Lewis Hamilton secures US Grand Prix pole but he's not certain he'll claim Championship title just yet

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Another pole: For record-breaker Hamilton.

World championship leader Lewis Hamilton roared to the 72nd pole position of his record-breaking career on Saturday and then forecast that he is unlikely to clinch his fourth world title in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.

The 32-year-old Briton, who can take the championship if he wins for Mercedes and title rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari fails to finish in the top five, claimed his 11th pole of the season with a crushing display of pure speed.

But, he said, it is not likely to be enough for him to join Vettel as a four-time champion unless the German, who starts alongside him at the front of the grid, “makes a silly mistake”.

“I think it’s highly unlikely it’s going to be the case here,” said Hamilton. “Sebastian did a great job today to bring the Ferrari back up. I think, ultimately, all I can do is do the best I can with my abilities and try to get maximum points.

“Sebastian is right there so, unless he makes a silly mistake, which is unlikely, it will go to the next races…”
Hamilton, who clocked a circuit record time with his lap in one minute and 33.108 seconds, added that he expected a tough contest in Sunday’s race with Vettel fighting to keep alive his title challenge.

“It’s going to be a great race out there tomorrow,” he said. “It’s going be a tough one because looking after the tyres in these conditions is still tough, I’m but looking forward to it.

“The track was very difficult today, with the wind picking up you’ve got a head-wind into turn one, a tailwind out of turn one, the whole of sector one is tail-wind and then a head-wind into turn 9, so it’s shifting the whole way through the lap.

“You’re kind of gauging how hard you can push, how much you must lay off, but that’s why I love it her. It’s such a fantastic track to drive and especially when you’ve got a car you can rely on.”

As Hamilton purred with pleasure after securing a record 117th front row start, passing seven-time champion German Michael Schumacher’s record of 116, Vettel said he and Ferrari are working day to day in pursuit.

“I was happy in the end with the car, but we lacked some rhythm. We came good, when it mattered, and I believe our race pace is good. Well done to Lewis today … We are taking each day as it comes now.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas qualified third despite struggling with his braking.
“There have been things I have been struggling with – brake modulation and locking, transferring weight,” said the Finn. “I have struggled to get it together and many times at 13 and 15 I lost a bit of time – those are the longest corners.”

Australian Daniel Ricciardo qualified fourth for Red Bull ahead of Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull, but the Dutchman will start from the back of the grid after being given a 15-place penalty for taking new power unit parts.

“It’s easy to say now that I should have been up there, but if you make two reasonably big mistakes, it’s not what you want,” said Verstappen, disappointed with his performance 24 hours after the team had confirmed he had signed a new contract.

“I’m not happy with myself — and it’s one of the worst qualifyings of the year for me.”

Frenchman Esteban Ocon qualified seventh for Force India ahead of an impressive Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard making his debut with Renault after moving from Toro Rosso.

Fellow-Spaniard two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren Honda was ninth and Mexican Sergio Perez 10th in the second Force India.

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Le Mans champion Brendon Hartley to make F1 debut with Toro Rosso at US Grand Prix

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Le Mans champion Brendon Hartley of New Zealand will make his Formula One debut at the US Grand Prix in Austin next weekend for Toro Rosso as a replacement for the absent Pierre Gasly.

Frenchman Gasly joined Toro Rosso just two weeks ago from the Super Formula Championship to take the place of the struggling Daniil Kvyat, and as he trails the lead by a mere half-point, will contest the last race of the season in Japan on the same day as the Austin GP.

The last New Zealander to race in Formula One was Mike Thackwell 33 years ago.

The 27-year-old Hartley last tested with Toro Rosso in 2009 and was over the moon to get the belated chance to race his first F1 GP.

“What an amazing feeling, I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1,” said Hartley, who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

“I want to say a huge thanks to Red Bull and to Porsche,” he told the Toro Rosso site.

“I’m trying not to put too many expectations on my F1 debut, but I feel ready for it.”
Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost said he was delighted for Hartley, describing him as part of the Red Bull family.

“Brendon is coming as the reigning 24h Le Mans winner and he’s also leading the current FIA LMP1 World Endurance Championship, which he won in 2015 as well,” Tost said.

“I’m convinced he’ll do a fantastic job for us.”

Russian Kvyat has since returned to Toro Rosso and will partner Hartley in Texas, after Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who has scored 48 of the Red Bull second-string outfit’s 52 points so far this season, left for Renault last week.

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Sebastian Vettel keeps his cool and other talking points from the Japanese GP

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Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis hamilton romped to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday to close in on a fourth world title after Sebastian Vettel retired with engine failure four laps in.

The Briton dominated from pole, steering his Mercedes to a crushing eighth win of the year, to stretch his Formula One championship lead over Vettel to 59 points with just 100 left to play for.

Here, we take a look at five talking points following Hamilton’s win in Suzuka.

How many Ferrari mechanics does it take to change a spark plug?

The sight of Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene looking glumly at the floor after Sebastian Vettel’s early retirement told a story in Suzuka.

A week after a fuming Ferrari president Sergio Marchione spoke of “organisational changes” for a string of costly mistakes in recent races, it would be little surprise if heads roll at Maranello.

The fiasco surrounding Vettel’s retirement after just four laps — caused by a humble spark plug — sounds like the punchline to a bad joke.

Get a room!

After sharing the podium with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in Suzuka, race winner Lewis Hamilton noted the banter between Red Bull pair and smiled: “I’ve never seen drivers such great friends. Do you guys share a room?”

Hamilton’s relationships with his own team-mates have largely been more fractious (honourable mentions: Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg). Verstappen, who had given Hamilton a late fright in the race, didn’t bat an eyelid. “Yeah we actually share a bed,” he replied.

Seb keeps his cool

Vettel would have been well within his rights to throw his toys out of the pram after Ferrari’s latest mechanical failure.

The German may have been hopping mad as his title hopes were frazzled by a faulty spark plug but he coolly held it together in his TV interviews.

“I need to protect (the team) — they’ve done an incredible job,” said Vettel.

Compare that to Hamilton’s histrionics last year when he suggested Mercedes could be conspiring against him after an engine fire in Malaysia.

Over and out for Palmer?

Jolyon Palmer admitted he may never return to Formula One after completing his final drive for Renault with a 12th-place finish in Japan.

The Briton, who makes way for Carlos Sainz, faces an uncertain future and may need to explore options outside of F1.

“On the plane back home it will probably sink in,” he said, despondently, although the sight of Sainz crashing his Toro Rosso into a wall on lap one will surely have made him feel a little better.

Naughty ‘Nando’

You just can’t keep Fernando Alonso away from controversy.

This year, he managed to avoid turning the airwaves blue over team at Suzuka, home of McLaren’s engine suppliers Honda, after a profane outburst 12 months ago.

But the Spaniard got into hot water for interfering with the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen in the closing stages of the race.

Alonso, who was fighting for 10th with Felipe Massa, ignored blue flags ordering him to get out of the way, earning him a couple of penalty points.

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