Pirelli have brought the hard and medium compounds to Austin, the orange and white sidewalls respectively.
Sauber have had a pretty good showing so far. Gutiérrez finished fourth in FP1, and sixth in FP2, just ahead of teammate Hülkenberg. Nico moved ahead in the final practice today, finishing fourth behind two Red Bulls and one Mercedes.
The Circuit of the Americas prides itself on being a mash-up of the best bits of other F1 circuits, but it holds its own with that intimidating first corner.
It shouldn't have too much effect in qualifying today, but where the drivers finish will dictate who they are next to as they try and navigate the steep inclined, sharp left-hander.
Tweet from @StatesmanGP: Mass exodus of photographers from the media center means qualifying is starting soon - at the top of the hour. #F1
Jenson Button has a three place grid drop from wherever he qualifies, after being deemed to have overtaken under red flag conditions during FP1.
The wind is not a cause for concern, but perhaps of note. It can catch a driver unawares as they hit high speed and open sections of the track.
Vettel heads in through the back of the garage, those big headphones on pumping goodness knows what music as he gets in the zone.
Charles Pic also has a penalty for this weekend's grid, after the gearbox was changed on his Caterham.
Qualifying session 1 begins.
It's a busy start to the session, as drivers pour out of the pit lane to get some heat into their tyres.
With just two minutes gone, all bar the two Red Bull drivers are out on track. Lots of traffic out there.
Team radio to and from Nico Hülkenberg: "Are these new brakes?"
"Not new but different."
"You could have told me."
Vettel looks particularly relaxed, he's just about to put his helmet on, not even looking at getting in the car just yet.
Times start pouring in, with Nico Hülkenberg setting the first benchmark - 1:43.698.
For reference, Vettel's pole position last year was a 1:35.657.
Jenson Button gets his qualifying campaign started, via @McLarenF1.
The track is definitely improving, as the Caterham duo pop up near the top of the times, but soon start dropping down.
Bottas drops the times into the 1:39s, as we see a replay of a Williams and a Sauber nearly coming into contact.
Lewis Hamilton questions whether the track is slow, and is told it is. He's currently sitting 18th and definitely set to improve.
Turn 20 incident involving Esteban Gutiérrez and Pastor Maldonado will be investigated after qualifying.
Hamilton does improve, popping up to P1 briefly, but then being dropped down by Bottas.
Hülkenberg says it's "shocking" how transformed the car is this afternoon. His engineer suggests it is the same for everyone, and Nico ponders if it is the tailwind.
The world feed shows Davide Valsechhi standing in the garage, a rueful look on the reserve driver's face as he watches Kovalainen in the seat he must have hoped for.
As the field dive back into the pit lane, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel finally head out on track, hard tyres on the two Red Bulls.
Grosjean is currently sitting atop the timesheets with a 1:38.676. You'd imagine the Red Bull pair might top that in just a few minutes.
Jenson Button also complains on the radio about how different the car feels this session. Oversteer and understeer, it seems.
Meanwhile, Webber's engineer instructs him the cutoff is somewhere in the 1:38s, but the delta on his dashboard is showing him a 1:36 instead. Not sure why, perhaps it's motivating.
With just under four minutes to go, all drivers are out on track barring Romain Grosjean, who is currently in third place.
Webber pops up to P1 with a 1:38.493, Vettel slots in a tenth of a second behind him, and heads off on another lap.
Replays show Pastor Maldonado running hugely wide, ruining that lap. He's back on track with just a bit of lock-up tyre damage, and continues.
Meanwhile, in the other Williams, Bottas sits third, as the track continues to improve. (Pic via @WilliamsF1Team)
Grosjean does come back out of the garage, for a moment it looked as though Lotus would be taking a gamble there.
Turn 20 incident involving Max Chilton and Pastor Maldonado investigated after qualifying. Looks like Chilton might have impeded Pastor round that corner.
Vettel is the only driver who remains in the garage, but others are joining him now they have done their best work. Hamilton sits P1 for now.
The drop zone features Sutil, Maldonado, and the Caterham and Marussia foursome.
Adrian Sutil crossed the line to start another lap but went straight on at the first corner and missed the chance!
Qualifying session 1 ends.
Maldonado is the only one who can improve then, and it's Massa and Alonso who could suffer at this point.
Sutil is making his way slowly round the circuit... and then he pulls over to the side and stops the car.
Meanwhile, Massa slowed up in his lap, perhaps convinced that Maldonado won't be able to improve on his time.
It's a good gamble for Felipe, as Pastor can't improve and drops out along with Sutil.
The fastest three in that session were Bottas, Hamilton and Gutiérrez.
|17||A Sutil||Force India|
|19||G van der Garde||Caterham|
Tweet from @pirellisport: So only Red Bull got through Q1 with just using the hard tyre. Bottas fastest with 1.37.821 on the white medium tyre.
Looks like the sun has disappeared from the sky, and the clouds are moving in.
Qualifying session 2 begins.
Jean-Éric Vergne heads out first, leading the way round as the pack file out behind him.
