What the teams said after qualifying for the United States Grand Prix at COTA
Perez once again looked quick, topping FP3 and heading into qualifying full of confidence. Both Red Bulls made it through to Q3 on the medium tyre but there was one scary moment after the Mexican lost a lap time to track limits and put himself under more pressure than was necessary. Once in Q3, Perez atoned by grabbing provisional pole from his team mate but on their final runs as the drizzle started to fall, it was Verstappen who was able to make the most of the slightly slippery conditions to steal back that P1 grid slot.
READ MORE: 'I'm not worried about what's happening behind me' – Verstappen relaxed about front-row showdown with Hamilton
Max 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.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It was a great qualifying performance from both our drivers, a first and third, it’s a great place to be starting tomorrow’s race. It’s the first non-Mercedes pole here in the hybrid era and the first time we’ve had two cars against one, so another milestone for us. Lewis put in a great lap at the end there, the wind dropped and the times started to fall, but over the lap we had the quicker car. It was probably Checo’s best qualifying this year in normal conditions, so we are really pleased with that. Checo had provisional pole and Max responded and managed to improve, so phenomenal performances from both our drivers. It’s tough to follow here and you definitely want to lead into turn one, so at least we’ve got two guys starting at the front of the field. It’s going to be an interesting first corner tomorrow.”
After their blistering start to the weekend in FP1 yesterday, today Mercedes looked to have been pegged back by their rivals. They weren’t quick in Q1 in qualifying, but managed to get good lap times on the medium compound in Q2 to make sure they were on a good starting tyre for the race. Roll on the top 10 shootout and based on the first runs, the team were in trouble. But Hamilton pulled a lap out of the bag as he so often does to manage at least to make it to the front row, whereas Bottas’ P4 becomes ninth on the grid thanks to that grid penalty.
READ MORE: ‘I gave it everything, it was a bit of a struggle’ says Hamilton after taking P2 on Austin grid
Lewis 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."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We didn't have the pace for pole today, but it was a good effort by Lewis to get the car onto the front row. Unfortunately, Valtteri has to serve the penalty for his ICE change, which will drop him to 9th, but at least it is a circuit where you can overtake. So hopefully we can recover well. Strategically it's going to be a bit harder with Red Bull having both cars up at the sharp end of the grid but ultimately, it's going to come down to who's quicker and who's easiest on the tyres. We're happy with our start tyre choice and we've got new Mediums and Hards with both drivers, so there are plenty of strategy options for us to look at this evening. The wind is also making it tricky out there and the track is very tough on the tyres so it's going to be challenging, but that can also create opportunity so let's see how we fare tomorrow."
Engaged in a dog fight with McLaren all day, Ferrari briefly looked like they might be able to get into the battle out front. But in the end the Bulls and Silver Arrows had a little bit too much in reserve for the Scuderia, who had to settle for beating their championship rivals instead. Both Ferrari drivers inherit a position thanks to Bottas’ penalty which is the good news – the bad news is that Sainz will be starting on the soft tyre for the race, after running that compound in Q2.
READ MORE: Leclerc thrilled to beat both McLarens in COTA qualifying, but Sainz braced for tough race on soft tyres
Charles 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."
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"We knew that, on paper, the characteristics of this track were not the best for our package, especially compared to our closest rivals. On top of that, it was not easy to find the right settings on such a bumpy track, especially as the drivers need to feel confident in the car to give their best, although that goes for everyone. All of us together worked a lot on this aspect yesterday and today, trying out various solutions. In the end, I think we succeeded in giving Charles and Carlos what they needed to get the most out of the SF21 and they responded in style throughout all of qualifying.
"Tomorrow we can expect the race to be very tough on the drivers and the cars with very high temperatures expected, which will have an effect on tyre management, as the track surface is in any case very abrasive. Choosing the right strategy and executing it properly will be key. As usual we will be giving it our all. There are many Ferrari fans here in Austin and we would like to give them something to cheer about."
