AUSTIN, Texas – Sebastian Vettel’s progress to an inevitable pole position could not be interrupted at the Circuit of The Americas on Saturday afternoon, but it was much closer than anyone would have thought.
Using a new front wing on his Red Bull that only arrived last night, he set the pace in Q3 with 1:35.877, with only Lewis Hamilton able to challenge him at 1:35.928. Then Vettel shaved that to 1:35.657 and it was just as well that he did, as Hamilton worked down to 1:35.766s.
Behind the lead Red Bull and McLaren, Mark Webber managed 1:36.174 for third, a position which could prove fortuitous given expectations that the odd numbered grid positions will be favoured by the clean line to turn one.
Romain Grosjean took fourth with his Lotus in 1:36.587, ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix-winning teammate Kimi Raikkonen on 1:36.708. Then came Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes and the Ferrari of Felipe Massa.
Nico Hulkenburg put his Force India entry in eighth, followed by Vettel’s championship rival Fernando Alonso in ninth. Pastor Maldonado completed the top 10 in his Williams.
Grosjean received a five grid-place penalty for a gearbox change, leaving the order behind the top three as: Raikkonen, Schumacher, Massa, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Grosjean and Maldonado.