Hartley does a solid job
The fact the Brendon Hartley is taking part in a Formula 1 grand prix is already incredible. The New Zealander came to Austin as a complete wild card for everyone, including himself after nearly eight years away from the sport. In qualifying, he started out strong, being only three tenths behind his teammate Daniil Kvyat, who returned from a two-race-long sabbatical.
In the end, Hartley was eliminated from Q2 in 18th whilst Kvyat went on to qualify 12th. Still, this was a performance worth noting from the Kiwi, as he is now a genuine contender for Toro Rosso’s seat in 2018. If Paul di Resta’s 19th place in the Hungarian GP qualifying entered him into the Williams race, so did Hartley’s for Toro Rosso.
Grid penalties shake qualifying
Even before qualifying began, many drivers knew they would fall to the back end of the starting grid. This influenced some drivers’ performance in qualifying. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg decided not to waste time or his engine in Q2 knowing he’d fall to the back, and Max Verstappen made an interesting tactical choice. He used supersofts in Q2 and progressed to Q3 with a harder tyre than anyone else in the session.
This means the Dutchman will start the race with a different tyre to the rest of the top ten, even though he is starting somewhere around 15th place in the grid. Verstappen and Red Bull will therefore have more possibilities for strategy tomorrow, so wait for a mad surge from them late in the race.
Alonso entertains his American fans
Fernando Alonso struggled in the last Asian races against his young teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. Coming to a new continent however, the Spaniard has hit the ground running, and he made it into Q3 with a lap around 0.6 seconds faster than Vandoorne, who was left 13th.
Alonso, who is wearing a special helmet from his visit to the Indy 500 earlier this year, is one of the most recognised and adored F1 drivers in America, and no doubt his performance qualifying ninth gave his fans a wide smile on their face. I hope that he can improve from today’s effort in tomorrow's race.
Valtteri Bottas has his groove back
Valtteri Bottas was one of the positive surprises in the beginning of the season, competing for pole positions on Saturdays and fighting for victories on Sundays. However, after the summer break he has fallen far behind his teammate Lewis Hamilton and even Sebastian Vettel, his main rival in the drivers’ championship. The Finn had a great performance last round in Suzuka, and he seems to have carried that good form over to Austin.
Throughout qualifying Bottas was close to Hamilton, making it tight at the top in all three sessions. He was able to fight Lewis in separate sectors in Q2 and in the first runs of Q3. In the end, both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel beat him, but considering how poor he has been this autumn, this qualifying was a positive one for Valtteri.
What were your talking points from qualifying? Let us know in the comments below!