Mercedes looked to be in control in Austin on Friday, setting the day’s benchmark in Free Practice 1, but Red Bull managed to bounce back with diligent work carried out on Friday night. In the end, Max Verstappen set the fastest lap time to grab his 12th career pole position.
The Circuit of the Americas was always going to bring the best out of Mercedes’ 2021 car, the W12 given the long staights and full-throttle section that rewards cars with a good top speed and aerodynamic efficiency. On top of that, Mercedes has held an incredible qualifying record in Austin with having secured every pole position since the 2013 Texas F1 race.
On Friday, the reigning world champions shocked their rivals by going a full second quicker than championship leader Max Verstappen in the opening practice session. However, Red Bull was reluctant to give up its chances around the tricky 5.513km track, working diligently on the setup of its RB16B overnight. Eventually their efforts bore fruit as Verstappen ended up fastest in Saturday’s all-important session, edging Hamilton and his team mate Sergio Perez on the way to his ninth pole position of the season.
Red BullMax Verstappen, 1st, 1:32.910
“I’m surprised after qualifying today but I’m of course very happy to be on pole. It hasn’t been the easiest of weekends so far for me, I’ve been chasing the balance quite a bit so to pull that lap together in Q3 was of course really satisfying. I’m really pleased with the performance of the whole Team today and I’m glad we could finally pull it together for the final lap.
„We improved the balance and I felt a lot more comfortable in the car today compared to yesterday. To show this pace in quali is positive for the race tomorrow but I still fully expect it to be tough out there, it’s going to be really warm and very hard on the tyres, which will make it more interesting. We just have to focus on ourselves tomorrow, hope for a good clean start and then be as fast as we possibly can.”Sergio Perez, 3rd, 1:33.134
“I’m pleased with today’s result but I can’t be 100% satisfied because we had the pace to be on pole. It’s a bit of a shame but it started raining quite hard on the final lap and I was the last car on track and I lost the time in sector three so we were a little unlucky in that regard. It was tense in that final run, we all knew it was coming down to that last lap and Max did a fantastic job as did Lewis and I think we each finished where we deserved to finish.
„I am taking a lot of confidence from this weekend because we’ve been really competitive and it just shows how hard we have been working behind the scenes to make this kind of progress and I expect to keep getting better. We are in a good position for tomorrow and it’s going to be a long race where anything can happen. There’s also a lot of support out there from the fans and I really hope I can deliver a fantastic result for them too.”
MercedesLewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:33.119
"I gave it everything today. It was a bit of a struggle through qualifying, Red Bull were incredibly quick and from first practice onwards we seemed to fall back slightly in comparison. I was happy with how my last lap in Q3 turned out, of course there are always areas to improve but I think that was pretty much the maximum. The crowd has been absolutely amazing here, so my mindset tomorrow is to win the race and give them all a great show.
„We'll have to work as hard as we can, but we're starting in a good position and I'll give it my best into Turn 1 as there is an opportunity there. Tyre wear is really aggressive here so it will be interesting to see what strategy we can do and that will present opportunities along the way, as well. So today wasn't my favourite day but we can fight tomorrow."Valtteri Bottas, 4th, 1:33.475
"That wasn't the result I was looking for today. Red Bull definitely had the upper hand and seemed to make more of a step from yesterday. My first run in Q3 was OK, but the last sector didn't feel great. And then I tried to have a clean lap on the second run, but the front locking and understeer was even worse. So, I lost some time and wasn't able to improve. I'll be starting ninth because of the penalty but I think our race pace was strong, quite similar to Red Bull, and I'll hopefully have a pace advantage to the cars directly ahead of me. Strategy will also be key tomorrow, so I'm sure we can move up the field and fight for good points. It's a long race and I'm always optimistic."
FerrariCharles Leclerc, 5th, 1:33.606
"It hasn’t been an easy Saturday for me, but I am very satisfied with how my qualifying went and am happy to have ended the day on a positive note. It started out with a tough FP3. I had a good first run, but the second one was really difficult. I struggled mainly with the rear of the car and didn’t feel fully comfortable. We made some changes and headed into Q1 putting in quite a few laps. This helped me to regain confidence and from Q2 onwards I could push as much as I wanted again.
