They say everything is bigger in Texas and qualifying for the U.S. Grand Prix was no exception.
The story, as you’ve no doubt come to expect, revolves around Mercedes’ dominance. Lewis Hamilton claimed his 72nd Formula 1 pole position in a commanding fashion. Hamilton was unquestionably quick — the quickest of all in all three qualifying sessions. Unable to improve on his final run during Q3, the previous time of 1:33.108 was enough to get the job done.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel slots into second, 0.239 adrift of Hamilton. The opening stages of Q3 were rough for the German driver, netting a highest of fourth on the grid. When push came to, Vettel eked out a strong lap to jump ahead into second, overtaking Valtteri Bottas.
Valtteri drove the sister Mercedes to third in a disappointing performance. Though, like his teammate he also lost time in the final sector during Q3 and was unable to improve his time. Talk about what might have been.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo starts today’s race from fourth on the grid. Interestingly enough, both he and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen set identical times — 1:33.577 — but due to Ricciardo setting the time first, he sits ahead of the Finnish driver. Max Verstappen was the sixth fastest today, though he’ll start further back courtesy of a 15-place grid penalty. On the upside, Max is the top-10 qualifying drivers set to start tomorrow’s race on super-soft tires.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon sits seventh, out-qualifying teammate Sergio Perez. While Ocon starts tomorrow from fifth, he was only a second off Verstappen’s pace. When you take into consideration he muscled through feeling sick, it’s even more impressive.
Carlos Sainz who now helms at Renault takes eighth after completing only one run during Q3. He was on pace with teammate Nico Hulkenberg throughout the weekend, even getting ahead by 0.2 seconds in Q1. To say he’s already putting on a better show than Jolyon Palmer would be an understatement. In Palmer’s defense, his short run at Renault wasn’t without problems. Such is the life of an F1 driver: you either perform or hit the road.
Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez round out the top 10 for McLaren and Force India, respectively. While McLaren is set to divorce Honda beginning next year, this year’s car has come into its own.
Qualifying was not without its close calls. Of particular interest is an incident involving Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll. The drivers came very close to colliding following a peculiar swerve forcing Grosjean off the track. The move has since undergone investigation and Stroll given a three place penalty. Grid penalties are shaking up driver spots across the grid.
Stoffel Vandoorne incurs a five-place penalty for an engine upgrade. Nico Hulkenberg starts at the back as a result of a 20-place penalty for engine component changes. Brendon Hartley, who drives for Toro Rosso kicks things off with a 25-place penalty. Not a warm welcome by any means.