Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

Verstappen sees off Hamilton and Perez for pole in Austin

2021 United States Grand Prix qualifying

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Max Verstappen will start the United States Grand Prix from pole position ahead of his championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

The pair moved to the front with their final runs, demoting Sergio Perez who had taken provisional pole position at the beginning of Q3.

Valtteri Bottas qwualified fourth but will start ninth after his engine change penalty.

Q1

It was soft tyres all around in Q1. Charles Leclerc set the initial pace but Max Verstappen was quick to emerge from the pits and displace the Ferrari driver by more than three-quarters of a second. He was backed up by team mate Sergio Perez, just five-hundredths of a second away.

The Mercedes drivers couldn’t match the Red Bulls through the sector one on their first laps, but along the long back straight Valtteri Bottas was quicker. A decent final sector left him a tenth of a second down at the line. Hamilton was over a tenth of a second slower than his team mate, losing quite a bit more time in the middle of the lap.

Then the McLarens produced a surprise. Daniel Ricciardo, having traded the 1984 Chevrolet NASCAR he demonstrated before final practice for his regular MCL35M, pumped in a 1’34.407, including the fastest run through sector one, to displace Verstappen from the top of the times. Lando Norris narrowly failed to beat Verstappen’s mark and moved into third.

Underlining the fact the track was improving rapidly, and that the midfield is getting quicker all the time, Carlos Sainz Jnr put his Ferrari fourth. Leclerc had by now fallen to ninth behind Pierre Gasly, whose AlphaTauri was finally showing a bit of pace.

Still on his original set of soft tyres, Verstappen reclaimed the top time with his fifth lap, a 1’34.352 putting him five-hundredths ahead of Ricciardo. Perez then split the pair to restore a Red Bull one-two.

By now the Mercedes drivers had sunk to sixth and seventh, and returned to the track for an extra run, still on their original tyres. All this accomplished was a one-place improvement for Hamilton – at the expense of his team mate.

Nicholas Latifi escaped the drop zone with his final run but Esteban Ocon’s last-gasp improvement pulled him back in, ensuring another Q1 exit for the Williams driver. Ocon’s team mate Fernando Alonso also got through with his final effort, ending Lance Stroll’s involvement in proceedings. Kimi Raikkonen, almost four-tenths off his team mate, also went no further, and the Haas pair were last as usual.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’35.983
17Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’35.995
18Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’36.311
19Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’36.499
20Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’36.796

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Q2

The majority of drivers in Q2 initially favoured the medium tyres, hoping to start the race on a compound which would go further than the fragile soft. Perez was among those to favour the soft, while team mate Verstappen plus the Mercedes and McLaren drivers opted for mediums. Ferrari split their strategy too, with mediums for Leclerc and Sainz on softs.

Verstappen was a third of a second quicker than Hamilton on the mediums, the pair topping the times initially. Perez slipped up, losing his lap time after straying beyond track limits at turn 19. The remaining runners piled in close behind Hamilton: Norris, Leclerc and Bottas all lapping within a tenth of him.

Three of the drivers who reached Q2 – Vettel, Alonso and Russell – were due to start from the back due to grid penalties. It appeared none of these wanted to risk making the cut for Q3 and therefore having to start the race on used tyres. So Alonso set a slow 1’47 lap time to ensure he’d line up ahead of them, Russell did an out-lap without setting a time and Vettel stayed put.

Perez switched to mediums for his final run and secured seventh. Ricciardo, who also lost his initial lap time due to a track limits violation, moved into ninth with his final run. He was comfortably safe from Yuki Tsunoda, who claimed the final Q3 spot in 10th, almost half a second slower than the McLaren.

Tsunoda made the cut at the expense of Esteban Ocon, who went out in Q2 despite being given a slipstream on the back straight by his team mate. Alonso also lost a place to Vettel, who came close to making the cut for Q3, setting a 1’35.500, just three-tenths off Tsunoda. Antonio Giovinazzi also went no further. Russell was last, his only lap being deleted for a track limits violation.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’35.377
12Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’35.500
13Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’35.794
14Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’44.549
15George RussellWilliams-Mercedes

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Q3

Red Bull kept their edge over Mercedes as the final runs began in Q3. The Mercedes pair set their times first but Hamilton gave away too much time in the middle sector. Bottas beat his time by a tenth, and the Red Bulls were quicker still.

Verstappen drove a fabulously committed lap, carving almost three-tenths of a second off Bottas’ time. But Perez, running a short distance behind, had fractionally more in hand, nicking the top spot off his team mate by less than two-hundredths of a second. On the way back in he told his team to leave the car’s balance alone. “Turn 11 is the limitation,” he explained, referring to the vital corner which leads onto the back straight.

As the final runs began teams warned their drivers there was a chance of rain arriving at turn one before the session ended. Bottas and Hamilton led the field around, Verstappen and Perez bringing up the rear of the 10-car queue.

Hamilton polished up his effort on his final run, planting his Mercedes back on the top of the times. With rain beginning to fall, Mercedes’ decision to send their cars around at the head of the field looked like it might be vindicated.

Verstappen was just two-hundredths of a second quicker than Hamilton as he entered the final sector, where the first drops were falling. But the Red Bull’s superiority through the last corners told, and he took the chequered flag two-tenths of a second quicker than his title rival.

“It started drizzling at the end,” Verstappen told his team. “This was really, really good. Guys I think as a team also today we did a really good job. Nice turnaround from yesterday, the car was a lot better today so great job, guys.”

“Where did I lose all the time?” asked Hamilton. “A little bit one, a little bit seven and 19, 20,” said his race engineer Peter Bonnington.

Perez slipped to third ahead of Bottas, whose penalty will leave him ninth on the grid. The Ferrari pair came next, followed by the McLarens and AlphaTauris.

Top ten in Q3

1Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’32.910
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’33.119
3Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’33.134
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1’33.475
5Charles LeclercFerrari1’33.606
6Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’33.792
7Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’33.808
8Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’33.887
9Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’34.118
10Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’34.918

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2021 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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34 comments on “Verstappen sees off Hamilton and Perez for pole in Austin”

  1. Guys.. discipline yourselves tomorrow… I don’t want a race ending at turn 1.

  2. A really brilliant lap by max. And checo only 0.02 behind Lewis.
    The first blow for Mercedes on a track they are always superior.
    The face of toto told the story.
    Exiting race tomorrow ahead.

    1. Oh yeah! Verstappen put that car on pole even when Mercs are a second faster. Awesome job!

    2. Always superior, well, hamilton is usually strong here, but red bull has a good record too in recent times, think about 2017 where verstappen was recovering from quite far back, went on a 2 stopper along with vettel, unlike the other front runners, and passed raikkonen for 3rd at the penultimate turn, then was penalised due to going slightly off the track, and then again in 2018 when he started from around the back again and recovered to 2nd, keeping hamilton behind who had stopped once more and we had those awesome 15 laps or so with raikkonen, verstappen, hamilton within 2 sec of each other.

  3. Disappointment for Perez, but I was on the edge of my seat for that Q3!

    1. Great quali by perez, he was 19 thousanths ahead before the final run started and he got pretty close to a first ever pole, which there’s actually a good chance of never happening for him, and he was very close to getting a front row lockout eventually.

  4. Turn one tomorrow will be infuriating.

    1. I can’t see Lewis letting Max go if he has a chance in T1. Max will probably crash into Ham if he loses T1

      1. @ivan-vinitskyy

        thats certainly a possibility… hope neither goes for controversy…

  5. So much for the – “This is a Mercedes track” – ?

    1. I think it still is. Its the drivers that keep underperforming

    2. @nullapax It was previously with Mercedes’ engine advantage. Since the floor change rules for this season and subsequent loss of their ground effect, they’ve had to put on too much wing to overcome it and no longer have the outright advantage.

      But their new suspension trick, a typical Mercedes track is now one with long straights, where they can really take advantage of the top speed. Shorter twistier tracks like Zandvoort with not so long straights is not good for them, and this is more like that.

  6. Cracking qualifying! Fantastic to hear the crowd as each driver bettered their times. Just the grid we want to see for the championship fight! Looking forward to tomorrow

    1. Indeed, that was insane, first verstappen, then perez, then hamilton, then verstappen.

  7. lets see what “TRICKS” RB came up with overnight… big mouths are quite when they get the set up right. i wonder if mercedes will request queries into RB’s sudden found pace… maybe they used a different mod? trick suspension? since they were replacing their rear wing strangely maybe they upgraded their trick wing … lets see

    1. The trick they used was using a better driver.. Do not tell anyone…

      1. Red Bull is .4 secs faster per lap than MB, with Lewis .2 secs faster per lap than Max, so Max on pole. Do the math.

        1. Ahah, and I’d have to believe that hamilton at 36 would be faster than verstappen at 24?

  8. What an awesome qualifying session! It’s not often that four drivers are all in with a genuine chance of pole (or fastest qualifier) when there are no strange circumstances like rain, and after Q2 I thought Ferrari and McLaren were in it as well. Such a shame Perez didn’t pull it off, but that’s still the best we’ve seen from him for some time. A great race beckons tomorrow. It’s also unusual to be able to hear the roar of the crowd like that from the TV in F1, so full credit to the fans who were there.

  9. Wow Mercedes is so dominant. So So dominant.
    Max is winning and getting poles in a much slower car. Unbelievable.

    1. Its all the media twisting reality as we know. 9 poles so far for Max yet the media someone twist it that Mercedes found some renewed pace every single race. Complete BS

      1. Just saying, but red bull over the year was better in quali than race, merc often lost quali and then had better race pace, and were hard to keep behind, and don’t forget bottas is a much better qualifier than perez on average.

    2. It just goes to show how good Max really is

  10. Really cool :)
    Two RBR against one Mercedes …
    Strategy advantage … if everyone is clean on the start tomorow.
    Oh, by the way, Lewis …. don’t push people of track on T1 like you did several times with Nico, right ? :)
    It begins to be obvious.

    Anyway, aside of that, this is Qualification.
    Race is tomorow, and it’s a long way to go.
    A lot of things can happens.

    Happy for Ferraris too, they seem to really have gained a lot on this end of season.

    About Merc’ Slow, i think they were saving their engine for the last run.
    They seem to fear reliability problems.

    1. Just a reminder
      Hamilton Rosberg 2015 Austin Start
      https://youtu.be/ekrB8lK5DI4

  11. If checo makes a good start he could be the one with the best opportunity towards turn one… So we’ll see how things will go but it should be exciting.

  12. 8 poles in 11 races max doing something unheard of 2nd fastest car that many poles. Said no one ever want a good chuckle go read fp1 comments.

  13. Finally Lewis in a RBR sandwich instead of Max in a Mercedes sandwich. I am very curious how the strategies play out of Merc and RBR tomorrow :)

  14. Well. RedBull truly is the faster car and should see out the season.

  15. I think redbulls set their cars up for quali more than the mercs did. Whic h would mean they may have more tyre deg during the race than the mercs. And on a track where overtaking can be done… This will be an interesting race. Provided they dont crash out at turn 1.

    1. Wouldn’t be new either to have a faster mercedes in the race, think about france, imola, even though they were slower in quali (look where perez got in imola to know where verstappen should’ve been).

  16. I am starting to understand how annoying my brother and I must have been way back in the Senna-vs-Prost era (he was a Senna fan, me Prost), because all this incessant Max-vs-Lewis fan-fawning dribble is really getting on my nerves. Although, in my brother’s defense and mine, we were literally children then and we didn’t know about the technical side, about the cars, about tracks suiting one car and not the other etc. But on this website I was once used to reading messages from other longtime fans, people who could see beyond the media hype and their own idolisations.
    Why can’t we all appreciate that finally we have two teams with cars that are well-matched and both also with drivers that are well-matched? But no, it has to be that your driver’s car is only second or even third fastest (followed by a conveniently selective list of race results to underpin your opinion), but it’s your driver’s sheer and unparalleled ability that makes him beat the other guy. And this goes for both sides of this never ending argument.
    All this pedantic “my driver is better than yours” is slowly turning me away from this site. I may just as well read YouYube comments to get equally “measured” opinions …

    1. _YouTube_
      (in full rant-mode my typing wasn’t at its best – or rather, my index finder was faster than my middle finger even though the keys under its control weren’t the fastest ones on my keyboard, but the text favoured vowel keys over consonant keys …)

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