US GP qualifying: 6 things you need to know as Bottas bosses it at COTA
Lewis Hamilton could (and probably should) win the Formula 1 world championship this weekend at the United States Grand Prix, but he certainly didn’t have it all his own way in qualifying.
Here’s how they all finished and everything you need to know from the Saturday session at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas:
1. Bottas bosses it
Valtteri Bottas needs to win this race to have any hope of keeping the world championship fight alive into the next race in Brazil, and the Finn did everything asked of him today in qualifying by nailing his quali lap to seal pole position and give himself the best possible chance for tomorrow’s race.
The Mercedes man went about his business in typically unfussy style, pinning it on his first lap in Q3 – but now the big question is whether he can keep that place going into turn one in tomorrow’s race...
2. Merc break their duck
It seems incredible, but this is Mercedes’ first pole position since July.
The all-dominant Silver Arrows have been hoovering up race wins like they’re going out of fashion, but they haven’t been able to make it count on a Saturday since way back at the German Grand Prix in the very height of summer.
Bottas’ pole also brings Ferrari’s run of pole to an end – before today the Scuderia had six poles in a row, though they hadn’t managed to convert the last three into victories. With Sebastian Vettel starting from second place on the grid in Sunday’s race, will they have more luck from there and turn the tables on the Mercs?
3. Lewis is back in fifth
He only needs four points on Sunday to seal his sixth world championship title whatever Bottas does, but Lewis Hamilton had an unusually off-form session in Austin today. The Brit ended up fifth on the grid, ahead only of Alexander Albon of the top three team’s drivers and back among the front runners of the midfield.
It’s a tricky position for Hamilton, who will be anxious to keep out of trouble in tomorrow’s race – especially at the start – as he looks to close out this title.
4. It’s super tight at the top – and Max is right amongst it
The top four drivers – Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen and Leclerc – all qualified within little more than a tenth of a second of each other in three different cars. That should be great news for us fans when the race gets underway, and with Max Verstappen there in third and looking to be as racy as ever – and starting alongside his perennial rival Charles Leclerc – look out for fireworks into turn one when the lights go out on Sunday.
5. The battle hots up at McLaren
Coming into this race weekend the qualifying tally stood at 9-9 for Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. The Spanish driver has now taken the lead in that battle after the two Maccas had another excellent session, finishing best of the rest with Sainz in seventh and Norris just behind him in eighth. It’s yet another good run for the fallen giant who have been inching their way back towards the pointy end of the grid all season.
6. Pit lane start for Perez
Last week local hero Sergio Perez finished a superb best-of-the-rest seventh in the Mexican Grand Prix in front of him home fans.
The Racing Point driver will be hard pushed to repeat that result here in the US, as he will be starting the race from the pit lane – a penalty imposed on him after he failed to stop for the weigh bridge during Friday practice.