Hamilton prevails in tight battle for pole with Rosberg

2016 United States Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton took his ninth pole position of the 2016 season after a closely-fought battle with team mate Nico Rosberg.

The two Mercedes drivers achieved record-breaking pace at the Circuit of the Americas and made it through Q2 on soft tyres to give them a strategic advantage for the race.

vMax Verstappen, who qualified fourth behind team mate Daniel Ricciardo, will also start the race on the harder tyres.


United States GP qualifying in pictures
The first phase of qualifying was a straightforward affair as usual for the front runners. Hamilton lowered the fastest lap time of the weekend so far as he and Rosberg topped the times, followed by the Red Bull pair.

Nico Hulkenberg out-paced both Ferrari drivers and Sebastian Vettel made his frustration with his car’s lack of pace plain on the radio. But that would change in Q2.

Jenson Button was unhappy was well after his final lap was compromised by Jolyon Palmer at the last corner. The Renault driver’s engineer confessed on the radio he hadn’t noticed the McLaren, though his man secured a place in Q2 while Button dropped out.

He was joined by the other Renault of Kevin Magnussen and one each of the Haas and Sauber drivers: Romain Grosjean and Felipe Nasr. Both Manors were also eliminated in the first phase.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

17Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’38.308
18Kevin MagnussenRenault1’38.317
19Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’38.327
20Pascal WehrleinManor-Mercedes1’38.548
21Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’38.583
22Esteban OconManor-Mercedes1’38.806


As was widely expected Mercedes used the soft tyres in Q2, guaranteeing they will start the race on the harder tyres. Only one driver was able to beat them with the benefit of quicker super-soft tyres: Ricciardo, who beat Rosberg by less than a tenth of a second. A similar margin separated the Mercedes drivers after a slightly scruffy lap by Hamilton.

The only other driver to gamble on the softs was Max Verstappen. He got within six-tenths of a second of his team mate’s time to secure a place in Q3. That left him sixth as Ferrari revealed their true pace and Vettel cut his deficit to Ricciardo two just two-tenths of a second.

In the final flurry of laps Verstappen only lost one further place, to Nico Hulkenberg. However the second Force India of Sergio Perez missed the cut with his final run.

Both Williams drivers claimed a place in the final ten but the pair were out-paced by Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Toro Rosso.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’37.353
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’37.417
13Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Ferrari1’37.480
14Esteban GutierrezHaas-Ferrari1’37.773
15Jolyon PalmerRenault1’37.935
16Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’39.356


Rosberg missed the apex at turn one by some distance on his first lap and a trip along the exit kerb cost him two-tenths of a second in the first sector alone to Hamilton. But Rosberg delivered a superb final sector to finish within a tenth of his team mate after their final runs, setting up a spicy conclusion to the session.

On their second runs Hamilton was again untouchable in the first sector but Rosberg, running ahead of him, was fractionally quicker around the rest of the lap. He beat Hamilton’s provisional pole position effort, but behind him his team mate became the first driver to lap the Circuit of the Americas in less than 95 seconds. That secured his first ever pole position at the track.

Behind them the Red Bulls and Ferraris lined up with Ricciardo and Raikkonen winning their intra-team battles. Hulkenberg beat Valtteri Bottas to seventh after the Williams driver had a snap of oversteer at turn 19.

The second Williams of Felipe Massa was ninth ahead of Sainz, who nonetheless felt Toro Rosso could be pleased with making it into the top ten.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’34.999
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’35.215
3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’35.509
4Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’35.747
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’36.131
6Sebastian VettelFerrari1’36.358
7Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’36.628
8Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’37.116
9Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’37.269
10Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Ferrari1’37.326

2016 United States Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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55 comments on “Hamilton prevails in tight battle for pole with Rosberg”

  1. Honestly, the track limits is one of the biggest unmentioned thing in Formula One. Every single proper racing game punishes you harder than the real life version. How am I supposed to police track limits in league racing if the real guys can’t even set a proper example.

    1. Michael Brown (@)
      22nd October 2016, 21:01

      All you have to do is make sure you have people who are willing to do their jobs, unlike F1.

    2. @xtwl Indeed. This is one the areas iRacing is generally superior. Especially for qualifying. One instance going over track limits and your entire lap is invalidated. It works really well and is technically quite sound.

      Real life, they should simply enforce the white line. At least one wheel MUST be inside the white line else the lap is invalidated.

      Surely that’s not hard to enforce? No ambiguities, hard and clear line must not be crossed with all four wheels. No excuses in qualifying and only mitigating circumstances for analysis during a race.

