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Hamilton On Pole; Could Clinch Title In Austin

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, October 21 2017

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has won in Texas before. A victory there on Sunday could earn him another championship. (File photo)

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Point-leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG won pole position Saturday for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix Formula One race at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

His closest pursuer for the 2017 F1 World Championship, Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari, qualified P2 and will start alongside Hamilton on the front row. Hamilton claimed his 11th pole of the season, third in a row and 72nd of his career during three rounds of knockout qualifying around COTA’s 3.426-mile/5.513-kilometer/20-turn layout.

Hamilton’s fast lap of 1-minute, 33.108-seconds was 0.239-seconds better than Vettel’s best and set a new F1 record for COTA. It was Hamilton’s second career pole at COTA, as he was the pole-winner for last year’s United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton has a 59-point lead (306-247) in the championship over Vettel heading into Round 17 of the 20-race schedule. A victory for Hamilton, with Vettel finishing sixth, would allow Hamilton to join Vettel as a four-time F1 World Driving Champion.

“It’s highly unlikely it’s going to be the case (here),” Hamilton said. “Sebastian did a great job today to bring the Ferrari back up. I think ultimately all I can do is do the best I can with my abilities and try to get maximum points. Sebastian is right there so unless he makes a silly mistake, which is unlikely, it will go to the next races.”

During a post-qualifying interview on the grid, Hamilton said he expected the sixth edition of the F1 event at COTA to be a “great race” over 56 laps. NBC’s coverage will begin at 1 p.m. (CDT) with a one-hour preview followed by the race at 2 p.m.

In addition, SiriusXM‘s inaugural coverage of F1 will air live Sunday beginning at 2  p.m.  (CDT), exclusively on Sirius channel 132, XM channel 203 and channel 963 on the SiriusXM app. Listeners will hear the BBC 5 Live radio broadcast for the race.

“It’s going be a tough one because looking after the tires in these conditions is still tough, but looking forward to it,” Hamilton said. “The track was very difficult today. With the wind picking up you’ve got a headwind into Turn 1, a tailwind out of Turn 1, a whole of Sector 1 is tailwind and then a headwind into Turn 9, so it’s shifting the whole way through the lap.

“You’re kind of gauging how hard you can push, how much you must lay off. But that’s why I love it here, such a fantastic track to drive and especially when you’ve got a car you can rely on.”

Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate and third in the championship, qualified third-fastest. Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull Racing will start fourth. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, will start fifth.

Competing on the “home turf” of American-owned Haas F1 Team, Romain Grosjean qualified 14th while teammate Kevin Magnussen was 20th and last. However, due to penalties against others in the field, Frenchman Grosjean will start 12th.

“It’s been a tough weekend up to qualifying,” said Grosjean, driver of the No. 8 car. “I hadn’t run any (Pirelli) ultrasofts (tires) before qualifying. Yesterday we broke a part on a quali run and today I spun in FP3 before I could try them. The incident with Lance Stroll (unnecessarily impeding another driver) was unexpected, and pretty close. I was lucky not to spin on the grass, which would’ve been a disaster.

“It would’ve been the end of qualifying. We went through to Q2, which was good as it was the maximum we had in the car. We pushed really hard and closed the gap from seven-tenths to two-tenths to the guys in front, but we still haven’t really been performing well this weekend. I think it’s more tire-related, and that’s where we’ve got such a strong swing of performance. We need to get on top of that. Hopefully, we can give the fans something special.”

Magnussen was hardly a happy Haaser late Saturday.

“Something wasn’t right,” the native of Denmark said of his No. 20 car. “I mean, we haven’t had it right all weekend, but suddenly I didn’t have any grip at all and I have no idea why. I don’t have any answers for why I was the slowest car on track. It’s very disappointing. It felt like the tires weren’t even new. It felt like a used set; it was new, but the feeling was very bad.”

Haas F1 Team debuted in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, becoming the first American Formula One team since 1986. Founded by industrialist Gene Haas, Haas F1 Team is based in the United States on the same Kannapolis, N.C., campus as his championship-winning NASCAR team, Stewart-Haas Racing. Haas is the founder of Haas Automation, largest CNC machine tool builder in North America, and chairman of Haas F1 Team.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, October 21 2017
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