Carlos Sainz stormed to pole position in qualifying for the 2022 US Grand Prix, where grid penalties will see Max Verstappen join him in the front row and the Mercedes start in second.
Death of Dietrich Mateschitz cast a shadow over the paddock ahead of qualifying, with the likes of Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Formula 1 chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali making tribute to the influential co-founder of Red Bull energy drinks.
Red Bull is committed to continuing for qualifying, with the team hoping this weekend to secure its first Constructors’ Championship victory since 2013.
Sainz topped Q1 and Leclerc Q2, leaving Ferrari in the lead when it came to the top-10 shootout. places on the grid for an engine change, while Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso would be demoted five places each.
Sainz’s second flying lap, however, saw him eclipse his team-mate with a time of 1m 34.356s, taking Ferrari’s first pole in Austin, with Leclerc 0.065s in P2 before his penalty kicked in. Max Verstappen finished third in qualifying but will start on the front row, while Perez finished fourth before his penalty.
Running of the red bulls
Running of the red bulls
Lewis Hamilton completed the top five but is set for a second straight start, while team-mate George Russell is expected to join him, having qualified sixth.
P7 qualifier Lance Stroll, ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, will also be up front. Alonso will drop five places after qualifying ninth on the grid, which will further favor Valtteri Bottas, who qualified for 10th place.
Alex Albon qualified 11th for Williams ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, while Pierre Gasly was frustrated with a lack of braking performance as he got stuck on his way to P13. Zhou Guanyu looked safe for Q3 but had his final lap scrapped and qualified 14th – who will become 19th once his five-place penalty kicks in. Yuki Tsunoda qualified 15th but should be promoted at Zhou’s expense.
Also promoted a place will be Kevin Magnussen, who lost a place in Q2 by 0.018 seconds, while Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon fought for P17 and P18, respectively. Mick Schumacher spun on his final lap in Q1 and qualified 19th, while Nicholas Latifi qualified last and is expected to start 20th for Williams.
2022 US GP qualifying: Sainz takes pole position at COTA
HOW IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Ferrari lead as Ricciardo and Ocon retire early
Leclerc set the pace from the start of Q1 with a 1m 35.795s, putting Verstappen – who met a Haas on the racing line on her flying lap – second by 0.069s. Once Sainz came back to complete his flying lap, the Spaniard found half a second and passed both his teammate and the defending champion setting the benchmark of 1m 35.297s.
In the drop zone with three and a half minutes remaining was Albon – who is tentatively Logan Sargeant as Williams teammate in 2023 – Ricciardo, Magnussen, Tsunoda and Zhou, who was pushed back to P20 after having his flyer removed.
The Ferraris and Red Bulls remained in their garages while the rest of the field scrambled to improve their existing benchmarks.
Hamilton had his last time scrapped but remained fourth overall ahead of Red Bull’s Perez, with Russell remaining sixth in the other Mercedes. Alonso was next on the board at P7 ahead of an improving Norris, who finished ahead of AlphaTauri’s Gasly. Zhou also improved, completing the top 10 for Alfa Romeo.
Vettel was next in P11 ahead of Alfa Romeo Bottas, with Tsunoda moving up to P13 ahead of Stroll and, in Q2, Williams’ Albon.
Magnussen implored his team to look into possible track limit violations for his rivals as he missed the next session by 0.017 seconds. Ricciardo was unable to progress to P17 and Ocon was a shock elimination at P18. Schumacher spun and interrupted his flying lap, and while Latifi improved, he was out in P20.
Eliminated: Magnussen, Ricciardo, Ocon, Schumacher, Latifi
Q2 – Leclerc leads Verstappen as Norris puts the lifeline back
The opening bursts saw Leclerc set the best time of 1m 35.246s, Verstappen just 0.048s behind in P2 while Q1 leader Sainz was 0.344s off the pace in P3 leaving Russell fourth and Hamilton sixth – with Perez sharing the Mercedes in P5.
Gasly and Vettel were 14th and 15th with three minutes to go, the former driver having aborted his first effort after a blockage and the second having had his time canceled for the track limit. Joining them in the provisional drop zone were Albon, 11th, Tsunoda, 12th and Stroll, 13th, with Norris on the bubble at P10.
The Ferraris, Red Bulls and Russells stayed in their garages, but Hamilton emerged (albeit on worn soft compounds) for a second round with the rest of the field. The top three remained the same but Hamilton improved to P5 to drop Perez to sixth. Alonso improved but took 7th place in Q2, ahead of Stroll and Bottas.
As for Norris, he couldn’t improve but was pushed back to P10 when Zhou’s last lap was scrapped. The Alfa Romeo driver qualified 14th but will be demoted five places thanks to an engine penalty. Tsunoda qualified 15th in Q2, but will start 14th.
Albon missed Q3 in P11 but outqualified Aston Martin’s Vettel and a furious Gasly in P13, the AlphaTauri driver struggling with his brakes throughout qualifying.
Eliminated: Albon, Vettel, Gasly, Zhou, Tsunoda
Q3 – Sainz takes pole ahead of Leclerc before grid penalties kick in
On used softs, Verstappen set the time to beat with a 1m 35.044s but Leclerc – facing a 10-seat grid penalty for an engine change – took on this challenge and put the sectors purple for a time of 1m 34.624s, with Sainz losing 0.159s from his teammate in P2.
Hamilton then eclipsed the Red Bulls by putting his Mercedes third on the timesheets and 0.323 seconds off the pace, leaving Verstappen fourth and Perez fifth. Russell moved up to sixth after a few warm-up laps, Stroll took a provisional seventh with a later effort, Alonso eighth, Norris ninth and Bottas 10th. Perez and Alonso, however, were to be demoted five places each thanks to their respective grid penalties.
As the sun shone low on the horizon, it was Sainz who secured Ferrari’s first pole position at the Circuit of the Americas, with teammate Leclerc second 0.065 seconds behind. Verstappen improved after two warm-up laps but qualified 0.092 seconds off the pace in P3, which should become P2 on the grid when Leclerc falls.
Perez was fourth, 0.289 seconds off the pace, but anticipating a five-place grid penalty that would bump fifth-placed Hamilton and sixth-placed Russell to second.
Stroll remained seventh after his superb effort midway through Q3 in what would, on Sunday, be Aston Martin’s best start to the season. Norris finished eighth (before penalties) ahead of penalized driver Alonso in P9 and Alfa Romeo de Bottas in P10.
After the session, Verstappen led Leclerc and Sainz in paying tribute to late Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, who died aged 78 on Saturday.
“It was fun, great fun. Very tricky out there with those winds we have…but I managed to get a good lap with no mistakes and a pole position that took a while to come after some qualifying in the dry to get close without getting there.
“I’m not going to lie, because tomorrow Red Bull are always favourites, I think they normally have the best race pace. They normally put us in the race because Max is doing a good job and Red Bull has a very good race car. But we are going to do everything we can to try to stay ahead tomorrow and win the race, which would be an amazing way to start these last four races” – Carlos Sainz
The 2022 United States Grand Prix is set to start at 2pm local time on Sunday, with Red Bull poised to win its first constructors’ championship since 2013 – but Sainz holds the cards in pole position. Head to the RACING HUB to find out how and when you can catch the action at Circuit of the Americas.