Nico Rosberg took pole position for the United States Grand Prix in Austin, the grid being set on Q2 times after heavy rain cancelled the top-10 shootout.
After torrential rain washed out yesterday’s attempt to run qualifying, the session kicked off as planned at 0900 local time on a soaking-wet track surface with all cars required to use full wets.
The first two qualifying sessions ran as planned, despite more rain and a red flag in Q1 for Carlos Sainz crashing out, plus many cars going off at Turn 10 in both sessions.
Q3 was delayed, as heavier rain fell at the end of Q2. McLaren’s Jenson Button explained the conditions as “proper scary”, and the FIA then curtailed qualifying after Q2 due to the worsening conditions.
Lewis Hamilton will start second in his Mercedes, ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen qualified sixth and eighth respectively, but both take a 10-place grid penalties, dropping them to 15th and 18th respectively.
Force India’s Sergio Perez will start fifth, ahead of teammate Nico Hulkenberg.
Felipe Massa rises to seventh, ahead of Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas.
Rosberg tops Q2 as Turn 10 claims spinners
Rosberg set the initial pace straight from the start of Q2 despite using his Q1 tyres on 1m56.824s, a tenth clear of Hamilton.
Ricciardo was third quickest ahead of Kvyat and Vettel, whose car seemed undamaged after it’s Q1 impact with the barriers.
Perez outpaced Hulkenberg by a tenth for sixth position, ahead of Raikkonen, Massa and Verstappen.
The place where Vettel had been off in Q1, Turn 10, was again the action zone in this session. Hulkenberg half-spun there, keeping his car out of the barriers, with Button, Verstappen and Raikkonen repeating the trick. “I had a big spin, it’s getting aquaplaning at the back of the circuit,” said Kimi.
Hamilton then completed a full 360-degree spin at the same kink, while Vettel spun at Turn 9.
Not making the Q3 cut-off was McLaren’s Fernando Alonso (by 0.066s), Valtteri Bottas (who was 0.335s off Williams teammate Massa), Romain Grosjean (Lotus), Button and Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado – but that proved irrelevant.
Button was critical of the weather conditions, stating “they shouldn’t be running it in the first place”.
Sainz crashes out in frantic Q1
As the first session kicked off in full-wet conditions, Maldonado had already had a big moment at Turn 2 before Sainz clipped the same kerb at Turn 3 that led to Rosberg spinning in FP3 on Saturday.
He hit the wall at Turn 4 with far more velocity than Rosberg to remove both front wheels. “I crashed, sorry, sorry guys,” he said.
Toro Rosso now faces a race against time to get the car ready for the race at 1400 local time.
Hamilton reported that the conditions had improved straight away at the restart following the red flags, improving his fastest time to 1m58.025s, with Ricciardo again proving his closest opposition, 0.16s down.
Rosberg went fastest on 1m57.469s, before Ricciardo topped him on 1m57.163s.
Hamilton retook P1 with 1m56.871s, but Ricciardo was not to be denied and grabbed the Q1 top spot with his final lap of the session on 1m56.495s, ahead of Rosberg, who set 1m56.671s at the chequered flag, and Hamilton.
Another major incident was Vettel going off at Turn 10, clattering the Armco on the inside of the downhill left-hander. “Box, box, I touched the wall,” he said. Vettel was down in 11th.
Will Stevens also had a big moment at the same place, but he caught the slide. He dropped out, along with Manor teammate Alexander Rossi, who beat him by three and a half tenths, and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson, who had a huge slide at Turn 17, and Felipe Nasr.