Lewis Hamilton has claimed his 72nd career pole position at the Circuit of the Americas, setting a lap time of 1:32.108. The Briton will start from pole for the third consecutive time as he chases down his fourth world title.
"Yee-ha! The track was very difficult today with the wind picking up," exclaimed Hamilton. "You've got a headwind down to Turn One and through the fast section there was a tailwind, then a headwind through the nine - it was shifting through the lap. But that's why I love this track. It's a great circuit to drive especially with a car like that."
Hamilton's title rival Sebastian Vettel will start alongside him, as the Ferrari man managed to set a strong time in the dying embers of the session. Vettel's lap was just two-tenths of a second down on Hamilton's after it seemed Ferrari was massively behind in the first two qualifying sessions.
Valtteri Bottas was third, just under half a second down on his teammate. Daniel Ricciardo managed to outqualify his teammate Max Verstappen and will start from fourth on the grid. Verstappen, who qualifying sixth, will be knocked backwards after receiving a 15-place grid penalty earlier today.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth, and will be joined on the third row on Sunday by Esteban Ocon, who will move upwards thanks to Verstappen's penalty. On his first qualifying outing for Renault, Carlos Sainz managed to set the eighth fastest time in Q3. Sainz's compatriot Fernando Alonso got his McLaren into the final part of the session, and qualified in ninth. Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten.
The two Toro Rosso's and the two Sauber's were the first to emerge from the garages. Daniil Kvyat rounded the circuit and began his first lap, setting a 1:37.8, which was immediately beaten by Wehrlein by two tenths.
On his first qualifying session in Formula 1, Brendon Hartley put in an initial time of 1:38.1. More times were set by drivers up and down the grid, and Hamilton was the pole contenders to come out.
The Briton struggled on his first lap, running with the super soft tyre. He went P2, behind Ocon who set his time on the ultra softs. Vettel and Raikkonen also set times on the super soft, but it was Bottas who got the tyre to work quickest.
Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen were all over a second down on Bottas, but they managed to improve to secure themselves in Q2. Two incidents came under investigation after Lance Stroll blocked Romain Grosjean after Turn 19 and Kevin Magnussen impeded Perez in the middle sector.
Drivers out after Q1: Ericsson, Hartley, Wehrlein & Magnussen
There was no rush for many of the teams at the beginning of the session, with the two Mercedes' of Hamilton and Bottas out first to set a time on this weekend's uniquely pink ultra soft tyres. Hamilton's first lap set the new track record of a 1:33.56 with Bottas slightly down on his teammates time, on a 1:33.7 in two times surely good enough to see them through to the next session.
The deficit to the other teams in the pack between Mercedes and the others was much larger than many expected, with Vettel the closest to Hamilton’s time but a whole eight tenths away from Hamilton. The Red Bulls and Raikkonen were all seemingly a long way from the Mercedes. On the second runs the Ferraris did get closer to the Mercedes, with Raikkonen only two tenths away from Bottas’ time, but Hamilton seemed near untouchable in this session, a full 0.66 seconds ahead of championship rival Vettel.
The battle to get into Q3 was seemingly going to be between the McLarens, Force Indias, the Williams of Felipe Massa and Carlos Sainz’s Renault as it looked like Renault had opted against running Hulkenberg in the second session. It was extremely tight between this pack with only a small margin of a quarter of a second splitting Ocon in seventh and Alonso in eleventh after the first runs.
Drivers out after Q2: Massa, Kvyat, Vandoorne, Grosjean, & Hulkenberg
The pressure boiled up as the session drew to a close and qualifying entered its final stage. Ocon was the first to head out onto the track, followed by Hamilton. The rest of the drivers followed in the next minute, all but Sainz who had just one set of ultra softs remaining.
Hamilton set the initial pace, which read a 1:33.1. Bottas, who challenged Hamilton's sector one time, found himself losing time in the following sectors. His time was over four-tenths down on Hamilton's, before Vettel went a further seven-tenths down.
After the first rounds were completed, Sainz came out to set his lap while the track was empty. His lap put him ahead of Alonso and Perez, but all attention switched to the front to see if anyone could challenge Hamilton's provisional pole time.
In the end, nobody could, despite Vettel closing up on the 32-year-old. The Briton now holds the record for the most front row starts in Formula 1, going one clear of Michael Schumacher previous record of 117.
Fergal Walsh and Sam Gale
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Circuit de Catalunya - Winter testing
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