Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

Hamilton on pole after Ferrari battle in Austin

2018 United States Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the 2018 United States Grand Prix after trading lap records with Kimi Raikkonen throughout the sessions.

A grid penalty for Sebastian Vettel means he will begin the race from fifth, despite setting the second-fastest qualifying time, just six-hundredths of a second off Hamilton.


Drivers had been warned that track times would be deleted if they exceeded track limits, especially at turn 19, however, this seemed more harshly enforced in Q1 than it had been in final practice with several drivers losing times early on in the session.

Hamilton, who had been behind both Ferraris in dry-running final practice took an early lead to the session with a 1’34.130 that would ultimately top Q1 times. However, it looked as though he might have compromised his running by exceeding track limits despite keeping the time.

Max Verstappen rolled back to the pits with five minutes to go, having hit a sausage kerb beyond track limits at turn 15 and breaking his rear suspension. Hamilton was also asked to return to the pits by his engineer, having run off in the same position but seemed to be able to continue.

The final laps of the session saw Fernando Alonso first save himself out of elimination, then be pushed back into the bottom five by a tremendous lap from both Toro Rosso drivers. Pierre Gasly managed to go seventh, which Brendon Hartley couldn’t equal but still managed a handful of thousandths of a second to put Alonso back to 16th.

Both Williams, Marcus Ericsson and Stoffel Vandoorne joined him in leaving qualifying during this phase.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Renault1’35.294
17Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’35.362
18Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’35.480
19Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’35.536
20Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’35.735


Raikkonen topped the session early with a new lap record at Circuit of the Americas, setting 1’32.884 on ultra soft tyres. Teammate Vettel managed a 1’33.079 on super softs, the same tyres of the Mercedes in third and fourth.

Hamilton, in fourth at the time with nine and a half minutes to go in the session, was told to go for another lap. Attempting to qualify Q2 on the super softs to give themselves more strategic options for the race tomorrow meant Raikkonen was able to keep the top time for the session, with Vettel just under two tents behind on the super softs in second.

Mercedes sent back out with ultra soft tyres with less than two and a half minutes to go but neither driver improved their times.

Of the drivers eliminated, Verstappen never set a time during the session after retiring from Q1 with rear suspension damage and both Toro Rossos were not aiming for times in this session, knowing that they will start from the back of the grid due to power unit element usage penalties.

Sainz was unable to beat teammate Hulkenberg, starting eleventh and two thousandths of a second back but with tyre choice for the start of the Grand Prix.

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Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Carlos SainzRenault1’34.566
12Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’34.732
13Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-HondaNo time
14Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-HondaNo time
15Max VerstappenRed Bull-RenaultNo time


Hamilton took provisional pole with just under eight minutes to go in the session on another new lap record of 1’32.567. Vettel responded with a 1’32.655, just eight hundredths off the Mercedes.

With 90 seconds of the session to go, Raikkonen radio’d into his garage to say that he could feel rain. Despite this, he set a new lap record and provisional pole at 1’32.307.

Hamilton, on his final lap, improved the times further to re-take the lap record and guarantee pole with a 1’32.237, six hundredths ahead of Vettel’s final time.

The Ferrari driver’s grid penalty (for infringement of red flag requirements during a practice session) means that he will start the race from P5, having missed out on a final potential grid place by just sixty thousandths of a second.

Ocon led the rest of the grid, beating Nico Hulkenberg to sixth place by seven hundredths, about half a second back from fifth-place Daniel Ricciardo.

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Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’32.237
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’32.298
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’32.307
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1’32.616
5Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’33.494
6Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’34.145
7Nico HulkenbergRenault1’34.215
8Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’34.250
9Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’34.420
10Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’34.594

2018 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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26 comments on “Hamilton on pole after Ferrari battle in Austin”

  1. Nice write up. I note Hazel is more fair-minded than Keith about Raikkonen.

    1. Thank you!

      Although I am definitely quite unreasonable about Raikkonen myself so have clearly been suppressing it well!

  2. Congrats Lewis on your 81st pole position. Great Lap!

  3. Nice tactic from RB having the two TRs go at it one more time to have Max gain two places. Good damage control-call. Another benefit of having two extra cars in the running.

    1. They have grid penalties due to equipment changes. Nothing to do with Ver.

      1. But it does have to do with VER. Drivers who have those kind of penalties usually only go out once, do one flying lap in Q1 to qualify within the 107%-rule. But bc of Max, they had the TR-drivers on a mission, namely to beat P16+P17. If they hadn’t , Max would have to start 15th.
        Do you get it now?

        1. Sure mate, normally they would never try to beat p16/17 :rolleyes:

          1. Indeed, they wouldn’t. They would be sent to the back of the grid anyway. So why do anything that would potentially hurt your race pace, like using up tyres, engine life, putting yourself at risk etc etc? Just look at how everybody else dealt with being given such a back-to-the-grid-penalty.
            Do you get it now? :rolleyes:

  4. Brendon Hartley – Sauber Ferrari. Really?
    Congrats to Lewis for his 81st pole. He keeps doing this time and time again. He’s in a league of his own and Bottas, well, just can’t keep up with him.

    1. Pierre Gasly – Williams-Mercedes
      Max Verstappen – McLaren-Renault
      Yes, really, hh

    2. @lems oof – entirely my fault for trying to get to clever with some format coding.

      1. Understood. Sometimes it can mess up an otherwise excellent piece

  5. Highplains rider
    21st October 2018, 0:15

    Didn’t Hamilton exceed track limits on his final lap? Why wasn’t his lap erased?

  6. Very tight session.
    It would be much tighter if Vettel was still on contention instead of fighting to avoid losing it as early as tomorrow.

  7. I see three Williams, three McLarens, three Saubers, one Red Bull and no Toro Rosso’s. Was there a massive shake up in teams that I’m not aware of?

  8. Goat-esque!
    Hope the win is bagged tomorrow!

  9. Silly season was crazy as seen from the tables above

  10. If Kimi starting P2 on stickier rubber can jump Lewis at the start he might just be able to hold him up until Seb Can fick up a few spots.
    He might even be allowed to win the race! naaa…

  11. It was funny to see Ferrari strangely satisfied with P2 and P3. Sebastian didn’t look too downbeat, and Mauricio also cracked a smile with the pit wall. Find it odd that they’re not disappointed not to put it on pole, or manage a front row lockout despite having the car to do so.

    1. The championship is over so I suppose they enjoy the competition.

      1. @panagiotism-papatheodorou

        I think they’re happy not to get too embarrassed. Kind of sad actually.

  12. So Gasly, Hartley, and Verstappen suddenly changed teams for Q2, LOL.

  13. Nice performance from Ocon. Whatever happens off track, he still puts good performance on track.

  14. Ham proving himself yet again. Merc wouldn’t have won the championships this year without him IMO. 6 hundredths! Nice.

  15. Once again the change to the Ferrari floor design is telling.

    This time the reason for this last minute change is apparently to undo a previous ‘upgrade’. If that’s true then that ‘upgrade’ would have been just before the qualifiers in Singapore, which of course makes no sense.

    What seems more likely is they were given the green light to revert to a previously illegal floor design, presumably as a last minute spoiler for Hamilton in the US.

    If they can’t win fairly then their tactics, it would seem is to spoil.
    Once again they did factor in Hamilton’s will to win.

  16. “did” == ‘did not’

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