Lewis Hamilton dominates COTA F1 qualifying for third USGP pole

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Lewis Hamilton gave his chances of clinching a fourth Formula 1 drivers’ championship at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix a boost by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

After leading all three practice sessions for Mercedes, Hamilton continued his domination of proceedings in Austin, Texas by posting the fastest time in each stage of qualifying, with each improvement delivering a new track record in the process.

Hamilton eventually turned in a best time of 1:33.108 in the final stage of qualifying to score his third USGP pole and 11th of the 2017 season, finishing two-tenths of a second clear of title rival Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari’s Vettel recovered from a sluggish start to Q3 to split the Mercedes drivers by taking second on the grid, making Hamilton’s task of wrapping up the title in Austin as difficult as possible.

Valtteri Bottas was left to take third in the sister Mercedes after failing to improve with his final Q3 lap, finishing ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Max Verstappen wound up sixth in the second Red Bull, but will drop to the rear of the field due to an engine penalty, with the team getting him through Q2 on super-soft tires to prepare accordingly.

Esteban Ocon finished as the top midfielder in P7 for Force India, while Carlos Sainz Jr. made an impressive start to life with Renault, qualifying eighth.

Sainz’s impressive result marked the first time Nico Hulkenberg had been beaten on a Saturday by his teammate all season. Hulkenberg took no part in Q2 due to a grid penalty, taking 15th overall.

Fernando Alonso wound up ninth for McLaren ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez, but both will gain a place thanks to Verstappen’s grid drop.

Felipe Massa narrowly missed out on a place in Q3 for Williams, finishing 11th ahead of Daniil Kvyat, who put in a solid display on his Toro Rosso return to take 12th.

Stoffel Vandoorne was unable to match Alonso’s efforts in the second McLaren, winding up 13th ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas. Vandoorne will drop to 18th for the start on Sunday thanks to a grid penalty for an engine change.

Marcus Ericsson almost led Sauber through to Q2 for the first time since Baku, finishing just 0.007 seconds away from making it into the next stage of qualifying as he wound up 16th for the Swiss team.

Lance Stroll was left to settle for 17th after struggling with a deployment issue through Q1, as well as irking Grosjean by blocking him on a hot lap, forcing the Haas driver to take to the grass.

Toro Rosso debutant Brendon Hartley qualified 18th for his F1 debut, but was less than one-tenth of a second off a Q2 berth, marking an impressive first showing from the 24 Hours of Le Mans winner.

Pascal Wehrlein and Kevin Magnussen finished well off the pace in P19 and P20 respectively, although both will gain places on the grid due to penalties for Hulkenberg and Hartley.

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

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”