Leclerc lands shock US GP pole as Verstappen suffers late lap deletion

Charles Leclerc will lead Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton at the 2023 US GP

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Charles Leclerc secured a stunning third pole position of the season at the 2023 United States Grand Prix, after Max Verstappen‘s time five thousandths quicker than the Monegasque driver was deleted at the death.

Track limits penalties combined with rapid track evolution continued to catch drivers out, and for the second weekend running a late deletion impacted the top of the grid, dropping Verstappen to sixth.

But it was a nightmarish afternoon for Aston Martin, who saw both cars eliminated in Q1 for the first time in 2023.

McLaren‘s predicted uncompetitiveness failed to materialise, as Lando Norris will start from the front row of the grid for the flying papaya though teammate Oscar Piastri is down in tenth, three-quarters of a second back.

Norris also used an extra set of soft tyres after a poor first lap of Q2, with George Russell another who’s burned through more rubber than he’d have liked on his way to fifth.

Mercedes were optimistic of challenging for pole but Lewis Hamilton couldn’t quite hook up his final lap and will start third, with Carlos Sainz splitting the Mercedes.

Alpine had a fantastic session with both cars reaching Q3, they’ll start seventh and eighth led by Pierre Gasly, with ninth-place Sergio Perez still a tenth behind his teammate despite that late deletion.

Daniel Ricciardo reached Q2 on his return to F1 following his broken hand, but could do no more as he qualified 15th and three-tenths behind Yuki Tsunoda.

Tsunoda‘s 11th-place meant AlphaTauri bookended Q2, separated by Zhou Guanyu, Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen.

Aston Martin shock casualties in Q1

Fernando Alonso on track at the 2023 United States GP | Aston Martin F1 team

The only possible positive for Aston Martin was Lance Stroll‘s improved performance compared to Fernando Alonso, just three-tenths behind rather than the full second he averaged in Qatar, but that’s with the fullest of half-full glasses.

The Silverstone team arrived in Austin with just an 11-point lead over McLaren for fourth in the constructors’ championship, but a significant upgrade to the floor and rear end of the car compared to the unchanged MCL60.

However, they’ll almost certainly cede position after the weekend with the car just not looking at one with those upgrades. Alonso did have to navigate traffic on his final run but nothing catastrophic, ultimately he just didn’t have the speed to reach Q2.

“It was the maximum,” Alonso told the media. “The outlap was not ideal but the lap felt ok and yeah, the pace was maybe not good enough to be in Q2. Sunday’s race is heavily compromised now.”

That was after an awful FP1, where Stroll only managed one flying lap before his brakes caught fire, and Alonso finished 18th.

“I was hoping for more, for sure,” Stroll added. “It didn’t feel like it was a bad session, I actually felt like I was ok in the car even after no running in FP1, but yeah we just weren’t quick enough.”

Williams also suffered a double-elimination in Q1 despite Alex Albon looking good all Friday up until his final run, while Nico Hulkenberg topped the session at one stage but saw his last lap deleted leaving him 16th.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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