      1. My worry about this overly restrictive approach to track limits is that it will be yet another nail in the coffin of flat out driving, especially in qualifying. If a driver hasn’t gained an advantage by going all four wheels outside of the track then I don’t think they should lose the time and an indiscriminate application of the penalty will only serve as a disincentive to push to the limits, the complete opposite of what I think most fans want to see.

        1. I know what you are saying Martin, but having arbitrary track limits is not creating an equal measure. How far over it can a driver go until it’s called a foul? The track should be clearly defined and enforced. Like the lines on a tennis court. They can be played right up to the limit, and the greatest players do just that. Go over and you lose.

          The same should be in effect for a race track and there is the white boundary line which defines the track. This should not be a matter of interpretation. A line is a line and it should not be crossed (by all four wheels). I don’t agree that this would result in less committed driving. The skill and the thrill is from maximum commitment whilst keeping it in track limits.

          1. Michael Brown (@)
            23rd October 2016, 2:00

            I say delete all times set by going off the track. In the race, give the drivers warnings, and sometimes they have justified reasons for going off the track (locking up, going over marbles).

            The answer is not the penalize drivers for going off track in practice, saying track limits apply to certain corners, and setting the track limit after the white line (Hockenheim and Hungary this year).

          2. @psynrg, Martin

            Grab turismo did a live time trial on the top gear track with Coulthard going up against online racers. All the best contestants got the fastest laps to within a couple tenths i.e. The time limit of the track within the track limits. Coulthard somehow managed to go 1 second quicker than everyone and then I realised he was cutting the first dink right leading to the back straight not least other limits around the track…

            I concluded that all the best drivers out there are actually cheating somehow xD

          3. SevenFiftySeven
            23rd October 2016, 14:41

            It all boils down to what disincentive drivers have to not cross the white line with all 4 wheels. In the early days, there were gravel traps and grass outside the rumble strips to punish drivers not getting their entries and exists right. Margin of error was low. Some drivers suffered, some were cautious (some very cautious) and then there were those that took corners 2-3 tenths faster than other drivers by driving on the absolute limit. There were often cases where drivers hit some grass on exit, had to massively correct the ensuing spin, and still get pole – that’s flat out driving, which was awesome to watch. So, I don’t agree that enforced track limit rules will kill flat-out driving. The main problem is the lack of disincentive to go off-track. A driver knows there are runoffs and will test how far he can push.

            We need something like the yellow curb used at Austria. Go there and you damage a part of the car, but still have enough run-off beyond that to not damage yourself.

          4. There were often cases where drivers hit some grass on exit, had to massively correct the ensuing spin, and still get pole – that’s flat out driving, which was awesome to watch. So, I don’t agree that enforced track limit rules will kill flat-out driving.

            But now they won’t get pole because that lap will be removed, even if it is obvious they gained no advantage. That is what I don’t like about this indiscriminate time removal. Someone does an incredible lap like you describe and could start 10th instead of third.

          5. *Or first even lol. That’s what I get for trying to write a post and have a conversation at the same time :)

        2. My worry about this overly restrictive approach to track limits is that it will be yet another nail in the coffin of flat out driving

          I’m not sure I understand how you came to this conclusion. A decade or two ago when all tracks had grass or gravel traps, your qualifying lap was ruined when you carried too much speed in a corner and was forced to leave the track limits. Even today a track like Monaco is still immediately punishing of these kind of mistakes. How enforcing track limits today would discourage flat out driving in a way it didn’t back in the days?

        3. How would it discourage flat out racing? It means the driver does not have the choice of just keeping his foot down. Every other sport has defining lines that are never bent to suit the teams. The FIA are scared of people complaining that 10 laps of qualifying were deleted and now they don’t have any tyres left to do a good run.Guess what, that’s exciting, if they mess up they are messing up big time. Do people forget that qualifying is all about settings 2 laps at most and pushing the car to the limit. There should be possibilities where it can go all wrong because of a driver error.

        4. What you’re saying doesn’t make sense. Things are simple: the fastest driver who can keep at least 2 wheels on-track takes the pole. Creating intentionally a breach in the regulations based on subjective stuff… like maybe they won’t push as hard as they could… it’s a big NO NO.

        5. retak, David, MG42….

          A decade or two ago when all tracks had grass or gravel traps, your qualifying lap was ruined when you carried too much speed in a corner and was forced to leave the track limits.

          Possibly your lap was ruined, but if you held it together you still got your lap time (see SevenFiftySeven’s post above). Now nothing.

          Even today a track like Monaco is still immediately punishing of these kind of mistakes.

          Yes and if you think drivers are as on the limit in Monaco as at other tracks then you are sorely mistaken.

          Guess what, that’s exciting

          I don’t follow how people losing times is exciting. You must have loved elimination qualifying!

          Do people forget that qualifying is all about settings 2 laps at most and pushing the car to the limit.

