After three hours of delays before an overnight postponement, Formula One was finally running again at the Circuit of The Americas where Nico Rosberg claimed pole position for the United States Grand Prix.
On a day in which Lewis Hamilton could wrap up the 2015 drivers’ title, Rosberg claimed pole position for the US GP. All Lewis needs to do in the race later today is outscore Sebastian Vettel by 9 points and Rosberg by 2 points to become the first British F1 driver ever to retain their title and become a three-time World Champion. But his bid to clinch the title took a dent as Rosberg beat him to pole, while Vettel could only claim fifth.
With the threat of rain getting heavier as the qualifying progressed, the field flooded to the track when the lights went green for Q1 as quick as the rain had flooded the circuit. Among the runners at the front of the pack was Lewis Hamilton who on his first run posted the only time under two minutes with a 1:59.393.
Elsewhere Red Bull were the closest challengers as 11 drivers posted a time. But before the other nine, including Rosberg and Vettel, could post their first qualifying times, Carlos Sainz crashed out of qualifying as the slowest runner.
Like Rosberg in FP3 yesterday, Carlos took too much of the kerb through turn three causing him to spin and crash into the barrier at turn four. Unlike Nico however, Carlos snapped the front left suspension and dug into the gravel trap causing his session to end as fast as it started. His stricken car also brought out the red flag but he was cleared fast enough for the track to go green again before the conditions worsened.
“I crashed, sorry guys, sorry.” A straight to the point message from Carlos Sainz following his crash in Q1.
On the second runs, Hamilton felt the track had already improved and this was clear as Rosberg and co. found the groove for a good lap. Lewis’ initial time however was still too much for Rosberg to beat on his first flyer and held a four tenths advantage before improving himself by over a second.
Hamilton’s other title rival, Vettel, meanwhile was seconds off of the pace by Hamilton and found himself running off the track at Turn 10. As he made his way through the tricky corner, he ran off the racing line and swiped into the barrier with heavy rear contact. Unfortunately for him, as he began to fall down the order to the improving cars he hit the radio, “Box, box, I touched the wall.”
As the threat of harder rain continued to come, all the teams kept their drivers out on track in case Q2 and Q3 could not go ahead. But following his contact with the barrier, Vettel remained in the garage as others were finding time and sending him further down the order.
As the chequered flag fell, Vettel watched on from his garage as Maldonado went over line for P11, ahead of the Ferrari. Grosjean followed his team-mate through the flag to move up P10, before Alonso jumped into P9, Massa into P14, with all pushing Vettel closer to the P16 and the drop. Luckily for him, Nasr as the final man across the line could not do enough to knock the Ferrari out and Vettel scrapped into Q2.
At the front, Rosberg stayed out on track to take the flag with what seemed to be an un-needed lap. But it was enough to edge Hamilton out of the top two by two tenths. Ricciardo had previously gone fastest overall after blitzing a 1:56.495 as Hamilton found traffic on a strong lap of his own.
Come Q2, Rosberg once again put his name above Hamilton on the leaderboard with the German flying from the off and edging Hamilton by one tenth. This time round, Ricciardo was unable to be ahead of the Silver Arrows but continued on as the closest challenger despite being over a second behind Rosberg.
Initially, it was Raikkonen who broke the two-minute marker before he fell behind the Mercedes duo. But like in Q1, Turn 10 began catching drivers out once more as Raikkonen joined the list of names to spin at the hill. At one point, even Lewis Hamilton join the spinners at the corner except he span in the opposite direction to most as he span the car in a full 360.
As the final five minutes of Q2 ticked off, the conditions began to worsen and Raikkonen span again, this time at Turn 11. Before he span though, he came over the radio to discuss the conditions of the track and his tyres and soon returned to the pits. Other drivers joined Raikkonen in discussing the conditions over the radio, with Vettel and Button calling conditions unsafe and red-flag worthy.
“With no cars running for the next session, they shouldn’t be running it yet,” Button said. “I know we’re not in it anyway but it’s not safe.”
Most drivers could only rely on their early Q2 times as the conditions deteriorated. Unfortunately for some, this meant they found themselves out of qualifying as standing water began to be formed on the track surface. With this and drivers calling for the session to be red-flagged, race control sent the safety car out and delayed Q3 by 5-minutes.
But after an exploratory lap and more rain falling, Q3 was called off and qualifying was called to an end. This meant Rosberg’s Q2 time secures him pole position for the US Grand Prix ahead of Hamilton, while Vettel will fall down the order once he takes his 10-place grid-penalty for an engine change.
Ricciardo on the other hand will start the race from third place after Red Bull chose not to take an engine change and take the new, upgraded Renault power unit. This along with the cars strong aerodynamics will give them a strong chance of a podium with both cars starting on the second row.
For Rosberg, today’s pole means he starts from P1 for the second time in the States after claiming pole position here last year as well. However on the day last year, Rosberg lost the lead and Hamilton took the win after starting the race from second on the grid. Lewis also claimed his first win at the Circuit of The Americas in 2012 after starting the race in second place.