US Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton holds off team-mate Nico Rosberg to take pole
Lewis Hamilton will start the United States Grand Prix from pole position after holding off his championship rival Nico Rosberg in Austin.
Hamilton punched the air as he crossed the line and secured what could be a decisive pole as he wrestles to turn the title tide back in his favour.
The world champion finished 0.219 seconds clear of Rosberg at a sun-blazed Circuit of the Americas, with Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen to line up in third and fourth respectively.
Hamilton, a winner on three of the four occasions the race has been staged here, is 33 points adrift of Rosberg with only four rounds remaining.
Indeed such is the points deficit to his Mercedes team-mate that Hamilton can win on Sunday, next week in Mexico, and at the final two rounds in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and still fall short in his quest for a fourth championship.
But Hamilton, 31, will nevertheless be buoyed by his impressive display here and his celebration as he crossed the line showed what it meant to the Stevenage-born racer.
“I feel amazing,” said Hamilton. “This is my first pole here, and it has been many years of trying. So, I am very happy today.
“I want to say a big thank you to the crowd. I could hear them cheering. It was much appreciated, and I hope tomorrow we can deliver another great race.”
Rosberg added: “It was nothing specific. Lewis was just quicker in sector one which was pretty simple. It was a good lap.
“I could see on the TV that he beat me to it and that is the way it goes sometimes, but as we have seen this year qualifying isn’t always important so I have a great chance from P2.”
Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, finished a lowly 18th at the last race in Japan, and there was little cause for celebration here after he fell at the first hurdle in qualifying.
Button, whose American model girlfriend Brittny Ward watched on from the back of the McLaren garage, will start only 19th on Sunday. His team-mate Fernando Alonso lines up in 12th.
“We were eighth yesterday and ninth this morning, but we just messed up with the timing again, and it’s not the first time,” a frustrated Button told Sky Sports.
I could see on the TV that he beat me to it and that is the way it goes sometimes…
“I had four cars to overtake in the last sector and the last one saw me really late and was on the racing line, so I had to outbrake them into the last corner. So it’s disappointing and certain things we shouldn’t be making mistakes with.”
Earlier this week, British rookie Jolyon Palmer criticised his Renault team for failing to give him enough credit following the announcement that Nico Hulkenberg will join the French outfit next season.
Palmer progressed to Q2 on Saturday and out-qualified his team-mate Kevin Magnussen, whose future at Renault is also in doubt. Palmer will start from 15th with Magnussen 18th on the grid.
Elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel qualified fifth and sixth for Ferrari with Force India’s Hulkenberg seventh and Valtteri Bottas of Williams eighth on the grid.a