Verstappen ends Mercedes' US pole dominance as Hamilton predicts thriller

By Sports Desk October 23, 2021

Max Verstappen took pole for the United States Grand Prix to end a Mercedes stranglehold – but the championship leader will have Lewis Hamilton for company on the front row at Sunday's race in Austin.

The Red Bull star knocked Hamilton off first place in the fading moments of qualifying, and his Mercedes title rival could not pull off a sufficiently quick final lap to snatch back top spot.

It means Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles in the US is over, reflecting the challenge they have faced, particularly from Verstappen, this season.

Setting aside immediate disappointment, Hamilton said: "It's good positioning for tomorrow, so hopefully it'll be a good race down to turn one."

Hamilton said the spectactors at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin could be in for a treat.

"The mindset is to win the race and give these guys the best race they've seen," said the British driver.

"I gave it everything. Today was a bit of a struggle through qualifying. I was happy with my last lap, of course there's always areas that we can improve but I think that's pretty much everything we had. We'll work hard tomorrow."

The seven-time world champion has won this race a record six times, and only in Hungary, Great Britain (both eight) and Canada (seven) has Hamilton enjoyed more race victories in Formula One. He has also sealed titles twice in Austin, but this year's campaign could go down to the wire.

Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez took third place on the grid, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc will also start on the second row. Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth quickest but must serve a five-place grid penalty after an engine change.

Satisfied with his Saturday shift, Verstappen said: "It was quite exciting out there. In Q3 [the third qualifying session] my first lap wasn't amazing, but in the final lap it started spitting, drizzle in the last sector especially.

"I was not sure I was going to hang on to my lap time, but it was enough and of course to put a lap time in and be on pole position, but also to be on P1 and P3 as a team, I think was a very strong performance."

He will relish another battle with Hamilton, and said: "I guess that's what people like. From here onwards we of course hope to have a good start and work together as a team to get the best possible result."

Mexican Perez, whose high ranking on the grid was a popular one with spectators, said his position was perhaps "not too relevant", given the long race ahead, but added: "I'm looking forward to it."

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel and the Alpine duo of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were among those to go no further than the second round of qualifying, with the Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari and AlphaTauri teams also sending two drivers through to Q3.

Verstappen holds a slender six-point lead over Hamilton in the drivers' championship after a handy second-place finish in Turkey two weeks ago, when his title rival finished only fifth.
 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:32.910
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.209 seconds
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.224
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.565
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.696
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.882
7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0.898
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.997
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.208
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +2.008

*Bottas must serve five-place grid penalty

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