„Setting my best lap of the second session on the medium compound could be an advantage in tomorrow’s race. We will also move up a position on the grid, starting in fourth and fifth, even though this means that I will start from the dirty side of the track. I will give it my all to bring home a good result for the team tomorrow!"Carlos Sainz, 6th, 1:33.792
"Overall it’s a good result and I’ve felt confident with the car the whole weekend. The two laps in Q3 were consistent and pretty strong so I’m quite happy with that. The only downside is that I will be the only one in the top eight starting the race on the soft. We were confident the track was going to improve and that I could beat the time I set on the soft but the wind picked up in the second part of Q2, the track was slower and we all struggled to go faster.
"We will look into it, but right now it’s time to focus on how to make my strategy work as well as possible tomorrow. We have good pace, the car feels good and we know we have to be aggressive. Let’s see how everything unfolds tomorrow."
McLarenDaniel Ricciardo, 7th, 1:33.808
"Both runs in Q3 were really close with Carlos [Sainz]. I was happy to have the clean side of the grid but then I remembered Bottas has his penalty. I was most happy in Q1 with the car, and then it got a little more difficult through the session. I don’t think the track improved that much as the session went on.
„So, I felt like I was fighting it a little more. The last lap was okay, considering it was hard to do a perfect lap with the conditions, so it was clean enough – I don’t think there were two or three tenths in it. Obviously with small margins you could always say Sainz was achievable, but beyond that, I don’t think Charles [Leclerc] was within reach. There’s obviously the battle that we’ve got with Ferrari, so they got us today, but with Sainz starting on the soft, hopefully we can come back tomorrow.”Lando Norris, 8th, 1:33.887
"I'm not too satisfied with the result today, for two reasons: one, I think I could've done a better lap, and two, we’re behind both Ferraris. So, it's not what we wanted today – but we’ll try to make up for it tomorrow. We’re starting on the medium tyre and one of the Ferraris is on the softs, so maybe we can take advantage of that and finish ahead of them. We'll work on our strategy overnight and make sure we're ready for any opportunities tomorrow."
AlphaTauriPierre Gasly, 9th, 1:34.118
“I think we can be pleased today, we’ve got the four top teams ahead of us, so we’re starting in a good position. Friday was slightly harder than we were expecting but we’ve made some good improvements for today, and with Valtteri’s penalty we’ll be in P8.
„It’s good that we managed to qualify with the mediums, to give ourselves the best option tomorrow, but I think it’s going to be very tight here with the tyres, as this track is so tough on them. We’ve got lots of strategy choices available for us, so we’ll need to look at all the possibilities tonight and choose the best option for tomorrow.”Yuki Tsunoda, 10th, 1:34.918
“I’m quite happy with today, especially with the step up we’ve taken from FP3. I thought with the pace that we had during the earlier session it was even going to be hard for us to get through Q2, so overall it’s been a good day. It’s my first time in Austin, so I just needed to make progress this weekend and build-up the pace.
„I’ve still got to find some time to my team mate and there are some improvements I can still make, but it’s good to be starting in the top 10. The team have made lots of changes to the car across the weekend, which have helped a lot, so I want to say a big thank you to all the engineers and mechanics.”
AlpineEsteban Ocon, 11th, 1:35.377
“I think 11th was the best we could have achieved today, so all in all I’m fairly happy with the effort. It’s been a tough weekend so far and we’ve not been in contention to reach Q3 and today we were just on the edge. We tried to go through Q2 on the mediums, and we weren’t too far away. Maybe on the softs we could have made it, but we stuck to our plan with tomorrow in mind.
