Here is our full text transcript from the qualifying session for the 2023 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix:
With the fifth Sprint weekend of the season taking place at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, the grid for Sunday’s race is being set tonight. It looks like it could be a good one, with Lewis Hamilton having shown in practice earlier that he may have the pace to challenge Max Verstappen for pole and Charles Leclerc also on good form, finishing FP1 in second place.
Even though you can race hard and make overtakes at the Circuit of the Americas, nobody from outside the front row has won the United States GP since the event re-joined the calendar in 2012. Second place has also led after Turn 1 on multiple occasions, so it’s going to be a massive fight to start at the front.
One thing to be aware of is that track limits could once more be a factor in qualifying. We’ve seen several sessions, and even pole positions, decided by drivers losing lap times for exceeding the limits of circuits. There are a few spots on the track here where many are anticipating breaches.
Away we go for qualifying at the United States Grand Prix. It’s a Sprint weekend and this next hour is like a normal qualifying session which sets the grid for Sunday’s race. There are a mixture of used and new soft tyres on the cars leaving the pit lane.
“I think the race track should be like a race track and have some imperfections, not look like a billiard table,” says Martin Brundle with COTA’s bumps again noticeable so far today. Some early times on the board from the Alfa Romeos and Alpines. The USA’s own Logan Sargeant was on a lap albeit an exploratory one and he’s straight back in the pit lane.
13 mins to go in Q1: Charles Leclerc sets a 1:36.622 to go 0.018s ahead of Lando Norris. Oscar Piastri is third but the other top names are yet to get a time on the board.
10 mins to go in Q1: Max Verstappen goes fastest by 0.152s, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in fourth. It’s certainly not like Verstappen is blitzing the field which is a continuation of what we saw in practice. It’s a better lap for George Russell compared to Hamilton as he goes third. Just 0.272s split the top six in Q1 at the moment, with five drivers yet to set a lap.
5 mins to go in Q1: First qualifying session back for two months and Daniel Ricciardo is currently one of five drivers in the drop zone into the closing minutes. He’s 18th, three places and three tenths of a second away from team-mate Tsunoda. Carlos Sainz is now fastest by 0.295s as he makes it a Ferrari one-two. Sergio Perez is 11th and Lewis Hamilton is 12th, so they will need to improve you would think. Laps deleted for Sargeant and Zhou in recent minutes. Both in the drop zone.
Chequered flag in Q1: Well, that’s a very handy lap indeed from Lewis Hamilton! He goes back into first place on the timesheet with a 1:35.091. Lando Norris is just behind in second, 0.019s slower, with Verstappen back into third and 0.2s adrift. Fernando Alonso is the big name out of qualifying as he can only go 17th. That’s both Aston Martins out in Q1. A disaster for them. Nico Hulkenberg was fastest earlier in this segment of qualifying and is also out due to a track limits violation.
Away we go for the second part of qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas. The Mercedes and Ferrari drivers are first out there. The top runners are on used soft tyres, apart from George Russell and he goes quickest from Lewis Hamilton.
9 mins to go in Q2: Max Verstappen takes up his habitual position on the timesheet – but not especially convincingly so this time. He takes his softs to 1:35.491, just 0.085s ahead of McLaren’s Piastri and a tenth ahead of the Alpines. Tricky to call the order right now, which is good news! Lando Norris has his lap time deleted which is very costly because he was one of the drivers on new tyres. That will put him on the backfoot even though he should get through into the top 10 with a decent lap.
A mix of used and new tyres in use so far in Q2, but the main takeaway is just how close it all is on the timesheet! Verstappen in first to Tsunoda in eighth are separated by just 0.3s around this 95-second-odd lap. Ferrari only ninth and 14th at the moment, with Norris 15th thanks to that deleted time.
2 mins to go in Q2: Into the crucial final few minutes then as we look to lock in the top 10 for Q3. Charles Leclerc on a hot lap as he bids to improve on ninth and secure his continued participation in qualy. Team-mate Carlos Sainz also on his timed lap too as he attemps to get out of the drop zone. New soft tyres for everyone and it’s Charles Leclerc leading Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz.
Chequered flag: We say “only” but Verstappen is just 0.004s behind Charles Leclerc. George Russell and Sergio Perez breathe a sigh of relief as they squeeze into the top 10. Perez looks off the pace again as he is only 0.018s ahead of 11th-placed Yuki Tsunoda and will need to do something special to challenge the top positions. So a solid return to F1 action for Daniel Ricciardo after injury, who made it into Q2 and eventually qualified 15th. Team-mate Yuki Tsunoda showed there was a little more pace in the AlphaTauri by finishing four places and 0.3s up the road in 11th. Ricciardo will hope to continue to find more pace as the weekend progresses.
The cars are coming out for Q3. Five teams are represented – Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Alpine. History shows that starting on the front row is pivotal to fight for the win and it’s important to get a good banker lap in here as you never know when a yellow or red flag can appear…
8 mins to go in Q3: It’s Charles Leclerc who is faster than Max Verstappen again. The Monegasque has a gap of 0.252s. Lewis Hamilton just comes up short of dislodging Charles Leclerc from the head of the timesheet. The Mercedes dropped a little time in the final sector again, but remains within striking distance for the final laps just 0.056s adrift. Max Verstappen is third as it stands, 0.252s back on provisional pole. Carlos Sainz is fourth in the second Ferrari, with Gasly fifth for Alpine ahead of Sergio Perez. Lando Norris is seventh and Oscar Piastri is eighth. But, both drivers were on used tyres so they have a lot more up their sleeve. George Russell was also on used tyres but had his lap deleted.
1 min to go in Q3: All 10 cars are now on track and everyone is on new tyres. Given the track evolution we have seen, it’s going to all be about this run in Q3. Big moments coming up to see who can deliver under the pressure.
Verstappen goes deep at Turn 1 and it’s not a personal best in the first sector. He’s got it all to do now. The Dutchman somehow pips Charles Leclerc by 0.005s but has his lap time deleted! He went wide at Turn 19 and is down to fifth. Wow, what a dramatic session at the end of a very, very close qualifying session. It’s pole in the USA for Ferrari and Charles Leclerc. Lando Norris is on the front row again for McLaren. Lewis Hamilton is third for Mercedes with Carlos Sainz fourth in the second Ferrari. Max Verstappen is SIXTH on Sunday’s grid after that lap-time deletion.