Hamilton digs deep to take Austin pole


Max Verstappen led a Red Bull 1-2 in this morning's session, though to be fair Nico Rosberg aborted his Q3 sim lap and Lewis Hamilton simply ran out of time.

On the other hand, the Red Bull duo has looked good all weekend thus far, Daniel Ricciardo impressing his long runs on Friday.

While Kimi Raikkonen wasn impressive third, teammate Sebastian Vettel only completed 8 laps having suffered a gearbox issue around halfway through the session.

A red flag due to Pascal Wehrlein's departure into the kitty litter cost ten minutes of running, but it was almost worth it to hear the exchange between the German and his engineer, the youngster receiving the sort of stern word usually reserved for one's mother.

With Mercedes yet to show its hand - though we got a fair glimpse yesterday - it remains to be seen whether Red Bull really can challenge for pole, even so, tomorrow will be another case entirely.

As expected the Force Indias are looking good, certainly better than arch rivals Williams, while McLaren might also get a car into Q3.

A late charge saw Jolyon Palmer improve to twelfth, while the Haas duo had a slightly better session than yesterday's nightmare.

Though newly retained by Toro Rosso for 2017, along with teammate Daniil Kvyat, it was a somewhat flat morning for Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard suffering two punctures. Having suffered a puncture to his left and right rear the second failure - which drew a WTF from the driver - was followed by chaotic scenes in the garage where Pirelli technicians jostled with Toro Rosso engineers and even the FIA's Jo Bauer as they sought the cause.

With this being a wide track at all pints - well, it is Texas - pole isn't as vital here as it at some tracks. Nonetheless, one would rather start from the front row than have to begin the race by picking off the opposition. Then again, despite the width of the track drivers are still abusing the track limits even if it means a bone rattling ride over the kerbs.

We are expecting both Red Bull and Mercedes to attempt to make it through to Q3 on the soft tyre as opposed to the supersoft.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 23 degrees C, while the track temperature is 33 degrees.

Wehrlein is first out, followed by Ocon and Perez.

Wehrlein gets things underway with a 39.319, as Hamilton heads down the pitlane on supersofts.

Ericsson posts 39.017 and teammate Nasr 39.703, making Wehrlein the meat in a Sauber sandwich.

The Haas duo doing a Ferrari, giving one another a tow on the various straights. However, it only works for Grosjean who posts 38.520 to go quickest, Gutierrez can only manage 51.317.

Nasr reports that his brakes "don't feel right" as Hamilton goes quickest with a 36.296. Moments later Rosberg goes second with a 36.397.

"I need more information quickly, come on, come on," urges Palmer referring to track position and traffic. His engineer is clearly flustered.

Verstappen posts 36.613 to go third and teammate Ricciardo goes fourth (36.759).

Raikkonen goes fifth and Vettel sixth, both struggling in the infamous T19.

Hulkenberg leapfrogs both Ferraris with a 36.950 while teammate Perez can only manage 8th (34.345).

With 5:50 remaining, Gutierrez, Ocon, Wehrlein, Ericsson, Button and Nasr comprise the drop zone.

Palmer goes thirteenth with an impressive 38.084.

Button, Ericsson and Nasr have the track to themselves as they attempt to escape the drop zone. Sadly, only the Briton appears to have the equipment needed to do the job.

All running thus far has been on the supersofts.

A PB in S1 for Button, the Briton maintaining the pace into S2. At the line he posts 38.327 to go sixteenth, his final sector, in particular, hampered by traffic.

Nasr fails to improve but Ericsson does, posting 38.040 to go 13th, thereby demoting button to the drop zone.

Magnussen improves to sixteenth, but a late charge from Gutierrez drops the Dane to seventeenth.

Grosjean fails to improve, a massive blow to Haas at its home grand prix.

Button complains about Palmer saying he cost him time in T20, while the Renault driver is none too happy with his team for sending him out when it did. "That was a ******* disaster," storms Palmer. Nonetheless, he made the cut.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Rosberg, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Vettel, Perez, Massa and Bottas.

We lose Grosjean, Magnussen, Button, Wehrlein, Nasr and Ocon.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Austin, here.

Hamilton and Rosberg get Q2 underway, both on the softs. They are followed by Perez who is on the supersofts.

"Now we get to the interesting bit," admits Pirelli. "There could be an advantage in starting the race on soft. But supersoft is a second per lap faster."

The Silver Arrows pair trade fastest sectors. Rosberg posts 36.351 - on the softs remember - while Hamilton posts 36.450.

Verstappen heads out on the softs while teammate Ricciardo is on the supers. We might see Ferrari try a similar split strategy.

We don't. Vettel and Raikkonen are both fitted with the supers.

Perez goes third 1.227s off the pace.

A 37.350 sees Bottas go third (37.350) but he is demoted when Ricciardo goes quickest with a 36.255.

As Raikkonen goes quickest in S1, Verstappen goes fifth overall (36.857) on the softs. The Dutch driver is demoted when Raikkonen stops the clock at 36.584 to take fifth, Vettel having claimed fourth with a 36.462.

"Interestingly, Red Bull has a strong history of splitting strategies," admits Pirelli, "probably to try and disrupt plans of Mercedes in the race."

With 5:10 remaining only Ericsson is on track, the Swede, like Massa, Gutierrez and Palmer, yet to post a time.

Currently eighth, Bottas opts to head out again, as do the force India duo and Alonso.

Ericsson posts 39.356 to go 13th.

Alonso posts a PB in S1, but Bottas and Perez are quicker.

The Spaniard improves to ninth with a 37.417, but is it enough?

Perez goes ninth (37.353) and Sainz eighth, thereby consigning Alonso to the scrapheap that is Q2.

Massa improves as does teammate Bottas, which is bad news for Perez and arch rivals Force India.

Quickest was Ricciardo, ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Sainz, Bottas and Massa.

We lose Perez, Alonso, Kvyat, Gutierrez, Palmer and Ericsson.

The lights go green for Q3 and Rosberg is first out of the blocks, followed by Hamilton and Verstappen.

At the start of his flying lap Rosberg runs wide in T1. Indeed, Hamilton is quicker in the first sector.

The Briton maintains the pace in S2, and while Rosberg posts 35.442 at the line his teammate stops the clock at 35.370. A strong final sector from the German.

Verstappen goes third (36.004) ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen, however a 35.928 demotes all three as the Australian takes third.

With 5:13 remaining there are just six names on the doors, Hulkenberg, Sainz and the Williams duo clearly going for a single run.

After a brief lull, Bottas heads out to get the final phase underway.

One by one the others head out, the Ferrari duo last to head down the pitlane.

"Weird shifts to seventh," says Hamilton as he seeks some clear track.

Rosberg is quicker in his first sector, but still down on Hamilton. Indeed, the Briton responds by going quickest.

The German is quickest in S2, Hamilton only managing a PB.

Rosberg crosses the line at 35.215 to take provisional pole, but moments later Hamilton responds with a 34.999.

Verstappen momentarily leapfrogs his Red Bull teammate with a 35.747 but the Australian responds with a 35.509.

A Ferrari, Raikkonen leapfrogs his teammate also.

Hulkenberg goes seventh, ahead of Bottas, Massa and Sainz, a strong performance from the Spaniard considering his FP3 issues.

Hamilton takes pole, ahead of Rosberg, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Massa and Sainz.

Perez will start eleventh, ahead of Alonso, Kvyat, Gutierrez, Palmer, Ericsson, Grosjean, Magnussen, Button, Wehrlein, Nasr and Ocon.

While this is Mercedes tenth front row lock-out of the season, we know that the team hasn't always converted these to 1-2s come race day.

Furthermore, the tyre strategy from Red Bull is also going to play a part.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Austin, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 22/10/2016
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