In addition, with Rosberg securing pole position he will end the season ahead of Hamilton in the qualifying head-to-head.
Ricciardo finished qualifying in fifth place with Fernando Alonso four tenths back in sixth. Jenson Button lead a McLaren seven-eight with just one tenth splitting Alonso, Button and Magnussen.
Sutil was unable to prove a threat to anyone in Q3 and finished a second back to Raikkonen but will start tomorrow’s race higher than at any point this season.
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:38.814||1:37.873||1:37.244||17|
|12||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.200||1:38.554||16|
|13||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.931||1:38.598||16|
|17||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.621||3|
|Q1 107% Time||1:43.999|