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‘Surprise’ Verstappen pace again puts Lewis Hamilton on back foot as F1 prepares for Turn 1 duel at US GP

·2-min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Lewis Hamilton was a bit taken aback by his failure to claim pole position ahead Sunday’s United States Grand Prix - with Max Verstappen confessing his ‘surprise’ at his success.

The Red Bull racer leads his title rival by six points ahead of the Austin showdown and nipped into first place on the grid with a stellar showing in qualifying.

With Sergio Perez behind Hamilton in third, the Brit admitted his disappointment.

He stated: "It was a bit of a struggle through qualifying, Red Bull were incredibly quick and from first practice onwards we seemed to fall back slightly in comparison.

“We'll have to work as hard as we can, but we're starting in a good position and I'll give it my best into Turn 1 as there is an opportunity there. Tyre wear is really aggressive here so it will be interesting to see what strategy we can do and that will present opportunities along the way, as well. So today wasn't my favourite day but we can fight tomorrow."

All eyes will be on Turn 1 for Sunday’s lights-out, at 8pm BST, with the Circuit of the Americas opening corner a fascinating, uphill run before swooping into a tight left-hander.

“I hope we make it through Turn 1 and we get a good race,” said Hamilton.

“It is all fun and games. We are going to have fun tomorrow, and give it everything as you would expect. It is no real difference to any other part of the season.”

Following crashes at Silverstone and Monza, the title rivals may find themselves making contact again on Sunday but Verstappen downplayed the significance of their previous scuffles.

The Dutchman, who remarked that Hamilton was a ‘stupid idiot’ for racing him in practice, noted: “It is not like we are the only ones who have touched in this sport.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

“These things happen unfortunately. But we are on the front row again and everyone is just expecting a great race and as drivers that is what we expect, too. We will be professional.”

For Verstappen, his pole position was something of a ‘surprise’ with the Mexican GP in a fortnight’s time predicted to be Red Bull’s stronger circuit, rather than the historically Mercedes-favoured COTA.

“I’m surprised after qualifying today but I’m of course very happy to be on pole,” he said.

“It hasn’t been the easiest of weekends so far for me, I’ve been chasing the balance quite a bit so to pull that lap together in Q3 was of course really satisfying. I’m really pleased with the performance of the whole team today and I’m glad we could finally pull it together for the final lap.

“To show this pace in qualy is positive for the race tomorrow but I still fully expect it to be tough out there.”

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