- Carlos Sainz [Copyright: Ferrari]

F1 US GP, Saturday: Race duel for Top 2; Ferrari edging out McLaren & more

All what was said after Saturday in F1 US GP.

4w ago

The Saturday in F1 US GP was competitive at the front as the two title contenders gave it all, while the fight for third in CC heated up too.

It was a close fight in the end on Saturday of F1 US GP, as Red Bull's Max Verstappen took the top spot in qualifying from Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton to set up another duel for Sunday. Having looked good on Friday, the latter slipped back a bit to the former.

Already in FP3, Mercedes looked a bit behind and even though they upped their pace in qualifying, Red Bull got the last laugh finishing 1-3. Valtteri Bottas did enough in fourth but is to drop back five places to be in the fag end of the Top 10.

At the front though, it will be another tussle between Verstappen and Hamilton, where both are hoping to have a better duel than their past. They sure will be a touch nervous, but being professionals, both think they can handle Turn 1 maturely.

Verstappen: "It was a little bit up and down I would say. Just getting to the limit of the car felt a little bit difficult for me this whole weekend so far, to try and get that last bit out of it. Even in qualifying I had to work up to it. Then, on the mediums I actually felt really good. I think in Q2 that was a good lap. It seemed like they suited me a bit more in terms of driving. The first run in Q3 again wasn’t perfect.

"I just couldn’t really get the same out of it in terms of feeling compared to Q2. So then I had to dig deep in Q3, run two and then it even started like spitting a bit on your visor in the last sector so it wasn’t ideal but yeah, to be on pole is great especially on a weekend so far, like I said, where it was a bit more difficult to find that last bit. As for the race, like we always try, as professionals. I don’t see why we always have to keep bringing this up.

"It’s not like we are the only ones who have touched, you know, in this sport and these things happen, unfortunately, but I think we are on the front row again and everyone is just expecting a great race and that’s what we also expect, I think, as drivers. We just want to have a really good race. [To beat Mercedes in Austin in qualifying, I am] maybe a tiny bit of a surprise but you can clearly see it has been swinging a bit throughout the whole season. Luckily it’s still doing that and yeah, we’ll see.

"I’m of course happy with the performance we’ve had today, let’s find out tomorrow in the race – again, it’s a different story and then of course we’ll move on again to the next race and that again can be a different story because you can maybe look like favourites going into the weekend but you still need to pay attention to every single detail, to try and make it work. It’s so closely matched that if you maybe miss one tiny detail or you just can’t bring it together for whatever reason you miss out and that’s what happened for us, for example, in Turkey."

Hamilton: "It was fun. It was definitely a difficult session. I would say for us since P1 it’s been a little bit tougher, we have been making lots of changes to try to improve the car. But it’s been a real challenge, and going into qualifying I think the first session wasn’t that great. Q1 wasn’t spectacular but it started to improve, particularly on the medium tyre, and the last two runs were pretty good.

"I think they have just been pretty quick all weekend and I think we were able to match them or be ahead in P1 but since then they have really pulled a lot. You can tell that the car is quick because obviously both of them are up there and pulling in some seriously good laps. But we are in a good position to fight them tomorrow and I hope we can. Our weekend t started off good, it felt good through P1 and then bit by bit they’ve got faster and I don’t know if we've got slower.

"But yeah, it’s been a real struggle with the car, compared to normally when we’re here. Part of it is probably overheating with tyres, which is affecting, I’m sure, everyone but yeah, it’s been a challenge. As for the race,  I hope we’ll make it through turn one and we get a good race. I don’t think it’s all decided on turn 1. For the practice tussle, firstly, I didn’t run him wide. He decided to go round the outside and ended up going wide because… you can ask him, but we were battling into the last corner… and it’s a silly thing. It’s all fun and games. We’ll have fun tomorrow and give it everything as you would expect, no real difference to any other part of the season and yeah, that’s all."