          We’ve had half a century of qualifying right? Very little of that has been about 2 lap shootouts.

          Things are simple: the fastest driver who can keep at least 2 wheels on-track takes the pole

          1 wheel.

          Creating intentionally a breach in the regulations based on subjective stuff

          Subjective? Where is the subjectivity? We have the 22 most tracked cars in the world. We have raw data there is no need for subjectivity. I’m arguing for objectivity.

          How would it discourage flat out racing?

          How enforcing track limits today would discourage flat out driving in a way it didn’t back in the days?

          Clearly I’ve hit a nerve here but I don’t think anything I said was particularly outrageous. The problem is there is no proportionality between the incident and punishment. No matter what happens people lose the time. You come across traffic in the wrong part of the lap and end up off track, lose the time. Gust of wind in the wrong place, lose the time. Hit a wet patch or marbles and get dragged out of the corner, lose the time. Not just lose a tenth or a quarter or a second you lose the whole lap. It greatly alters the risk/reward of being on the edge. That is my point and that is the difference between this proposal and “back in the day”

          I mean I’m not proposing that people drive wherever they want, nor that there shouldn’t be any punishment. All I’m saying is I wouldn’t want to see a driver lose a great time from an exciting lap for reasons beyond their control. To me that is not exciting in the slightest.

      2. Once a driver leaves the track with 4 wheels, a note flashes on their display to say their lap is invalidated.

        It really isn’t that hard.

  2. crash at the start confirmed?

    1. Hamilton would rather lose the lead than crash out. One can still fight back from second.

      1. Also if they find out that Rosberg deliberately crashes into Hamilton, disqualification could happend. So, even though Lewis has nothing to lose, Nico cannot do anything cheeky like his 2014 actions.

        1. Also there is always the risk that you crash out and your opponent is still able to continue. This is why I think both Rosberg and Hamilton will both be careful not to crash. Hope this will be an exciting race and the next races we will see another exciting world championship fight.

        2. well, not that I think he would do it, but if they did crash a it hurts Hamilton a lot more than it does Rosberg. 33pt lead with 3 races instead of a 33pt lead with 4 races. That said, the smart move for Ros is to just sit behind Lewis and collect 2nd place and the championship. Attacking at this stage is an unnecessary risk, but i hope he takes it.

        3. What actions were those?

    2. Verstappen vs Vettel vs Kimi?

  3. Yet again great stuff by Kimi. If we still think Vettel is the best man come quali, then Kimi must be 2nd best.

    1. I don’t believe anybody thinks like that anymore.

      Kimi was awful on qualys since his return. Most of the time he was bringing the car back to the position it should start the race on his Lotus years.

  4. I would love to see a comparison of Hamilton and Romberg’s laps, sector by sector. It appeared each of them were better in different sectors, particularly Hamilton in sector 1.

    1. Purely time-wise, there’s a sector breakdown on the FIA’s event and timing page.

    2. Sky F1 had di Resta showing a side by side @phylyp; Hamilton nailed the 1st corner and the esses, then Rosberg was very tidy and fast through s2.S3 seemed about equal between them (I think Rosberg won slightly there too?)

    3. @phylyp ultimate laptimes were within 0.057 of each other, IIRC. I think it’s a fair representation of the speed around here, it’s down to basically nothing. Hamilton got much tidier laps and deserved pole.

      1. Hamilton took pole by 2 tenths

    4. @neilosjames – thank you, I’d seen the sector times, but was looking for a video comparison.

      @bosyber & @stefanauss – cheers, I’ll check the Sky comparison. Having someone pause it at the apexes and explain it is easier for me, as I’m not that good at naturally spotting the differences in real time.

      It did feel like Rosberg lost pole at turn 1 and the esses, despite his good showing thereafter.

  5. Any details on what Hamilton reported (with his gears, I think) before starting that scorcher of a lap?

    1. Problem with shifts between six and seven but Hamilton reported in press conference there was no issue according to the team.

  6. A good performance by Palmer. Funny when push comes to shove i.e. Contract renewal, he suddenly starts out qualifying Magnusson. Does he suddenly look the better prospect for Renault?

    1. My guess is Renault are waiting to see. Palmer has been on more of a learning curve after all.

    2. Suddenly? In the past 8 races it has been 5-3 to Plamer

  7. Lewis Hamilton has now surpassed Alain Prost as the driver who got pole position at most different circuits with 23.

    1. Great stat! Although obviosly inflated by the high circuits turnover these days.

    2. @johnbeak – that is a cool stat 👍

  8. No trouble. Rosberg just needs a decent start and wait for Lewis to screw up his getaway. Failing that just stay within striking distance and keep the pressure on. I would be on full attacking mode, if they come together that’s to Rosberg’s advantage anyways. Got to be pragmatic about these things.

