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Future History Unveiled Before Mercedes Takes Pole At Austin

2021 rules and cars Formula 1 is set to undergo sweeping changes from 2021 with new rules and a new design for the cars unveiled before the Austin, Texas, Formula 1 race. The link will showcase all you need to know.

The drivers have been told that thjere is one crucial thing to look out for during qualifying. Exceeding the track limits is a no-no on any circuit and at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, with rapid pace needing to be reigned in on some turns, and a very bumpy surface unsettling cars, it’s going to be all too easy to go well over the ripple strips.

Qualifying session 1 saw Charles Leclerc and Ferrari under the pump before it had even started. Leclerc’s car came to a smoky trackside stop, and investigation showed an oil leak in the engine compartment. Ferrari managed to swap a previously used engine into Leclerc’s car and he will not cop a penalty as it’s a previous, not new, engine.

Immediately Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen lead the time charts. Hamilton was on a 1:33.454 halfway through the first twenty minute long session. That’s amazing driving considering he’d said that the very bouncy Circuit of the Americas track had given him a headache from the Friday practice sessions. Verstappen was less that one tenth of a second behind. Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel, and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz featured in the top five.

The bottom five, the first to not make it past Q1, would see Robert Kubica and George Russell continue the misery for Williams in 2019. Sergio Perez was well off the pace, as was Antonio Giovinnazi and the veteran Kimi Raikkonen. Romain Grosjean had a crash during the practice sessions and would be right on the bubble with 10 seconds left. At the end of Q1 it was Lando Norris with a lap out of the clouds on 1:33.353, one tenth ahead of Hamilton’s 1:33.454. Verstappen, Pierre Gasly, Bottas, Vettel, Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo, Sainz, and Lance Stroll would complete Q1 for the top ten. Q2 would have Albon, Leclerc, Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Grosjean make it through from Q1. Giovinnazi would miss out by just 0.065 to make Q2.  Sergio Perez didn’t push in Q1 as he will start from pit lane after a weight issue with the car from practice. The issues was simple: he failed to stop to have the car weighed…

Q2 and Norris would start on soft rubber. Hamilton elected to go on mediums, as would Bottas and Vettel. Data shows these to be something around a second per lap slower than the soft, but have the benefit of a longer life on track.

With ten minutes to go in Q2, Hamilton would lead on 1:33.045, a tenth ahead of Bottas who would be a tenth ahead of Leclerc. Vettel and Sainz made the top five with ten minutes to go. Eight to go and suddenly it’s Albon leading with a cracker 1:32.898. P10 and Magnussen is in the bubble and just ahead of Kvyat and Ricciardo. There’s just six minutes left. Cars are in for tweaks and a tire change. There are three minutes in Q2 left for the top ten to be decided.

At the end of the session Leclerc clocked 1:32.760 to bump Vettel by a mere 0.022. Albon was just 0.138 behind Vettel with Verstappen and Hamilton making P4 and P5. Bottas, Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo and Gasly managed to make the top ten, after Hulkenberg banked a quick time with a second to go, only to have Ricciardo go 2/10ths quicker. Hulkenberg would be 0.0100 out from P10. Magnussen, Kvyat, Stroll and Grosjean will fill the slots from P12 to P15. Kvyat could consider himself unlucky, as a close call between Hamiton and Verstappen forced the Russian wide and off track, losing his time for exceeding track limits.

Q3 and it’s all on the line for Mercedes and Hamilton. He needs to finish the race in 8th or above in order to seal his sixth drivers’ championship. Q3 is twelve minutes in length. An outlap before the first full flying lap can take two to three minutes so it was four minutes later before times would appear. Bottas showed pace with a 1:32.029 with seven minutes to go. That was also a new track record. Vettel? 0.012 from Bottas, leading Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton with 0.292 behind Bottas, Albon, Sainz, Norris, and Gasly. Renault held Ricciardo back until four minutes were left.

Zero time, and it’s Bottas for pole for his first ever pole at Austin. Vettel edged out Verstappen by 0.067, and Leclerc found P4. Hamilton backed off his last qualifying lap with Albon losing his quickest time due to exceeding track limits. Sainz, Norris, Ricciardo and Gasly will fill the top ten.

“To get that sort of lap at a place like this… the last one was just less grip overall. I’m glad no one could improve, happy days!” was the response from a jubilant Bottas, claiming his fifth pole for the year. Hamilton was subdued, stating yet again he was focused on winning, not where one of his worst qualifying sessions in recent times had left him.

The race starts at 13:10, Texas time, on Sunday November 3.

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David Conole

Dave Conole is the former long-term circuit commentator for Sydney Motorsport Park, has worked trackside at the Australian F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne and is self-employed as an automotive content producer.

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