Updated: Feb 28
Written by Byron Hale, Edited by Morgan Holiday
Qualifying has concluded in Austin! Verstappen took yet another well fought pole position ahead of the Mercedes duo who appear to have a long debrief ahead as they look to regain the performance which has seemingly disappeared over the course of the weekend.
There were penalties galore in Austin as many drivers will lose positions going into race day with Russell, Alonso, and Vettel all taking entirely new engines which will see them fall to the back of the grid. Bottas will also take a sixth internal combustion engine leaving him with a five place grid penalty. One must wonder where Mercedes are storing all these engines!
They may have penalties but they all still set times, as whoever was ahead at the end of qualifying would start in 18th, as three drivers battled for the bottom few positions despite their engine woes.
Vettel would show the initial advantage as he slotted in P10 come the end of Q1 with Russell 12th and Alonso 14th; Q2 painted a similar picture as all three would be eliminated with Vettel 12th, Alonso 14th, and Russell 15th after he failed to set a lap time due to his lap times being deleted for track limits at turn 9, which has seen many drivers lose lap times.
Mclaren had shown strong pace over the course of the entire weekend as they comfortably got through Q1 and Q2 with little issue. Both cars got through on the medium compound tyre which puts them in an ideal position ahead of the 56 laps of the race tomorrow. In Q3 Mclaren would fall to 7th and 8th behind the Ferraris and Ahead of the Red Bull sister team AlphaTauri.
Alfa Romeo showed good pace at the start of the weekend, although this pace did seem to dissipate as the weekend progressed. This led to Kimi Raikonnen being eliminated in Q1 as he failed to make it through yet again. With his last Q2 appearance being Hungary, it remains to be seen as to what the Iceman can do in his final six F1 races as he retires at the end of the season.
Giovanazzi did make it through to the second part of qualifying as he got through in 15th place, and he out-qualified his more experienced teammate for the 11th time in 2021. He did not make it through to Q2 however, as he qualified 13th ahead of Alonso and Russell, who failed to set a valid time in the session.
Mercedes and Red Bull appeared to be the outright fastest cars as they duked it out for the top positions, with Red Bull appearing to have the initial pace as the sessions got underway. Mercedes looked weaker as they wound up P8 and P9 in Q1, which was a sub-par performance given Mercedes’ high standards.
As Q2 began, the mediums were strapped on for Both Red Bulls and Mercedes cars as they seemed the optimum strategy, and they sought a strategic advantage for the race. Verstappen set the initial pace and looked strong as he roped the chart by a third of a second ahead of championship rival Lewis Hamilton, who qualified easily into the next session. Bottas and Perez appeared to struggle on the Mediums, as the flying Finn would finish 5th in Q2 with the Mexican only 7th come the end of the session as the track continued to improve, allowing for other cars to go much faster.
With Q3 underway, it was a game of damage limitation for Bottas who looked to limit the penalty he picked up for his engine changes. Verstappen would look strong as he set the fastest time, but that would be short lived as Sergio Perez would shortly snatch provisional pole position from the Dutchman as he attempted to go to his home race as a first time pole sitter for Red Bull Racing. As the session drew to a close, Verstappen would pull an astonishing lap out of the bag as he claimed pole position from Lewis Hamilton who was two tenths slower than the Red Bull of Max although still ahead of Segio Perez.
Bottas would perform some good damage limitation as he took 4th place, which will see him drop to 9th place for tomorrow’s grid. A strong showing from both Mercedes and Red Bull has seen the race set up for another dynamic duel amongst our championship protagonists as they seek to gain the edge as the season begins to draw to a close.
The Grand Prix starts at 8PM BST on Sunday and you will not want to miss this as Hamilton and Verstappen battle once again for the championship edge. We will see you on race day!