Austin GP: Leclerc claims Pole Position, Norris behind in second

Jaden Diaz

For the second time in a row, pole position in Austin Qualifying goes to the red team, last year with Carlos Sainz, this time with a super Charles Leclerc.

With the new floor brought to Suzuka, some of the confidence that had been missing from the Monegasque talent for months seems to have returned. 

Ferrari always seemed to be at ease in this qualifying, probably thanks to a good and excellent basic set-up decided by Maranello, from which it takes advantage to a significant extent in the Sprint weekends, in which the teams have only 60 minutes to perfect the technical package at their disposal. Verstappen saw his pole position – obtained by 5 thousandths – cancelled due to track limits.

The MCL60, which struggled slightly over a flying lap, was helped by Lando Norris, who set an important lap to take P2. Lewis Hamilton ends his qualifying in third position, with a bitter taste in his mouth due to the narrow gap from the McLaren driver: just nine thousandths!

Alpine once again demonstrated its competitiveness on circuits requiring good downforce, while Aston Martin disappointed, failing to place any of its cars in Q2. As for Haas, the team remains at the back of the grid, although for a more precise evaluation of the new package of updates, we will have to wait for Sunday’s race, with subsequent analysis of tire management.

Austin Qualifying: Aston Martin out in Q1 despite the new floor, Verstappen mistake puts him 6th

Drivers had little time to adjust to their cars after Free Practice 1. Ferrari decided to go out on used soft rubber (eight laps of wear), unlike McLaren, who started the session on a new tyre.

Despite this, Charles Leclerc initially managed to get ahead of both drivers of the Woking team. The first run sees a significant evolution of the track, with Pierre Gasly and Nico Hulkenberg (fresh from updates) in first and second position, respectively. 

Both Aston Martin cars were eliminated from Q1. During the week, we knew that the Circuit of the Americas would not be a favourable circuit for Lawrence Stroll’s team, but this qualifying is the most disappointing this year, especially considering Fernando Alonso’s pace throughout the season.

Also eliminated were the two Williams and Nico Hulkenberg, with the latter having a time cancelled that would have easily allowed him to pass to Q2.

In the first run of Q2, Max Verstappen puts himself in front of everyone, with just 85 thousandths of an advantage over Oscar Piastri, followed by an excellent Alpine – with new tires – in third and fourth position.

Sergio Perez only managed P5 with fresh tyres, while Ferrari was in ninth and fourteenth position on used tyres. The last run saw all drivers use fresh tyres.

Dictating the pace was an impressive Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc recording the best time in 1:35.004, followed by Hamilton and Max Verstappen in third.

Eliminated in Q2: Tsunoda, Zhou, Bottas, Magnussen and Ricciardo. Sergio Perez finally managed to get through to Q3, albeit with a lot of difficulty. The Mexican was only ahead of Yuki Tsunoda by eighteen thousandths.

For the first attempts of the final phase of Qualifying in Austin, all the drivers take to the track with new tyres, with the exception of the two McLarens and George Russell. 

Charles Leclerc provisionally claimed first place with 1:34.829. Lewis Hamilton is just 56 thousandths of a second away, while Max Verstappen is in third place at two and a half tenths.

The last attempt was full of pure adrenaline, with the Monegasque further improving by around a tenth, while Max Verstappen – who had initially beaten the Ferrari driver’s time – saw his time cancelled due to the track limits at the exit of the penultimate race curve, and so he will start sixth in Sunday’s race.

It was an excellent lap by Lando Norris, who, with a McLaren that wasn’t at the top, managed to get himself on the front row, just nine thousandths ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Carlos Sainz went 4th-fastest, putting him ahead of Russell and Verstappen. Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez, and Oscar Piastri concluded the top ten, the latter a full six-tenths behind his teammate.

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang