Lewis Hamilton scores career pole number 81 at Circuit of Americas
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News October 20, 2018 Updated: 6:16 PM PT
AUSTIN, Texas — After a rain-soaked Friday practice, conditions improved at Circuit of the Americas during Saturday's qualifying which saw Lewis Hamilton take his 81st pole position as the stage is set for Sunday’s race which could decide the championship.
It will be an uphill battle for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel as he starts from fifth after receiving a three-place grid penalty during Friday’s practice. This leaves Vettel where he must finish second or better if he wants to continue to challenge for the championship.
Hamilton also takes his ninth pole of the season and third pole at Circuit of the Americas, ending qualifying with a paper-thin margin to Sebastian Vettel leaving just 0.061s between the two drivers.
That was close,” said Hamilton. “These guys have... I didn’t know how close it was going to be once we got to qualifying, but once we got to the last run I knew it was quite edgy between us and that it was going to require solid laps. The first one was decent, but not good enough, and the second one was just that little better and enabled me to pull that out. You know there have been some races where I’ve not actually done a better time and I’ve had to bail out of the second lap, so I was very, very adamant that today I was going to do a better second lap, so I’m very happy with that.”
Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified third, will move up to second along with Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas who will now start third.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo will get a bump moving to fourth after qualifying fifth but lost teammate Max Verstappen who was forced to retire from the first round of qualifying after running wide on the exit of Turn 15 damaging his rear suspension.
Ricciardo made the last of the four drivers that will start tomorrow's race on the super-soft (red stripe) tire.
However, with no dry running yesterday and very little dry data gathered in the final practice, teams will be stepping into the unknown in tomorrow's race.
With Vettel in fifth place, Force India driver Esteban Ocon will start sixth ahead of the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg in seventh.
Romain Grosjean made the only Haas to qualify inside the top ten for the American team followed by Sauber’s Charles Leclerc in ninth. Sergio Perez secured the tenth and final points position in the second Force India.
Hulkenberg’s Renault teammate Carlos Sainz will start 11th ahead of the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen in 12th.
After being forced to retire and starting 15th, Verstappen will move up to 13th after engine penalties are applied to Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and teammate Brendon Hartley, who qualified 12th and 13th.
The penalties will move McLaren’s Fernando Alonso to 14th along with the Williams pair of Sergey Sirotkin and teammate Lance Stroll in 15th and 16th.
Marcus Ericsson will start 17th ahead of the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne in 18th with Gasly and Hartley in 19th and 20th.