Sebastian Vettel is in pole position to win his third straight Formula One title after qualifying first for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.
If Red Bull’s Vettel converts his pole into the race win at the new Circuit of the Americas here, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso must finish fourth or higher to take the title fight to the final race in Brazil, but the Spaniard is a lowly eighth on the grid.
Vettel took pole by 0.109 seconds from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who put in a stunning lap to defy the large and growing pace gap between the Red Bulls and the rest.
Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber was third fastest, while Lotus’ Romain Grosjean qualified fourth but will start ninth due to a grid penalty for an illegal gearbox change.
Grosjean’s misfortune elevates his teammate Kimi Raikkonen to fourth, from where the Finn can secure third place in the overall standings in Sunday’s race to round out his comeback season.
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher is fifth on the grid for Mercedes in his penultimate career F1 race, with Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa in sixth after out-qualifying Alonso for only the second time this season.
Sahara Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg starts seventh ahead of Alonso and Grosjean, with Williams driver Pastor Maldonado completing the top ten.
Q2 session saw two notable casualties, as McLaren’s Jenson Button qualified 12th after a power failure stopped him putting in a faster run, and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg struggled to be 17th.
At the back, the Caterhams of Russia’s Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen qualify behind both Marussias for the first time this season and start 21st and 22nd respectively.
Up for sale HRT did well to finish within 107 percent of the fastest time with Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan getting the best out of the car.