    1. if they come together that’s to Rosberg’s advantage anyways

      Unless it ends up like Austria. Rosberg is in a good position at the moment and he wants to avoid any more penalties from the stewards.

  9. Absolutely but the pressure is on Lewis. I wouldn’t be surprised if he mucks up his start tomorrow tbh. If he doesn’t Rosberg simply needs to stay in range and put the pressure where he can.

    1. There’s always pressure. Imagine if Rosberg lost now, from another big lead? If the Red Bulls put him in fourth? If he can’t stay within 1s of Lewis they could DRS him. Or if he went out with collision, or fell off again. Or took Lewis out on one of his dodgy impulses and the team sacked him or FIA threw him out of the championship a la 1997.
      Lewis can only win and see what happens, so we could argue that’s less pressure.
      Anyway all this talk is amusing but irrelevant. They’ll drive the cars as usual and if one has the advantage into a corner the other will cede as usual. The big risk is if they’re 3 wide into T1 and the outside cars can’t see each other. Eeek!

  10. Guybrush Threepwood
    22nd October 2016, 23:34

    At least we can see now what the two Red Bull drivers pace is when they have equal engines.

  11. Rosberg will crash Hamilton in one of the last 4 races, Hamilton if he stays ahead can just back Rosberg into Riccardo.

  12. I think Ham will just pip Ros at the start, Ric will follow Ham close enough to gain 2nd with Ves attempting another dive bomb on Ros.

    Will be nice to avoid any cars colliding in the first lap.

  13. I just got home from Quali (I live in Austin now). A couple of comments:
    1) It was a great show and Hamilton crushed the track record Vettel set back in 2012 with the V8’s. So the new cars are fast enough.
    2) The sound is for total crap. Back in the V8/V10 days, you FELT the track and the stands vibrating from the power of the engines. Then they went to the V6 and it was quiet, but you could catch all kinds of nuances in the cars, when the braking kicked in, the KERS, etc. And you could distinguish every engine type from another by their sound.

    Now, they’ve gone to the artificial noise which makes them *marginally* louder but not enough to FEEL the power around you. And too loud to talk to anyone or hear the nuance of the different manufacturer’s engines…the “loud” is more like some annoying child with a bull horn going “vrooooooooom” in your ear and every stupid car sounds exactly the same: like crap.

    Congratulations F1…you found the perfect solution to sound like crap to everyone. Bernie must be very happy now.

    Terribly disappointing to be trackside now. Sigh.

    1. Yep @daved, exactly what I thought at Melbourne this year. Loved this engine sound in previous seasons and the way you could tell who was about come around the corner – you could even tell the difference between different teams using the same engine. This year, however, was monotonous. They’ve flattened out the peaks and troughs of the engines to a dull greyness.

      I’m not totally convinced that it’s the “artificial” sound or just engine design – especially the turbos – converging. Whatever has caused it, it is very disappointing.

      1. @juan-fanger you’re exactly right. My wife is true car lover and when we’re walking around she can hear a car coming and without even turning around she can say: Here comes a Lambo or that’s a Ferrari, etc. I’ve never seen her miss.

        Today she turned around and looked at me and said: “They all sound…gray. They all sound exactly alike and even the low rumble of the Honda is gone. How did they screw this up?”

        1. If fairness, given the outcry they absolutely had to act on the sound issue.

          1. @mikek

            I see your point, but I don’t agree. People were slowly becoming use to the sound and the whining was starting to go away. Once the performance of the cars was equal to or better than the V8 era, then most people would have moved on to some other issue.

            It was mainly the *perception* that the lower sound levels was somehow tied to slower lap times and the whole idea that the engines were not as good that made the noise a rallying cry for the nostalgia crowd.

            Just wait another 10 years when they have the ERS unit putting out 400kW and the ICE engine only contributing another 300-400kW and those cars will be very quiet. With the progress of the batteries now it will get to that point and I’m just being realistic and looking at the technology trends.

    2. The 2009-2013 V8s sounded equally rubbish in my opinion. V12s and V10s sound amazing. It’s a shame that the sound is not part of Formula 1 anymore. @daved

      1. @ultimateuzair
        Yes, I agree. I was never a fan of the sound of the V8’s, but it seemed to make enough people happy simply because they were somewhat loud. To me they were more “screetching”.

  14. Yeah, you hit it right buddy.All Nico has to do is just retain the 2nd place in the remaining races and that’s it.He don’t have to put that much Herculean effort.Moreover, the odds are slim that Nico could suffer any engine breakdown or car failure.2016 WDC-Nico Roseberg.

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