Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took pole position for the United States Grand Prix after Max Verstappen’s lap was deleted for exceeding track limits.
Verstappen appeared to have qualified first in his Red Bull at a hot Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, only to have his lap – five thousandths of a second faster than Leclerc – scored by the stewards. Verstappen moved from first to sixth, with Lando Norris taking second for McLaren ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz finished fourth and George Russell fifth for Mercedes.
Verstappen, who won his third world title in Qatar a fortnight ago, is trying to join Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel in reaching 50 victories. But the Dutchman’s quest will begin at the bottom of the grid after taking all four wheels off the track at turn 18 following a rare error.
Verstappen headed into the final runs a quarter of a second ahead after taking aim at his team for putting him on track too close to Sergio Pérez in the other Red Bull. “Good fucking job,” he shouted over the radio. “What was that on the last turn?!”
His subsequent error then allowed Leclerc to claim the 21st pole of his career, 0.130 seconds ahead of Norris, who finished nine thousandths ahead of Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo is back in the saddle after missing five races with a broken hand during practice for the Dutch Grand Prix on August 25.
The 34-year-old Australian progressed through Q2 before lining up 15th, a second off the pace and four places behind Yuki Tsunoda in the other AlphaTauri.
Aston Martin made a number of improvements across the Atlantic, but both of their drivers were sent for an early bath.
Fernando Alonso only managed 17th with teammate Lance Stroll – on torrid form – two places further back. Meanwhile, American Logan Sargeant, whose drive for Williams has not been confirmed for next season, will line up in last position at his home race.