The Friday in F1 US GP saw Red Bull get beaten in qualifying as Ferrari surprised itself with a pole amid a close fight.
It was not a straight up Friday in F1 US GP at Circuit of the Americas. With another sprint running, the qualifying session provided for an interesting result with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on pole after track limits for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman edged him out by 0.005s but for his lap to be deleted allowing Leclerc to take pole in a fine show. They were surprised by the result with Carlos Sainz not far behind in fourth, even though he felt the set-up wasn’t good for his liking.
McLaren did not expect a Top 2 result as Lando Norris was left surprised too. There was a glimmer of hope at one point of pole but not to be as teammate Oscar Piastri struggled to get a clean lap to be only 10th despite having better pace than that.
For Mercedes, it was a mixed result too where Lewis Hamilton was happy with a Top 3 result after updates, while George Russell admitted of not feeling in-sync with the car. He managed to eke out a good lap to get himself in the Top 5 in the end.
Leclerc: “So from the first lap, we built up the confidence. I built up the confidence with the car and I felt good straightaway. So then in qualifying, I tried to put everything together. The first lap in Q3 felt quite a bit better than the second lap. But I think there was a bit of track improvement. And the second lap was good enough for pole, even though we are on track we got beaten by Max, but his lap time was deleted later on. But very happy anyway to be on pole. It’s a surprise for us, we definitely did not expect to be fighting for pole position here. It’s very bumpy here. And the car definitely felt good on bumps today, which gives you quite a bit of confidence to push in all the high speed, which normally is our weakness, but maybe because our car was good on those bumps, we could at least match the others.
“And then our car was strong in the medium and low speeds. So again, it’s very difficult to understand where you’re going to be coming into a weekend. But for some reason, this weekend, we are the strongest until now, which is good. Regarding the radio call, I just had a heart attack, because my engineer told me track limits and then… for Verstappen. And when I heard track limits, yeah, I punched my steering wheel and my helmet, and then I heard for Verstappen and then I was ‘OK, that’s a better news for us’. So no, that’s why I, in the moment, I just said to Xavi, ‘please tell me the name before the track limits, just so I don’t get too excited’. And that’s it. Looking ahead, as always, Red Bull is always very strong. And obviously Max this year is always on it. So yeah, for sure he will be a threat and up there tomorrow.”
Norris: “I think when you realise where Max probably should have been in terms of overall pace, I still think the Red Bulls probably close to being the quickest. And I didn’t expect to beat Ferrari, so I think we’re in probably the position we expected to be. Probably closer to pole than I was expecting. I think there was still that little chance to potentially get it today. So probably similar to Charles, you know, pleasantly surprised to be sitting here in the top three, first of all, but then especially in P2. So a good day for us. A little bit surprising, you know, because we know mainly the slow speed is a normally a big weakness for us, and there’s less high speed here comparing to Qatar and things like that. So I’m happy with today.
“For me Turn 11, that’s where it all went wrong, I think the rest… maybe a little bit the last corner. Turn 11, we’ve been struggling a little bit with just consistency of car and braking performance. And the car just turned a bit better than I was expecting. And I mean, I braked later, but then the car also rotated better. So I was expecting to almost miss the apex a bit more. And I ended up just clipping the kerb. And when you clip the kerb in 11 it’s the run the whole way down the straight that you lose. So it’s just a half a tenth mistake initially, because you get on power a bit later. But then because you get on power later, you lose easily another half a tenth or sometimes more all the way down to Turn 12. The rest of the lap, apart from maybe the last corner was, I think, very strong. I was very happy with Turn 1 and Sector 1. Just two places I feel like I probably lost it today.”
Hamilton: “It was a good session for us. Really grateful for the improvements that the team have made with the car. Everyone’s worked so hard to bring some upgrades and for us to be this close to McLaren and Ferrari and even the Red Bulls. I think it’s a showing of just how hard everyone’s worked. The car it feels almost the same. It’s just levelled up in pretty much everywhere. As for the race, none of us have done any long running. So I have no idea. Maybe with the Red Bull not in the top three, maybe that makes it a better, closer battle maybe, because they’re often quite a bit ahead and just disappear into the distance. So hopefully the three of us can have a tight battle.”
