Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel remains in the driving seat ahead of his rivals since clinching his fourth Drivers' title and will be leading from the front once again, as he took pole position for tomorrow's FIA Formula One 2013 United States Grand Prix.
The German driver picked up his 44th career pole position at the cost of his team mate, Mark Webber who initially held the top spot, until Vettel crossed the line to spoil the party for the Australian. Lotus Renault's Romain Grosjean will start the race behind the charging Red Bull drivers, after he secured the final place to make up the top three at the end of today's qualifying session.
“It’s obviously great for the team to have both cars on the front row for tomorrow. It was a tricky session as the wind had picked up quite a bit since this morning; it does influence the behaviour of the car and it’s not that easy, especially in the corners," Vettel.
Webber commented, "The first part of my final lap was very good, I was happy with that, but I didn’t quite get Turns 19 and 20; if I’d done what I did there initially in Q3, it would probably have been enough, but I tried to squeeze a bit more out and it’s easy to load the car a bit too much in these conditions. Sometimes you’re happy and think you’ve given your best, but today it slipped through the fingers."
Grosjean will be accompanied by Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg on the second row of the grid. The German driver seems to be continuing his good form shown in recent race weekends and was rewarded with fourth place in qualifying.
Mercedes' driver, Lewis Hamilton appeared to keep out of the spotlight as qualifying progressed and he quietly made his way through each stage. The Englishman failed to catch the top four as Q3 came to a close and he will start the race from fifth place.
Hamilton will be joined by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso on the third row of the grid when the race gets underway tomorrow. The Spaniard made it through to Q3 but could only do enough to secure sixth place for himself.
McLaren's Sergio Perez ended up the better of the two as he pipped his team mate, Jenson Button to a place in the top 10 shootout of Q3 and he qualified in seventh place. Button not only lost out to the Mexican driver in qualifying as he could only manage 13th place, but the 2009 World Champion's position will drop to 16th place to start the race tomorrow. The grid drop comes after the stewards issued a three place penalty on Button's qualifying spot after they declared that he had overtaken under red flags in practice yesterday.
Grosjean's team mate for the final two races is Heikki Kovalainen who raced last year for Caterham and has been their reserve driver this year. The Finnish driver was the chosen one to step in for his fellow countryman, Kimi Raikkonen who will miss out on the last two races of the season with Lotus due to back surgery, before he returns to the Ferrari team at the beginning of the 2014 season. Kovalainen got himself into Q3 today and will start the race from eighth place tomorrow.
Williams' driver, Valtteri Bottas was one of the surprises featuring in the top 10 shootout. The Finnish driver will begin the Grand Prix from the row behind his fellow countryman, Kovalainen as Bottas completed Q3 in ninth place. Bottas had shown impressive form at the end of Q1 when he topped the timesheets and found himself in first place at the end of that particular session.
Hulkenberg's team mate, Esteban Gutierrez was another driver who has not always featured in the top 10 on many occasions this season. The Mexican driver will line up alongside Bottas after qualifying in 10th position. Gutierrez could be at risk of possibly losing his original qualifying spot, if the stewards issue a penalty to him for his actions during the session. Gutierrez caught the attention of the stewards in Q1, when it was reported that they would investigate him for potentially holding up Williams' Pastor Maldonado on the track. It has not yet been confirmed whether the stewards will take any further action with Gutierrez.
Maldonado faced another delay when Marussia's Max Chilton appeared to get in the way of the Venezuelan driver. Chilton is also under investigation by the stewards like Gutierrez and it is still to be confirmed whether or not Chilton will face a penalty for his actions on the track.
Aside from the two teams that usually make up the back of the grid, with Caterham's Charles Pic also facing a five place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change, they will be joined by Button, Mercedes' driver Nico Rosberg, Ferrari's Felipe Massa and the Force India duo of Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil, who all failed to qualify in a top 10 position.
Unlike the other drivers from 11th to 22nd place, Sutil was forced to abandon his car at the side of the track in Q1 and did not cross the finish line. It has not yet been revealed as to the cause of his early exit from today's qualifying session.
Vettel may be the man still reigning at the top, but the rest of the positions in the field and in terms of the Drivers' Championship are still very much hotly contested. As today's qualifying session has shown, there is still everything to play for between the midfield drivers. It is certain that Vettel could be on course for getting another race victory under his belt tomorrow, but it remains to be seen where the rest of the competitors will finish, when the chequered flag is waved to mark the end of the penultimate race of the 2013 season.