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.
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
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
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’37.353|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’37.480|
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
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1’35.509|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1’35.747|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1’36.628|
|10||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’37.326|
2016 United States Grand Prix
- Austin defeat in 2015 spurred Rosberg on to title
- Alonso beats Sainz to Driver of the Weekend win
- Verstappen “on autopilot” during pit stop error
- Virtual Safety Car blamed for US GP anti-climax
- 2016 United States Grand Prix team radio transcript