Lewis Hamilton stormed to his first pole position at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix on Saturday, edging out Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg by two-tenths of a second.
Hamilton entered the USGP weekend trailing Rosberg by 33 points in the drivers’ championship, but remained the favorite for victory after his three previous wins at COTA.
However, Hamilton had never started on pole in Austin, offering a statistical anomaly that the Briton sought to rectify on Saturday afternoon.
Rosberg and Hamilton were neck-and-neck throughout qualifying, only for the latter to pull ahead with their first runs in Q3, going 0.072 seconds clear.
Rosberg rallied with his final Q3 lap to take provisional pole, but Hamilton managed to dig deep and produce a lap of 1:34.999 to wrestle P1 away at the checkered flag.
Rosberg was left to settle for second place, while Daniel Ricciardo finished as the best of the rest for Red Bull in third, half a second off Hamilton’s P1 time. Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen qualified fourth.
Both Mercedes drivers were able to make it through to Q3 on the soft compound tire, as was Verstappen, opening up the possibility of a one-stop race for the trio on Sunday.
Ferrari had a difficult session as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel finished over a second off the pace, leaving them fifth and sixth respectively on the grid.
Nico Hulkenberg continued his run of top-10 finishes at COTA over the race weekend, qualifying seventh, while Force India teammate Sergio Perez ailed to P11 after being knocked out in Q2.
Valttei Bottas and Felipe Massa were eighth and ninth for Williams after electing to run just once in Q3, while Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded out the top 10.
Fernando Alonso was McLaren’s sole representative in Q2 after seeing Jenson Button fall early in Q1. Alonso could not make it through to Q3, though, with late laps from the Williams pair leaving him 12th on the grid.
Like Perez, Daniil Kvyat was unable to match the pace of his teammate, finishing three-tenths of a second shy of Toro Rosso teammate Sainz in Q2 to finish 13th.
Haas F1 Team’s first qualifying session on American soil failed to live up to expectations of the home crowd as it failed to get both cars through to Q2 for the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix. Romain Grosjean was knocked out in Q1, qualifying 17th, leaving Esteban Gutierrez to fly the star-spangled banner alone in Q2, where he finished 14th.
Jolyon Palmer made it through to Q2 for Renault after an impressive first run in Q1, failing to improve on his second lap that he called a “f***ing disaster” over the radio. A sole attempt in Q2 left him 15th on the grid ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who opted against a proper qualifying run after making it into the second session.
Kevin Magnussen qualified 18th for Renault ahead of a disgruntled Button, who risked an early run on soft tires at first in Q1 before McLaren mistimed his last flying lap that left him with traffic at the final corner in the form of Palmer.
Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon endured a fairly routine qualifying for Manor, finishing P20 and P22 respectively as Felipe Nasr slotted into 21st for Sauber, failing to match the pace of Ericsson ahead.
The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC from 2:30pm ET on Sunday.