Perez: "It was pretty tense but I knew it was all down to the final chance. How much I was able to find. I was on a pretty good lap I think, in Turn 1 itself I was able to find a couple of tenths, I just couldn’t keep it up completely throughout the lap and yeah, didn’t get a hundred per cent out of the car today. I was the last car on track and I felt like it did cost me a bit, especially in 13 and 15, especially in 15, I just couldn’t find any grip. Whether that’s from the increase of rain or I just didn’t find any grip. There was quite a lot of rain coming in and yeah, it’s probably a bit of confidence going through there and knowing that it’s a bit wet. I felt like I lost quite a bit of time. I think it was quite a bit faster and just lost my lap-time through there."

Behind them, the Ferrari duo managed to beat the McLaren duo which kind of surprised the former team drivers'. They expected good pace, but reckoned they might be behind due to the FP3 pace shown by the Woking-based outfit. The times were close still which sets up for a good fight between the two teams, having both their drivers bunched up together.

They may not be troubled from behind though as even though the AlphaTauri duo made it in the Top 10, they seemed a bit behind in the region of Alpine and Aston Martin. For the French outfit, though, despite the tow from Fernando Alonso, they did not have enough for Esteban Ocon to sail through the Top 10.

At Aston Martin, it was a job done from Sebastian Vettel, who managed to qualify ahead of both Alonso and Williams' George Russell. Having shown good pace in practice, Alfa Romeo couldn't take a step up as Antonio Giovinazzi missed out on a Top 10 finish.

Sainz: "No, no, not a gamble – just a compromised situation that we saw that we wanted to do the soft first and then beat the lap time on the medium, and then the track got a bit slower at the end of Q2. No one improved in the second run. And we had reserved the medium for the second run and normally it’s quicker but this time it was slower because the wind picked up, so we need to analyse what we could have done differently there because it obviously puts us on the back foot going into tomorrow. For the first 10 metres, yes the softs will work; after one corner, you want mediums. There’s one positive but a lot of negatives in that sense, so a bit on the back foot going into tomorrow. but we’ll try our best and see what we can do differently."

Ricciardo: “Q1 was probably the best lap of the session. It was where I felt probably the most comfortable. The medium, I didn’t feel that great. It was a little hairy, although I’m happy to start the race on that tyre, but on one lap I didn’t really get comfort on that. Then back to the softs in Q3 was better. So very close to Carlos, when the gap’s that small that’s definitely achievable but I think Charles was maybe two tenths up the road and I don’t think we had that in Q3. I want to say obviously we want to be ahead but we’re close enough to not be discouraged, and we’ll be the hunters tomorrow."

Leclerc: "Very happy with today and with the whole weekend to be honest," he began. "But especially with today, because, personally, it hasn’t been easy today. In FP3, the first run went very, very well, and then in the second run of FP3 we tried something and I lost completely the confidence in the car and I was struggling a lot with the rear end of the car. So in Q1, we decided to do a bit of a different plan, do it going for a bit more laps than usual, and that helped me gain the confidence back in the car. And then we went into Q2, did that great lap with the medium in the first run, which helped us to go into Q3 with those medium tyres – and Q3 went very well so very happy that both of our cars have outqualified the McLarens, which was the goal today."

Ocon: "I think 11th was the best we could have achieved today, so all in all I’m fairly happy with the effort. It’s been a tough weekend so far and we’ve not been in contention to reach Q3 and today we were just on the edge. We tried to go through Q2 on the mediums, and we weren’t too far away. Maybe on the softs we could have made it, but we stuck to our plan with tomorrow in mind. Everything was a team effort today with Fernando helping with the tow in Q2. It worked well, but it was not enough to progress to Q3. Anything can happen in the race and strategy will be crucial. We’ll remain positive and we will push hard for the race."

Giovinazzi: "Not a bad result in the end, we will be starting just outside the top 10 with a free choice of tyres, which can be an advantage as we saw that running with the softs is not easy. I’m happy with the job we have done today: my first lap in Q1 was good, enough to go through as I lost the rear on the exit of T1 in my second run. This time we got lucky, for a change! Our race pace wasn’t bad in practice, so let’s see how tomorrow goes. The aim is to drive into the points: we’ll analyse the different scenarios and hope to pull off a good first lap, which would help us fight for the top 10."

[Image courtesy: Ferrari] [Note: This story was written on FormulaRapida.net]

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