Nico Rosberg has stormed to pole position for the 2014 United States Grand Prix after beating teammate Lewis Hamilton when it mattered in the final part of Q3 in Austin today.
Hamilton had dominated practice at the Circuit of The Americas, but fell three-tenths of a second short when it mattered at the end of Q3 after Rosberg produced a stunning lap time of 1:36.067 to claim his ninth pole position of the year.
After a cold morning in Austin, conditions began to warm up as qualifying got underway. Most of the drivers opted to head out in Q1 with the medium compound tire fitted at first, with some of the slower runners opting to immediately take up the pace advantage in the session. This allowed Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil to move into the top ten early on, but for their fastest laps, all of the drivers were on the option tire.
At the very front of the field, it was business as usual for Mercedes as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton went P1 and P2 at the halfway stage in Q1. Ultimately, it was Hamilton who won out, finishing six-tenths of a second clear of the field.
Sebastian Vettel will be starting tomorrow’s race from the pit lane, meaning that qualifying was essentially a glorified practice session for the defending world champion. He eventually finished Q1 down in 17th place, having spent the majority of the session sat in the pits.
Jean-Eric Vergne did his hopes of being retained by Toro Rosso little good by qualifying 15th and dropping out in Q1. The Frenchman was joined by his compatriot, Romain Grosjean, and Esteban Gutierrez in the dropzone. Both Pastor Maldonado and Adrian Sutil managed to get through to Q2 with relative ease in spite of their struggles this year.
Mercedes continued to lead the way during the second part of qualifying, with Nico Rosberg setting the early pace despite complaining over oversteer on his car. Hamilton ran him close with his first run, falling two-tenths of a second short due to locking up under braking.
The problem persisted for Hamilton, forcing him to take to the pits and lose his second run. Rosberg managed to find another eighth-tenths of a second though, giving him an advantage of almost one second come the end of the session.
After impressing in Q1, Sutil and Maldonado continued their good form in Q2 to finish 10th and 11th respectively. Although this meant Maldonado did not advance to the final session, he still secured his best qualifying result of the season, finishing ahead of Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniil Kvyat. With a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change, Kvyat will start the race from the back of the grid.
The final fight for pole position saw Rosberg take the early advantage, going 0.161 seconds faster than Hamilton with his first lap in Q3. The German driver went faster in all three sectors to pull clear of his teammate and put himself on provisional pole, with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa over half a second adrift in third and fourth place for Williams.
On his final flying lap, Rosberg managed to go fastest of all in each of the three sectors at COTA to pull out another two-tenths of a second on Hamilton, leaving the Briton helpless. He was unable to improve, meaning that he finished some three-tenths of a second adrift of his teammate.
Williams’ strong qualifying form continued in Austin as Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa locked out the second row of the grid in third and fourth place, finishing ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
The McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen qualified seventh and eighth place respectively, but the former will drop five places on the grid due to a grid penalty. Kimi Raikkonen and Adrian Sutil rounded out the top ten in Austin, with this being the latter’s best qualifying result since the 2013 British Grand Prix.
After a difficult run of form, Nico Rosberg was delighted to secure his ninth pole position of the season in Austin, beating his teammate soundly when it mattered. Hamilton may have enjoyed the advantage in practice, but qualifying was all about Rosberg.
Of course, there are no points awarded on a Saturday though, and the stage is set for a thrilling battle between Rosberg and Hamilton in Austin on Sunday in the United States Grand Prix.