Although both drivers looked comfortable from the off, in the end McLaren didn’t quite have the pace to pip the Ferrari boys. They do have a strategic advantage over their rivals though, as both Ricciardo and Norris will start tomorrow on the preferential medium compound tyres. In the end, the Aussie got the beating of his team mate by eight hundredths – but he won’t be resting comfortably tonight, with a team mate breathing down his neck at a track where overtaking is very possible.
READ MORE: McLaren pair surprised to be behind Ferraris in Austin, but looking forward to being 'hunters' on Sunday
Daniel 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."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“P7 and P8 for us today is a solid result from qualifying – just not quite enough to get ahead of the two Ferraris. Tomorrow’s race is going to be interesting: ambient conditions will be hot, tyre management and strategy will be key. We’ll work hard overnight with a view to making up some positions and giving our fans in this brilliant crowd something to cheer.”
Gasly has looked quick all weekend so it was no surprise to see him make Q3 – even more impressive was the fact he made it through on the medium tyre and so starts on the preferential compound. More of a surprise was the form of Tsunoda. The rookie struggled to get to grips with the bumpy track yesterday, but nailed his Q3 lap to make it through at the expense of Ocon for his second Q3 appearance in a row.
Pierre 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.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“With the performance of the car not where we wanted it to be yesterday, the team have had quite a lot of work to do to understand how best to address the balance issues. However, with the car working much better today, and both cars making it through to Q3, it’s fair to say the changes made overnight have been effective and we are well placed for the race tomorrow. Pierre's qualifying has gone pretty much to plan, meaning he will start the race on the medium tyre whilst Yuki has also made it through, although he will start on the soft tyre. Having both cars starting in the top 10, ahead of a number of our closest rivals, does provide us with a few more options in our fight for points tomorrow and our battle for fifth in the constructors championship.”
A mixed bag for Alpine, who used Alonso to attempt to tow Ocon around the track and into the top 10. In the end the Frenchman fell just short but with free trye choice at a track where degradation is set to be high, P11 isn’t a bad starting berth at all. As for Alonso, he didn’t mind playing the team game, given he is set to start down the field after taking on a raft of PU components and picking up grid penalties as a result.
Esteban 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.”
Davide Brivio, Racing Director
“After today’s qualifying, we’ve set ourselves up for an interesting position in the race. With Fernando’s power unit change this morning, and the fact he will start from the back of the grid, we tried to make the most of that. The target was to have both cars advance to Q2 and then for Fernando to help Esteban out with the tow on the back straight. Both drivers showed excellent team work, with Esteban starting tomorrow’s race in 11th after running in Q2 on mediums. Tomorrow we can definitely have an interesting race from those positions. We’ve seen Fernando come through the field already this season and that will be his target. Esteban will aim to have a good start and the hard work will happen overnight to prepare a strategy for that. We’re looking forward to racing and the target is to score points.”
It wasn’t a great day for Aston Martin in Austin. Vettel is starting down the field after taking a new engine so was only trying to out-qualify the other cars with similar penalties, to make sure he starts ahead of them tomorrow. That he did, but he was left frustrated after encountering traffic in the form of Mazepin in Q1. As for Stroll, he doesn’t tend to go well here and exited at the first time of asking - although he can't take any blame for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and losing his lap to yellow flags.
Sebastian Vettel, 12th, 1:35.500
“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.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Lance was unfortunate to have his best Q1 lap impacted by double waved yellows. As a result, through no fault of his own, he did not progress to Q2. Sebastian achieved his objective of out-qualifying the other competitors taking a new power unit. So today’s qualifying was a frustrating one for both our drivers, and we will look at our options this evening before we decide on how best to approach tomorrow’s race.”
After looking quick yesterday, Alfa Romeo dropped back down the field in qualifying. Raikkonen exited at the first time of asking, not helping himself by losing his first timed lap to track limits. Giovinazzi was lucky to sneak through to Q2 after spinning late on in Q1. Once there, the Italian gamely tried to make it through on the medium compound but wound up 13th. He will gain a place when Vettel serves his penalty though.