Verstappen: “I mean I knew in Turn 19 it was going to be a close call. I had a little mistake in Turn 1, I had to really push for it in the rest of the lap… Honestly, I didn’t even steer, I just tried to maximise the corner and I misjudged it by a little bit, it’s very fine margins when you are pushing to the limit. It makes the Sunday a bit more fun! I mean it’s probably not ideal, but I’ve also started further back and it’s all about if you have good pace, you will pass, you will move forward. We want to win so of course today was not ideal but it’s still a long race, a lot of things we can do better and have a bit of fun out there as well.”
The Top 10 had further surprise from Alpine F1 pair who both made it in. Both Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were downbeat after FP1 but they managed to find their way into Q3 at ease. They even beat a Red Bull and a McLaren in the process.
The good feeling was felt at the Alfa Romeo camp too with Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas having a good run close to the Top 10 in Q2. It was similar at AlphaTauri where Yuki Tsunoda just missed out in 11th, while Daniel Ricciardo felt good despite track limits.
It was mixed run for Haas where Kevin Magnussen made it into Q2 but Nico Hulkenberg missed out as they learn more about their updates. The low feelings were felt at Williams and Aston Martin, where both their F1 cars got knocked out in Q1 itself.
Gasly: “It’s been a good Qualifying for us and our second Q3 appearance in a row after Qatar. I’m really happy with our performance today and the car felt very good right from the start of the day, which is important on Sprint weekends with only one Practice session. We made some improvements between Practice and Qualifying and from there everything flowed well for us. It was fine margins, less than a tenth between a few cars, and I felt I extracted pretty much everything from my Q3 lap. It’s always great to be fighting for the top positions. Tomorrow is the Sprint; we will be aiming for more of the same and hopefully be in contention to take some points.”
Ricciardo: “It’s good to be back. There was nothing physically holding me back today, so it was about finding the feeling in the car and the setup. It’s hard to predict what we could’ve done with only one hour in the car this morning and then straight into qualifying, but the last lap was already feeling a little poor. It’s difficult to only have one session where you have to set the car up for what it is for qualifying. It was a shame because we were fighting a little bit from the start, but as the track started to ramp up, we plateaued a little bit. I feel I could’ve given more, but we have another chance tomorrow, and the wind direction might change, so that can play a role. We’ll try and see what we can discover tonight, to learn from it for tomorrow. I wish I wasn’t starting P15, but it’s nice to be back behind the wheel and result aside, it’s been an enjoyable day.”
Guanyu: “I believe, looking at today’s results, that we can definitely be in the mix for points on Sunday; we made an improvement as a team, despite struggling a bit during Free Practice. Between the sessions, we were able to improve our car balance, which allowed us to build some rhythm in qualifying and to get in the fight for Q3, ultimately missing it by less than three thousandths of a second: a positive result, but with some mixed feelings as we could have potentially made a further step forward. Still, we can consider ourselves satisfied with the job done today, and I am confident it’ll also allow us to have a much cleaner Saturday. The leading teams clearly have an advantage in terms of pace, but I reckon we can definitely challenge our main competitors and climb our way into the top ten on Sunday.”
Hulkenberg: “It was an unfortunate second run in qualifying, it was the second lap that mattered with the track evolution that we had today, but we got disturbed. We had both Red Bulls interfering with the lap in awkward places which made me lose quite a bit of time and that made the difference. It’s the first day that we’ve run the new updates and after only one hour of practice and qualifying, we need to go through it and understand it more. This morning I wasn’t happy at all with the car, but we made some good set-up changes and it felt much better. I think we could’ve gone a long way today, so it’s very frustrating.”
Albon: “The car was quite different from FP1, [I was] feeling a little disconnected which can happen when the wind picks up. It meant that to get a clean lap it was very difficult, and my lap just wasn’t that good. The car was better than Q1 today, so it’s a bit frustrating.”
Alonso: “No, it was the maximum, I think. The lap was not ideal, the out lap especially, the traffic was very badly managed. I think I crossed the line within one second of the limit, so I started the lap too close to the cars in front, so that didn’t help. The lap felt okay, and the pace was really not good enough to be into Q2, and let’s see tomorrow if we can make a good Sprint, because Sunday’s race is heavily compromised now. We should go back and complete the day completely, starting from the morning. We had a terrible session, Lance didn’t complete any laps, I did only six or seven quality laps with the new package. Too many unknowns, in terms of how to operate the package and the new car, so I think we arrived a bit blind into qualifying and obviously we see the result. Nothing we can do now, we are in parc ferme. We [can] use this weekend as a test for next year as well, even if they are painful, so let’s see what we can learn in the remaining sessions.”
Here’s how F1 US GP qualifying panned out
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