NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Max Verstappen Breaks Mercedes Streak, Takes Pole at COTA

Max Verstappen will start on the pole for Sunday’s (Oct. 25) United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

For the seventh time in 2021, Verstappen will share the front row with his championship rival Lewis Hamilton, while Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas claimed the spots behind their respective teammates in the second row.

Unfortunately for Mercedes, Bottas has received a five-place grid penalty for taking a new internal combustion engine ahead of Sunday’s race. This promotes Charles Leclerc to P4.

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Verstappen’s pole marks the first time since 2013 that a Mercedes has not led the grid from the line at COTA. Either Red Bull or Mercedes have taken pole at every iteration of the U.S. Grand Prix to be held at the purpose built circuit in Texas.

Rain threatened Verstappen’s last minute challenge for pole, with light precipitation falling on the frontstretch and sector 3 just as Verstappen approached on his final flying lap.

“I was not sure if I was going to hang onto my lap time,” Verstappen told Sky Sports in his post-qualifying interview. “From here onwards, we just hope to have a good start and work together as a team to get the best possible result.”

The qualifying sessions produced two unexpected developments.

First, Mercedes looked a bit of a mess until Hamilton nearly grabbed the pole in Q3. Hamilton and Bottas both spent more time than anyone would have predicted fighting their cars, especially through sector three. Mercedes drivers having to manhandle their cars in such a manner is not a common sight by any stretch.

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Secondly, Perez displayed a pace similar to rival Verstappen’s throughout the entire weekend to this point. The Mexican came within three tenths of his first career pole, but he can still walk away proud of his efforts. P3 is a marked improvement regardless.

For Q2, Verstappen claimed P1, one third of a second ahead of Hamilton. Lando Norris, Leclerc and Bottas rounded out the top-five positions.

Perez and Daniel Ricciardo both escaped elimination from Q2 at the last minute, placing seventh and ninth, respectively. Both drivers spent most of the session on the back foot after their lap times were eliminated for track limit violations early in the session.

Eliminated from Q2 were Esteban Ocon, Sebastien Vettel, Antonio Giovinazzi, Fernando Alonso and George Russell.

Leclerc put in a last minute purple lap to finish Q1 ahead of Verstappen. Perez followed Verstappen in P3. The McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris also showed competitive pace.

Handling issues resulted in the Silver Arrows finishing Q1 in P8 and P9, in sharp contrast to their performance in Friday’s practice.

Toward the bottom five of Q1, Lance Stroll was kicked out at the last minute, while his teammate Vettel managed to place his Aston Martin in P10, safely advancing to Q2.

Nikita Mazepin extended his streak of qualifying in the last position, now having done so at every round of conventional qualifying this season. Mazepin was three tenths off of Mick Schumacher (P19) and 2.6 seconds behind Leclerc’s P1 time. Nicholas Latifi and Kimi Raikkonen joined Stroll and the Haas duo in elimination.

Coverage will begin at 3 p.m. ET on ABC.

U.S. Grand Prix Starting Lineup

1. Max Verstappen
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Sergio Perez
4. Charles Leclerc
5. Carlos Sainz
6. Daniel Ricciardo
7. Lando Norris
8. Pierre Gasly
9. Valtteri Bottas
10. Yuki Tsunoda
11. Esteban Ocon
12. Antonio Giovinazzi
13. Lance Stroll
14. Nicholas Latifi
15. Kimi Raikkonen
16. Mick Schumacher
17. Nikita Mazepin
18. Sebastian Vettel
19. Fernando Alonso
20. George Russell

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