READ MORE: US Grand Prix Qualifying Facts & Stats: Red Bull finally end Mercedes’ Austin run
Kimi 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.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“We finish Saturday knowing we are in a good position to fight for the points in tomorrow’s race. Antonio had a good session, with a strong first lap in Q1 that was enough to go through, and in Q2 he kept it clean to be in 13th – which should mean P12 on the grid tomorrow. We saw how difficult it was to put a full lap together, each corner can catch you out with the bumps and the wind and many laps got cancelled. Unfortunately Kimi was a victim of these conditions and couldn’t progress from Q1, but with penalties to some other drivers he should still be starting in a competitive position. We’ll see how the race unfolds tomorrow: we’ve seen some exciting ones here in the past, so we will need to be at our sharpest to make sure we make the most of anything that happens.”
Russell’s goal today was to out-qualify the other drivers with grid penalties but alas, he ran wide in Q2 and lost his lap time and as such will start right at the back of the field tomorrow. He did at least make it to Q2 which was more than Latifi could manage, the Canadian falling at the first time of asking.
George Russell, 15th, No time set in Q2
"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."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"It was a shame that Nicholas suffered with some unexpected oversteer in the middle sector of his final lap as his overall pace was very strong and he could’ve easily made it to Q2 ahead of the Alfa Romeos. However, that is the nature of qualifying and whilst it is frustrating, he will start the race in P14 after cars ahead serve their penalties. From there he can have a strong race and battle with Giovinazzi and Ocon. His pace today was excellent and there is no reason to think that he can’t replicate that tomorrow.
"With George, we knew that we were only competing with Alonso and Vettel and so once into Q2, we watched them and, in the end, with Vettel competing hard on his new qualifying tyre, we opted to follow suit using a new option tyre. George was on a strong lap and, approaching Turn 12, it looked like he could beat Sebastian, however, some gusts in Sector 3 meant that he lost time. In any case, he slid off the track at Turn 9 and so his lap time was deleted. This was a pity and means that he will now start behind Alonso.
"We now turn our attention to the Grand Prix, where we’ll look to apply the lessons learnt yesterday during the high fuel runs. Looking after the tyres for a stint is not easy in the hot conditions, but we have found a few opportunities for improvement and we expect to be more competitive tomorrow."
Mazepin struggled with track limits in both FP3 and qualifying, putting himself under huge pressure after losing his first run in Q1. Ultimately, the Russian couldn’t extract much pace from the VF-21, and neither could his team mate. Schumacher did at least win the intra-team battle, and both drivers will inherit places when grid penalties are applied. Keeping those faster cars behind will be the first order of the day for the Haas boys at their team’s home race.
Mick 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.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“The guys gave it their best today, as they always do. Nikita got a bit of extra running in on his side to begin with on his first set. He then duly delivered a solid lap when he put his second set on which was good to see. Mick was unfortunate not to get a faster lap in on his final run but that’s the way it goes sometimes. As I said before, we’re just happy to be here in front of these fans and we look ahead to Sunday’s race now. We’ll be moving up the grid a bit with the penalties for the other cars, but we know keeping them behind us will be a struggle. Everyone will give it their all – there’s no change in our approach. Let’s see what happens.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"The medium tyre was favoured by the majority of the top 10 on the grid, as starting on this compound allows more flexibility in terms of strategy. Managing the softs to avoid overheating ¬– especially at the rear – is crucial in these warm conditions, and this makes the medium and the hard the key choices for the race. A two-stop strategy is the more likely, with the high speeds and abrasive surfaces here taking a lot out of the tyres. At the same time the relatively low pit stop time loss and number of overtaking opportunities mitigate the advantages of a one-stopper. There are a number of different two-stoppers that are quite closely matched, depending on the race circumstances, so this looks set to be an intense strategic battle."
HIGHLIGHTS: Watch all the action from qualifying for the US Grand Prix at COTA