United States GP Qualifying: Charles Leclerc beats Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton to pole as Max Verstappen only sixth

Charles Leclerc edged out Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton to take pole; Max Verstappen sixth after losing fastest lap for track limits breach; get set for Sprint Saturday: tune in live to the Sprint Shootout at 6.30pm and then the Sprint race itself at 11pm on Sky Sports F1

By Sam Johnston, Senior Sports Journalist

Highlights from qualifying at the United States Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc beat Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton to a thrilling United States Grand Prix pole as an error left world champion Max Verstappen starting from sixth.

In a wide-open contest, Verstappen momentarily held pole position before he lost what was the fastest lap time of the session for exceeding track limits at the penultimate corner at Circuit of The Americas.

With Verstappen's time deleted, Ferrari's Leclerc regained pole, edging out Norris and Hamilton by little more than a tenth of a second to seal his third pole position of the season - the most by any driver other than Verstappen.

Hamilton will be disappointed at failing to produce his best lap at the key moment, but the seven-time world champion is set to have a rare chance of ending his near-two-year winless streak with Mercedes appearing to have benefitted from a final major upgrade of the season.

Verstappen was heard venting on the radio after losing grip from turbulent air caught behind team-mate Sergio Perez during Q3 of the United States Grand Prix

In contrast, Norris had not looked quite quick enough to be part of the pole battle, but delivered his best lap at the opportune moment to sneak ahead of Hamilton.


Leclerc's Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz took fourth, while George Russell overcame a challenging session to take fifth for Mercedes.

Alpine duo Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were seventh and eighth behind Verstappen, whose team-mate Sergio Perez was ninth ahead of McLaren's Oscar Piastri.

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Ferrari's Leclerc was delighted after securing pole for Sunday's race

The result sets up an enticing race on Sunday, in which Verstappen will still be a major threat to claim a 15th victory of the season, which would equal the record he set last year.

The Dutchman is chasing a host of historic marks having sealed his third successive drivers' title earlier this month in Qatar with five rounds of the season still remaining.

First though will come Saturday's Sprint action, with the shortened qualifying session and race set to provide the enthusiastic Austin crowd with more entertainment in two contests that should be similarly open.

US GP Qualifying result
1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
2) Lando Norris, McLaren
3) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
4) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
5) George Russell, Mercedes
6) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
7) Pierre Gasly, Alpine
8) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
9) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
10) Oscar Piastri, McLaren

How thrilling pole contest played out

Although Verstappen had topped the event's sole practice session earlier on Friday, enough promise was shown by the likes of Hamilton and Leclerc to suggest the Dutchman was not going to have things all his own way, as has been the case so often this season.

That theory was quickly backed up in a highly-competitive opening to the session, which saw Hamilton end Q1 at the top of the timesheet.

Sky F1's Anthony Davidson was at the SkyPad to analyse what went wrong for Verstappen as the world champion qualified sixth for the United States Grand Prix

Not part of the battle at the front was Fernando Alonso, the driver who posed the biggest - albeit usually distant - threat to Verstappen during the early stages of the season.

Another upgrade added for this weekend did not help halt what has been a gradual slide away from the front of the grid from Aston Martin, but Alonso's Q1 exit, alongside another disappointing display from team-mate Lance Stroll, marked a new low point for the team.

There was no surprise exit in Q2, with Daniel Ricciardo 15th on his return from a five-race absence with a wrist injury, almost three tenths back from AlphaTauri team-mate Yuki Tsunoda, who took 11th.

That left the minimum of just five teams represented in Q3, with Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Alpine each getting two cars into the pole position shootout.

Verstappen felt he was a little unfortunate not to take pole due to exceeding track limits but he is nonetheless looking forward to the race

There was genuine tension as the final 12 minutes began, with at least Leclerc, who had topped Q2, Hamilton and Verstappen all clearly in with a shot at pole.

That buzz around the circuit was only heightened when Leclerc and Hamilton, separated by just over half a tenth, led Verstappen after the first runs.

The Dutchman made it clear his competitive edge has not been blunted by his latest success, fuming over the radio after having felt his team-mate Perez's positioning impacted the closing stages of his lap.

For once this season, the 25-year-old did not appear to have regained his composure by the time the second flying laps began, running wide at Turn 1, and then making the crucial error as he went beyond track limits at Turn 19 to give up pole.

Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso agree their pace just was not quick enough after a disastrous qualifying saw both Aston Martins out in Q1 of the United States Grand Prix

Despite the errors, the lap was remarkably still five-thousandths of a second faster than Leclerc's, and suggests Verstappen will still be the driver to beat throughout the remainder of the weekend.

As for the Monegasque, it was a reminder of the one-lap speed he has become renowned for during his career, but had been lacking as he watched his team-mate Sainz claim consecutive poles in Italy and Singapore.

While Norris appeared to overachieve by coming so close, Hamilton might feel a potential second pole of the season slipped through his hands, having looked supreme at certain moments during the session.

After qualifying third for Sunday's United States Grand Prix, Hamilton is hopeful he can be competitive with Ferrari

With Ferrari's tyre degradation issues likely to play a role in the Texan heat on Sunday, both Norris and Hamilton will undoubtedly see the race as a huge opportunity.

The McLaren driver will be seeking his first win, and Hamilton a 104th that may feel like his first.

Leclerc, meanwhile, will be seeking to end a run of nine failed attempts to convert pole position to victory - a run that stretches back to the Australian Grand Prix at the start of last season.

What the drivers said

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc after taking pole:

"I think we did a great job as a team. We know in the Sprint weekends it's more important than ever to have a good FP1 and we did.

"We started with a strong base thanks to the work the guys had done to prepare for this weekend with the car feeling good straight away.

"The lap, I was happy throughout qualifying, the last lap in Q3 there were some mistakes here and there but I think it wasn't easy for everyone. Really happy we are on pole."

McLaren's Lando Norris after qualifying second:

"I'm happy. It's been a good day. Probably not expected, so a good bonus for the whole team. Didn't make as many mistakes as last week [in Qatar], which is a good thing.

"I think we had it today. There was enough in it to get pole. I know Charles said he made a few mistakes, but so did I.

"A bit of a shame. We had one opportunity and maybe missed it again but I'm happy nevertheless."

Lando Norris says he was pleasantly surprised with his pace in qualifying as the McLaren driver earned a place on the front row for the United States Grand Prix.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton after qualifying third:

"I love being in the States. This circuit is just incredible. It's one of my favourites - right up there with Silverstone.

"It's a legendary layout that every driver finds tricky. It's bumpy, incredibly challenging each section.

"A big thank you to everyone at the factory. They have been pushing so hard to improve our car and we have taken a bit of a step closer to these guys this weekend, which I know everyone is working so hard for.

Max Verstappen after qualifying sixth:

"I knew in Turn 19 that it was going to be a close call. I had a little mistake in Turn 1, so had to really push for it in the rest of the lap.

"I didn't even understeer, I just tried to maximise the corner and I misjudged it by a little bit. It's very fine margins when you are pushing to the limit. It's unfortunate but it makes Sunday more fun."

United States GP Qualifying timesheet

Driver Team Time
1. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:34.723
2. Lando Norris McLaren +0.130
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.139
4. Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.222
5. George Russell Mercedes +0.356
6. Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.358
7. Pierre Gasly Alpine +0.366
8. Esteban Ocon Alpine +0.431
9. Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.450
10. Oscar Piastri McLaren +0.744
Out in Q2
11. Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:35.697
12. Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:35.698
13. Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:35.858
14. Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:35.880
15. Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:35.974
Out in Q1
16. Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:36.235
17. Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:36.268
18. Alex Albon Williams 1:36.315
19. Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:36.589
20. Logan Sargeant Williams 1:36.827

When to watch the US GP and F1 Academy finale live only on Sky Sports F1

Saturday October 21

  • 3.30pm: F1 Academy Race One
  • 6pm: US GP Sprint Shootout build-up
  • 6:30pm: US GP Sprint Shootout
  • 9.15pm: F1 Academy Race Two
  • 10pm: US GP Sprint build-up
  • 11pm: US GP SPRINT (also on Sky Sports Main Event)
  • (Sunday) 12.30am: Ted's Sprint Notebook

Sunday October 22

  • 3.30pm: F1 Academy Race Three
  • 6.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: US GP build-up
  • 8pm: THE UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX (also on Sky Sports Main Event)
  • 10pm: Chequered Flag: US GP reaction
  • 11pm: Ted's Notebook

Watch Formula 1 return to Texas for the United States Grand Prix and another Sprint weekend live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW