The Mercedes driver looked in supreme form as he seeks his fifth World Championship title and the Championship leader set a new track record at the ‘Circuit of Americas’, registering a 1:32:237.
Sebastian Vettel must outscore Lewis Hamilton to stand any chance of snatching the title from the Brit, however the German will be demoted three grid positions for Sundays’ race after failing to slow down to a safe speed under red-flag conditions in Fridays’ practice session and after qualifying in 2nd place he will start in 5th on the grid.
Beyond the battle for the title, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen starts ahead of Valtteri Bottas as the Finns round out the front three with Daniel Ricciardo qualifying 5th on the day, starting just outside the top three in 4th after penalties around him.
Qualifying 1 – Verstappen hits trouble as Mercs set pace
The slight threat of rain never materialised and under the clouds in Austin, Championship leader Hamilton blitzed the field with his teammate Bottas the closest challenger in second, followed by Vettel.
Max Verstappen suffered right-rear suspension damage in the latter stages of the session after clipping the ‘sausage kerbs’ in the final sector, therefore missing out on the following sessions. The Dutchman will provisionally start 15th on the grid tomorrow.
Honda will be encouraged after future Red Bull driver, Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso clinched ‘best of the rest’ in 7th ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was knocked out after Q1 and provisionally starts 16th in the Spaniard’s final Formula 1 race at the Circuit, with Belgian teammate Stoffel Vandoorne lagging behind at the foot of the grid.
Both Williams drivers had a Qualifying to forget as expected and they start ahead of Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson who will be disappointed with 19th on the grid.
Q2 – Ferrari’s show signs of resurgence
Title challenger Vettel topped the table as the red cars proved their pace with a front row lock-out in the second qualifying session.
2019 Ferrari driver, Charles Leclerc, gave a glimpse of what his new team can expect and was the star of the show for Sauber, setting a blistering time to clinch sixth place in the session.
Carlos Sainz missed out on qualifying three by two milliseconds to his teammate Nico Hulkenberg who edged the Spaniard to 10th place.
Kevin Magnussen qualified in 12th position after being out-qualified by his teammate again, placing the Haas ahead of both Toro Rosso drivers who will start at the back after grid penalties.
Verstappen did not set a time after damaging the Red Bull’s suspension in the first session.
Q3 – Hamilton on form in tight final showdown
The Mercedes driver starts on pole position after edging title rival Vettel. But, the German's grid penalty allows Kimi Raikkonen to start on the front row ahead of fellow Finn Bottas.
Daniel Ricciardo had a steady Saturday and will move his Red Bull up to 4th on the grid, with the Aussie seeking another podium around the USA circuit.
Force India driver, Esteban Ocon, clinched ‘best of the rest’ in 6th place and he continued to impress as the Frenchman still seeks a Formula 1 drive in the 2019 season.
Hulkenberg placed his Renault in 7th on the grid, followed by Grosjean, Leclerc and Sergio Perez.