United States GP Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton beats Ferrari to pole
Hamilton less than a tenth of a second quicker than Vettel and Raikkonen; Verstappen suffers car failure
Last Updated: 04/12/18 4:20pm
Lewis Hamilton will begin his quest to secure a fifth world championship in Sunday's US GP from pole position after a dramatic conclusion to qualifying.
Delivering an outstanding final lap, Hamilton pipped Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to pole by less than a tenth of a second as the Scuderia suddenly found their groove in Austin to threaten Mercedes' ascendancy.
But Vettel will only start from fifth due to his grid drop for failing to slow sufficiently during a red-flag stoppage in Friday practice.
Hamilton, nearly half a second quicker than team-mate Valtteri Bottas, will be crowned champion on Sunday if he out-scores Vettel by eight points or more.
"That one was very important, it was close out there," said Hamilton.
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After a poor opening lap in Q3, Raikkonen briefly usurped Hamilton with a much improved second flier.
But Hamilton then found just enough extra speed to dislodge the Finn before Vettel, the final driver to cross the line before the chequered flag fell, missed out on pole by a few hundredths of a second.
"I don't think we expected it to be that close," admitted Vettel.
Hamilton's lap of 1:32.237 represents a new track record at the Circuit of the Americas.
Hamilton has previously won five times at COTA but will be wary of Ferrari's threat on Sunday, especially with Raikkonen starting on ultrasoft tyres.
Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel all elected to set their fastest times in Q2 on the slower but more durable supersofts.
"We're lacking a bit of straight-line speed, it's going to be very tricky to defend against Ferrari," warned Mercedes chief Toto Wolff.
"That's my worry. You cannot write them off."
A malfunction for Max, misery for McLaren
Max Verstappen was a high-profile casualty of the Circuit of the Americas' kerbing after running wide and breaking the rear suspension of his Red Bull in the process.
The Dutchman is expected to start in 13th with both Toro Rossos facing engine-related demotions to the back of the grid for Sunday's race.
"It was a bit weird to understand because before that we have been taking that kerb," said Verstappen.
Fernando Alonso was eliminated in Q1 for the third consecutive race with both McLarens exiting at the first stage for the fourth time in what has proved a desperately disappointing season.
Esteban Ocon, still fighting to secure a seat on next year's grid, was the 'best of the rest' in sixth behind Daniel Ricciardo, while Charles Leclerc took ninth - 10 places ahead of his Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson.
United States GP Qualifying Timesheet
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:32.237|
|2) Sebastian Vettel *||Ferrari||1:32.298|
|3) Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||1:32.307|
|4) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1:32.616|
|5) Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:33.494|
|6) Esteban Ocon||Force India||1:34.145|
|7) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||1:34.215|
|8) Romain Grosjean||Haas||1:34.250|
|9) Charles Leclerc||Sauber||1:34.420|
|10) Sergio Perez||Force India||1:34.594|
|Out in Q2|
|Brendon Hartley *||Toro Rosso|
|Pierre Gasly *||Toro Rosso|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull|
|Out in Q1|
|16) Fernando Alonso||McLaren|
|17) Sergey Sirotkin||Williams|
|18) Lance Stroll||Williams|
|19) Marcus Ericsson||Sauber|
|20) Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren|
|* Facing grid penalty|