Lewis Hamton delivered a sublime performance to take pole position for the US Grand Prix ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg.
The Red Bull’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen locked out the second row, and the Ferrari’s disappointed by only managing to claim the third row.
Hulkenberg secured seventh place for Force India on the starting grid who are in a constructor’s battle with Williams that will start from eighth and ninth.
Hamilton in Strong Race Position
It was almost a season defining qualifying session for Hamilton who needs a victory at Austin to keep his title hopes alive.
Finishing 0.216 seconds ahead of Rosberg, the Englishman is attempting to wrestle back a 33 point deficit with a maximum of 100 points remaining in the season.
But he was dominant over most of qualifying and well ahead of Rosberg in the top 10 shoot out.
That he convincingly took pole, however, may not be enough to get Hamilton the important points needed for the title.
Hamilton has now claimed nine pole positions this season but has been struck down by poor starts and mechanical failures to derail many of his race weekends.
With everything on the line, Hamilton will be flexing his elbows leading into the all important uphill Turn 1 on a track where overtaking will be difficult.
“I feel positive,” said Hamilton afterwards.
“We’ve worked hard over the last couple of weeks; understanding and improving on lots of areas.”
“It’s a great feeling to be back up here. It’s been a while since I’ve sat in this spot so I very much appreciate it and I’ll prepare the best I can for tomorrow.”
Rosberg said: “Lewis was just quicker in sector one today. That’s the way it is. He did a good job.
“As we have seen this year, qualifying is not all-important so I still have a good chance in the race.”
Red Bull Mixes Up Strategy
Red Bull has thrown some added interest into the weekend by mixing their race strategies.
While Verstappen and both Mercedes drivers will start on the longer running soft tyres, Ricciardo opted to set his fastest time on the quicker but less durable super soft.
It will force Mercedes to find ways to potentially counter the contrary strategy, which might well have been a smart move from Red Bull given their strong pace on high-fuel race-simulation runs in Friday practice.
“I was happy to do it,” added Ricciardo.
“Max was wanting to try the soft and I was happy to go on the supersoft. I was a bit more comfortable on that tyre yesterday in the long run so that was the reason for that.”
“Hopefully it gives me a little bit off the start and we can challenge the first lap. The supersofts probably won’t have as much range as the softs so you want to try and get at least a handful of laps out of them, but ideally it puts me in a better position off the start and hopefully I can dictate my own pace as opposed to fighting in traffic.”
Pirelli has stated that the theoretical best strategy is a two-stopper with one run of around 14 laps on supersofts and two stints of around 21 laps on softs.
The race starts at 14:00 local time and runs over 56 laps.