„Everything was a team effort today with Fernando helping with the tow in Q2. It worked well, but it was not enough to progress to Q3. Anything can happen in the race and strategy will be crucial. We’ll remain positive and we will push hard for the race.”Fernando Alonso, 14th, 1:44.549
“We had our own little battle in qualifying today with George [Russell] and Sebastian [Vettel] because of the engine change. Ultimately, we didn’t really have the pace today, so we need to analyse all of this and try to understand it as it’s not where we were in the last two Grands Prix. I tried to help Esteban with the tow today, but we were still missing a couple of tenths to be in the fight with the others. There is still a chance to score points tomorrow with a good strategy, so let’s see how we get on.”
“Our qualifying pace was promising, and the car felt especially good in Q1. In Q2, I think I left some time on the table, but, with the grid penalty, the early exit made very little difference. We did what we needed to in terms of qualifying ahead of George [Russell] and Fernando [Alonso] who are also taking grid penalties, which means we will not start right at the back. I think we will start from P18 as things stand. It is going to be a hot and tough race so I think there is all to play for tomorrow.”Lance Stroll, 16th, 1:35.983
“It was frustrating to exit qualifying early because I think we had the pace to achieve more. During my final lap in Q1, [Antonio] Giovinazzi spun in front of me and the double yellow flags at Turn 2 ruined my lap at the end of the session. There are a number of cars taking grid penalties, so it remains to be seen where I will line up for the race. Wherever we start, we will fight hard to come away with something tomorrow.”
Alfa RomeoKimi Raikkonen, 18th, 1:36.311
“Not a good day at the office, none of the laps we did was any good. I got sideways on my first lap, the second got cancelled and in my final run I also had a moment and from then on, the lap was gone. It’s not ideal, it was one of those days in which nothing goes well. We’ll make up a few places with the penalties, but we will need to be sharper in the race.”Antonio Giovinazzi, 13th, 1:35.794
“Not a bad result in the end, we will be starting just outside the top 10 with a free choice of tyres, which can be an advantage as we saw that running with the softs is not easy. I’m happy with the job we have done today: my first lap in Q1 was good, enough to go through as I lost the rear on the exit of T1 in my second run. This time we got lucky, for a change! Our race pace wasn’t bad in practice, so let’s see how tomorrow goes. The aim is to drive into the points: we’ll analyse the different scenarios and hope to pull off a good first lap, which would help us fight for the top 10.”
"Today has been a much better day for us than Friday. We were struggling in the low speed corners yesterday but the wind direction changed today which has brought the car towards us. Progressing to Q2, it was all about battling with Alonso and Vettel to see who could start the furthest forward despite our grid penalties.
„On my final lap, I had a really strong first sector but unfortunately lost it a little bit at turn eight and nine. It was my first track limits offence of the weekend so it’s a shame for it to happen in qualifying but equally, it doesn’t change too much for us. It will be a long race tomorrow, there’s plenty of different strategy options on the table so let’s see what we can do."Nicholas Latifi, 17th, 1:35.995
"On my final flying lap I got caught out by some unexpected balance changes in the high-speed corners, the car snapped and I lost all momentum. I pushed hard for the rest of the lap, but the time I’d lost was unrecoverable unfortunately. It’s frustrating as we should have been able to make it to Q2 today, but it just wasn’t a great lap. The upturn in pace compared to yesterday was good, and our low fuel runs are much more competitive today so that’s a positive. I do expect a tough race tomorrow with the high temperatures and managing the tyres, but everybody will be in a similar situation."
HaasMick Schumacher, 19th, 1:36.499
“Enjoyment was high, luck was low! We were a bit unlucky with the last set of tyres as we didn’t really get to go before they cooled, so we started the lap with very cold tyres and unfortunately that meant we had very low grip in the first sector – and that’s where we needed it. It wasn’t meant to be today, but we’ll try our best tomorrow.”Nikita Mazepin, 20th, 1:36.796
“I’m struggling with high-speed balance, so I needed to see what the car does when I go a little faster and the way you test that is you do carry it faster, and it’s not difficult for me to bring it back when it mattered. I explored the limits as you do when you’re 10th in the constructors’ championship – you want to try and extract more than physics can bring you and make a miracle.”