Sunday, 21 october 2018, 18:00 , by Matthew Scott
Lewis Hamilton will start his bid for a fifth world title at the United States Grand Prix from pole position, with Sebastian Vettel forced to fight from fifth on the grid. Vettel pushed Hamilton all the way at the Circuit of the Americas, but could not beat the Mercedes man, with a three-place grid penalty compounding his misery.
Vettel was just 0.061 seconds adrift of Hamilton's lap-record time of one minute 32.237 seconds, but a positive development for the German came in the shape of teammate Kimi Raikkonen going third-quickest.
Raikkonen will start on the front row alongside Hamilton but, crucially, will be on quicker tyres, having set his Q2 time on ultrasofts while Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Vettel opted for supersofts.
However, Raikkonen has not made up a place on the opening lap of a grand prix since 2016 and if Hamilton can hold off the early charge from the Finn he will soon set his sights on gaining the result he will need to secure title number five.
If he does secure victory, Vettel must follow him home in second place to take the title fight on to Mexico.
Daniel Ricciardo took an unsurprising fifth place, but Red Bull were frustrated as Max Verstappen broke his rear suspension in Q1, meaning he will be fighting through the field as he did at COTA last year.
The remaining top-10 places swapped hands regularly, but Esteban Ocon took sixth – another reminder of the talents which might not make it to F1 next year.
Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez round out the top 10.
Verstappen didn't run and the Toro Rossos of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly did not set times with grid penalties looming – a shame as Gasly suggested that the new Honda PU on board might have been good enough for 'best of the rest'. Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz – by two thousandths of a second – dropped out with them.
The McLarens and Williams pair joined by Marcus Ericsson gave the Q1 exits a familiar feel but the session was highlighted by Verstappen's costly run over the kerbs and Gasly's excellent lap.