Lewis Hamilton took a big step toward earning his fifth Formula One championship on Saturday, qualifying No. 1 for Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Hamilton and his Mercedes have won five of the previous six U.S. Grand Prix’s held at COTA, including the last four races there.
The Great Britain native comes into Sunday’s race leading the F1 point standings and is seeking to tie Juan Manuel Fangio for second-most F1 career championships. Michael Schumacher has the most with seven crowns.
Sebastian Vettel is Hamilton’s sole remaining challenger for the title, trailing Hamilton by 67 points with four races to go, including Sunday’s race.
Vettel must win Sunday’s race or finish within seven points of Hamilton to prevent the latter from winning the title and pushing a possible clinching scenario to next week in Mexico.
Vettel qualified second Saturday, but due to a red-flag three-position grid penalty sustained during Friday’s morning practice, will start fifth on Sunday’s grid.
As a result of Vettel’s penalty, Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start alongside Hamilton on the front row for Sunday’s race.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Vallteri Bottas, will start third, while Daniel Ricciardo will start fourth.
Rounding out the top 10 were Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez.
Here’s how qualifying played out:
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:34.755||1:34.185||1:33.494||14|
|6||31||Esteban Ocon||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:34.876||1:34.522||1:34.145||18|
|9||16||Charles Leclerc||SAUBER FERRARI||1:35.069||1:34.255||1:34.420||17|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:35.193||1:34.525||1:34.594||17|
|13||10||Pierre Gasly||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:34.850||DNS||13|
|14||28||Brendon Hartley||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:35.206||DNS||13|
|15||33||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:34.766||4|
|17||35||Sergey Sirotkin||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:35.362||6|
|18||18||Lance Stroll||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:35.480||8|
|19||9||Marcus Ericsson||SAUBER FERRARI||1:35.536||8|