Ross Brawn explains to Sky the issue drivers are feeling: "I think the surface is probably a bit dusty from the wind, and it's knowing what sort of balance you'll have entering each corner." He adds that the gusting wind means sometimes it's there and sometimes it's not, which makes it even more difficult.
Eleven drivers head out on track early, with times starting to filter in. The Red Bulls remain in the garage, along with Pérez, Grosjean and Hülkenberg.
It's medium tyres all round so far, as the two Toro Rosso drivers set the first times of the session, only to be beaten by Lewis Hamilton.
Valtteri Bottas continues to find some serious pace, slipping into second behind Hamilton. Gutiérrez also has a hold on his Sauber, taking third for now.
Rosberg's first lap was massively off the pace, but he can only improve to ninth. Having said that, the ten cars that have set a time so far are only eight tenths apart.
The midfield runners really do have some good pace here so far. Paul di Resta sat in P2 for a while, before being pushed down by Sergio Pérez.
Tweet from @MercedesAMGF1: And both drivers now head back out on another set of options for their second run
Romain Grosjean crosses the line for the fastest time of the session so far, a 1:37.523. That's half a second over Hamilton, so the track may be coming round again.
Webber drops the benchmark even further, posting a 1:37.312. Behind him, Vettel is putting in some pretty fast sectors.
The drop zone currently features Gutiérrez, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Button, Massa and Vergne. A lot still to come though.
Two minutes left on the clock, Vettel jumps up to P1, ahead of his teammate.
Webber has returned to the pit lane, as has Alonso from third and Grosjean from fifth.
Come on Kovi! 13th place for the Lotus driver, and who doesn't want him to get into the top ten?
Ted News: Grosjean didn't have fuel for another lap.
Qualifying session 2 ends.
Vergne misses the cut. 16th for the Frenchman.
Daniel Ricciardo can't improve on his time, ninth fastest, close to the drop zone but safe for now.
On board with Button, he rounds the final corner and crosses the line for 12th! Ahead of him, Gutiérrez manages eighth.
Kovalainen jumps up to P9, and only Massa can knock him out... until the Ferrari pits, abandoning his lap. Heikki is through!
|11||D Ricciardo||Toro Rosso|
|12||P di Resta||Force India|
|16||JE Vergne||Toro Rosso|
Earlier, Ross Brawn said Rosberg really wasn't enjoying the conditions out there today. It's still a surprise to see him drop out of qualifying, particularly so far down the order.
Interview with Pastor Maldonado: "It was quite a hard beginning of the weekend yesterday, even this morning. Quali, even worse. I think I never got 100% from the tyres, I think in my car somebody is playing the pressure temperatures, it's not that clear."
The fastest three in that second qualifying session were Vettel, Webber and Alonso.
There's a pretty big difference between Alonso and Massa's times, with Felipe dropping out in 15th place. Maybe someone is playing with his pressure temperatures too.
Qualifying session 3 begins.
Webber heads out early this time, joined swiftly by Vettel as the ten minute final session gets underway.
Alonso, Hamilton, Hülkenberg and Gutiérrez wait in the garages as the others start to set their first flying laps.
A Jenson interview reveals a very quiet and downhearted McLaren driver. Not a good car today, a grid penalty to take, that puts him on to the dirty side of the grid.
Tweet from @F1PitRadio: "No more KERS, Kim...Heikki, no more KERS until the exit of the last corner"
Webber posts the first benchmark, with a 1:36.699, Vettel a tenth or two down. Grosjean, Pérez and Kovalainen round out the top five.
The five drivers who have set a time are back in the pit lane, as the remaining five head out to do their thing.
With three minutes to go, Webber heads back out leading the others - all ten drivers now out on track.
Bottas was on a superb lap but locked up towards the end, and ran a little wide. He took third place.
Qualifying session 3 ends.
Webber controls another great lap to knock a handful of tenths off his own time.
Hülkenberg moves up to third, knocking Bottas down to fourth.
Grosjean then does the same, moving up to third.
Pole position for Sebastian Vettel with a time of 1:36.338.
He crossed the line with an incredible final sector where he just flew to the line.
|1||S Vettel||Red Bull|
|2||M Webber||Red Bull|
Tweet from @GvanderGarde: Really happy with performance in qualy, was nearly a great lap.. Thanks guys for all your support! Looking forward to tomorrow's race!
That was a really fun qualifying! Bit of a weird time for us in the UK, but a great session. Pole position wasn't a surprise but it was hard-fought and that's all we can ask!
It's also very interesting to watch the drivers who are moving on, up, or around the grid next year, and how they manage with these final two race weekends.
Maldonado, you'd say, isn't handling it all too well. Pérez, slightly better!
And, of course, Heikki Kovalainen got into the top ten on his comeback qualifying. He was about half a second off his teammate, but that's still a great showing.
It also sets us up for a good race tomorrow, because although Red Bull are on the front row, there are drivers all over the place behind. Rosberg and Massa have space to improve, whilst the midfield runners will want to keep hold of their points positions.
That being the case, you absolutely must join me tomorrow for the race. I'll be back at 18:30 UK time for more Factbyte Factboxing fun!
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