Mercedes Lewis Hamilton beats title rival Sebastian Vettel to Pole Position ahead of tomorrow’s USA GP.
Vettel handed 3 place grid drop
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel’s championship hopes took a further hit after he was handed a 3-place grid penalty after the Stewards found the German to be going to quick under red flag conditions in FP1. The red-flag appeared in FP1 after a spin by Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, who brought gravel onto the track after coming back onto the track. Vettel did slow after the red flag was shown but he was accused of not taking off enough speed to meet the strict timing deltas the drivers must keep to.
In Q1, it was both Ferrari’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel out first with Vettel able to go over 3 and a half tenths quicker than his Finnish team-mate. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was the first driver to have is lap time deleted due to track limits. The Mercedes of Valterri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were able to beat Vettel’s time with Hamilton setting the pace on a 1:34:176.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen hit trouble with the Dutchman crawling back to the pits. It seemed to be the right rear suspension failing over the “sausage” kerbs. Could the Red Bull mechanics fix the issue before Q2? With 6 minutes to go, both McLaren’s and both Williams along with the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson were in the drop-zone.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was able to improve to 13th but other drivers were able to beat his lap time and it was the Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley who pushed the Spaniard out of progressing to Q2. Ericsson, the other McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne and both Williams’s drivers were knocked out as well. Hamilton ended Q1 quickest on a 1:34:130 ahead of Bottas and Vettel.
In Q2, Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel opted to go out on the Supersoft tyre while Raikkonen went onto the Ultrasoft. Raikkonen was able to beat both Mercedes on a 1:32:884 with Vettel slotting in behind his team-mate in 2nd. Hamilton locked-up and lost time in the middle sector so the Brit went for a second flying lap on the same set of tyres and improved to 3rd to go nearly 6 tenths behind Raikkonen.
It was a superb first lap for Sauber’s Charles Leclerc who posted the 6th quickest time and to go just over 2 tenths quicker than Haas’s Romain Grosjean in 7th. The repair job for the Red Bull mechanics on Verstappen’s car was too extensive so the Austrian GP winner took no part in the session.
Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel headed back out on the Ultrasoft tyre. Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen fail to make it to Q3 and are joined in the elimination zone by both Toro Rosso’s, who both didn’t set a lap time and the Red Bull of Verstappen. Vettel improves to a 1:33:079 on the Ultra’s with both Mercedes not improving which means that they’ll start on the Supersoft tyre for tomorrow’s race.
In Q3, Hamilton was able to go quickest on a 1:32:567 with Vettel less than a tenth behind in 2nd. Bottas was over a tenths behind in 3rd with Raikkonen over 4 and a half tenths back from Hamilton in 4th. Not the finest lap from the Finn who needs to be up there to help Ferrari and Vettel tomorrow.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was on his own in 5th with Haas’s Grosjean, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India’s of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez and the Sauber of Leclerc, who hadn’t set a timed lap yet, in 10th.
Bottas improved but it was the other Finn of Raikkonen who went on provisional pole position on a 1:32:307. Hamilton improved to a 1:32:237 and with Vettel managing a 1:32:298 to slot in behind but because of his 3 place grid penalty the German will start 5th.
Behind the top 4, Ricciardo was 5th ahead of Ocon, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Leclerc and Perez.