Ricciardo gave his all, and is rewarded with front row start

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Daniel Ricciardo equalled his best-ever qualifying result in Formula 1 today at the Chinese Grand Prix with second place, but he could not catch pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton as he gave everything he could in the wet conditions.

The Australian driver lined up in second place at the first race of the season in Melbourne, but he was disqualified after finishing second on track due to a fuel irregularity. After scoring his first points for Red Bull in Bahrain, Ricciardo is looking to secure his first podium finish in Formula 1 this weekend in China, but his first pole was just out of reach on Saturday.

“I couldn’t have got anything extra out of the car on that last lap, I got everything I could out of it,” Ricciardo explained. “For that I’m pleased and I got rewarded with a front row place for tomorrow.

“It took a while to get going in the session today, I didn’t have the comfort or pace that I was aiming for, but I got it at the end. I feel like I’m ready to get a good result, I know it’s never going to be easy but I’m prepared for the fight tomorrow and I’ll embrace it.”

The rain-affected qualifying session on Saturday did appear to give Red Bull more of a chance of denying Mercedes a fourth straight pole position, but ultimately Hamilton had the edge on his rivals. Ricciardo even had one more run than the Briton, yet it was not enough as he finished six-tenths of a second behind the pole-sitter.

By finishing second, Ricciardo outqualified illustrious teammate Sebastian Vettel for the third time in four races. Despite some concerns about his suitability for Red Bull after finishing no higher than seventh in two seasons with Toro Rosso, the young Australian has already settled in and proven himself at the champion team.

“I couldn’t have settled into the team any better to be honest,” he said. “They made me feel at home very quickly and it’s helping me. I’m really enjoying the driving and it seems to be showing with the results.”

How Hamilton, Mercedes can clinch F1 titles at the United States GP

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Sunday’s United States Grand Prix could go down as a memorable race in Formula 1 history as both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bid to clinch their fourth world championships (live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET).

Hamilton gave his chances of wrapping up the drivers’ title and re-claiming the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg in 2016 a world of good by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

However, with chief rival Sebastian Vettel starting second for Ferrari and a 16-point swing required, it seems likely that the title race could continue to next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, here are the permutations for Lewis Hamilton to win his fourth F1 world title on Sunday in Austin, Texas.

  • If Lewis Hamilton wins the race (25 points) and Sebastian Vettel finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points), he is world champion.
  • If Hamilton finishes second (18 points), Sebastian Vettel finishes ninth or lower (maximum two points), and Valtteri Bottas does not win the race, he is world champion.

While Hamilton’s coronation seems likely to be postponed until the next race in Mexico, Mercedes looks nailed-on to wrap up its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship in Sunday’s USGP.

The German marque currently leads Ferrari by 145 points in the teams’ standings, and requires a lead of 129 after the race to clinch the crown.

As a result, a double top-four finish from Hamilton and Bottas would be enough for Mercedes to wrap up the title, regardless of how Ferrari fares.

The success would see Mercedes become just the fourth team in F1 history take four straight constructors’ titles, following Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.