Nico Rosberg will start alongside Lewis Hamilton in this afternoons US Grand Prix, ahead of both Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat respectively.
Race Control managed to find a window to allow Qualifying hour to take place, and when we did it looked like the times set in Q1 would determine the grid order as imminent showers of rain looked to be on the horizon. As it was though, the track seemed to improve which allowed for a mix of leaders in the session as the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers traded the fastest lap times.
This wasn’t before we delayed again however, after Carlos Sainz Jr binned his Toro Rosso into the barrier at turn 4. He emerged unscaved, but the replays show that he appeared to take too much kerb on entry which made him aquaplane in similar fashion to Rosberg in yesterdays Practice session.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first surprise to come across the line ahead of both Mercedes drivers, before Rosberg went quicker on his next lap after spinning on his first. Vettel meanwhile hit the armco barrier on his first attempt, which put him well down the order and nearly in the drop zone.
Late improvements from Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso put them P4 and P9 respectively, as Ricciardo started to post yet more purple sectors to go fastest at the chequered flag. Rosberg also improved to second place by two tenths from Hamilton.
Ericsson, Nasr, Rossi, Stevens, and Sainz meanwhile were all knocked out after Q1.
On to the second part of Qualifying and the Ferrari drivers were first out to set laps after the engineers calculated that this was probably the track at its peak performance. Vettel was quickest initially from Raikkonen, before Hamilton went faster. Rosberg also set purple sectors, which was enough for him to take what became provisional pole.
Further back Ricciardo split the two Ferrari’s, before going quicker on his next run. Next up was Nico Hulkenberg, who despite spinning on his first run went fifth quickest overall whilst teammate Sergio Perez went seventh quickest. Max Verstappen managed tenth fastest behind Felipe Massa, whilst Alonso went eleventh quickest which turns into a top ten start with Ferrari’s engine penalties.
At this stage the track started to get wetter, with drivers such as Button and Verstappen getting caught out at turn 10 as the rain started to come in from that direction. In the closing stages it was clear that there was an overwhelming amount of water on the track for the Wet tyres to cope with, and as such put an end to the running.
After a 15 minute delay the Stewards decided to cancel the top ten shootout, which meant the times from Q2 determined the grid order we will start with this afternoon. With Ferrari’s collective 20-place grid engine penalty, that also means we have a noah’s ark grid with the two Mercedes, two Red Bull, and two Force India’s rounding out the top six starters. Consequently Vettel will start from 15th, whilst Raikkonen starts 18th.