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Leclerc On Pole In Austin As Verstappen Has Lap Deleted

  • SPORT
  • 4 min read

Charles Leclerc put Ferrari on pole position for Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix after Red Bull’s triple Formula One world champion Max Verstappen had a faster lap deleted for exceeding track limits and dropped to sixth on the grid.

McLaren’s Lando Norris will join Leclerc on the front row, with Lewis Hamilton lining up third for Mercedes and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz fourth in a battle to beat dominant Red Bull for only the second time this year.

The pole was Leclerc’s third of the season, and 21st of his career, but he was helped by Verstappen going fully over the white line through turn 19 on his way to lapping 0.005 faster on his final effort.

The Monegasque had been on provisional pole with a time of one minute 34.829 and improved that to 1:34.723 before Verstappen crossed the line in a swiftly deleted 1:34.718.

“I think as a team we did a great job. We know that in the Sprint weekend it’s more important than ever to have a clean FP1 (practice), we did and we started with a strong basis thanks to the work the guys have done,” said Leclerc.

“I was happy throughout qualifying. The last lap in Q3 there was a bit of mistakes here and there but I think it wasn’t easy for everybody. So, really happy we are starting on pole for Sunday.

“I love this track, I love the vibe there is around this track in the city and in the country so it’s great to be here.”

Qualifying was held on Friday after one practice session because Saturday is devoted to a standalone points-scoring 100km sprint, the fifth of six on the calendar this season.

Red Bull and Verstappen, who will be hunting a 50th career win on Sunday at a track where the winner has always come from the front row, have already secured the constructors’ and drivers’ championships.

“It’s very fine margins when you are pushing to the limit. Of course it’s a bit unfortunate but it makes the Sunday also a bit more fun,” said Verstappen, winner of 14 of the 17 races so far, of his error.

GOOD DAY

Norris, who had been somewhat down on his chances on Thursday, said it had been a good day.

“I didn’t make as many mistakes as I made last week which is a good thing,” he added, referring to the previous sprint weekend in Qatar.

“I think we had it today, I think there was enough in it to get pole. I know Charles said he made a few mistakes but so did I, so it’s a bit of a shame that one opportunity maybe missed again but I’m so happy nevertheless.”

Hamilton’s team mate George Russell qualified fifth with Verstappen sixth, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon seventh and eighth with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez ninth and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri 10th.

Perez, second in the championship but only 30 points clear of Hamilton and five rounds remaining, will be feeling the pressure with Red Bull determined to end the year one-two in the drivers’ standings.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo started his comeback from injury with 15th place on the grid for AlphaTauri, with team mate Yuki Tsunoda 11th.

Both Aston Martins went out in the first phase, a blow for a team fighting to stay fourth in the championship with resurgent McLaren poised to overtake them.

Spaniard Fernando Alonso will start 17th with Canadian team mate Lance Stroll, who had brake problems in practice and completed only five laps in preparation, qualifying a disappointing 19th.

“Let’s see if tomorrow we can make a good sprint because Sunday’s race is heavily compromised now,” said double world champion Alonso.

Reuters