AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Valtteri Bottas grabbed a surprising pole position Saturday for the U.S. Grand Prix, where Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton will start back in fifth as he pursues a sixth career Formula One championship.
Bottas set a track record at the Circuit of the Americas with a lap of 1 minute, 32.029 seconds to grab the front position head of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Bottas is the only driver still alive in the championship chase with Hamilton, but pole position may not be enough to extend the championship. Even if Bottas wins, Hamilton only needs to finish eighth or better to secure the season title.
Hamilton has won the U.S. Grand Prix five times since 2012 but has never started behind the front row.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified third with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc fourth after putting an old engine in the car after a problem in Saturday practice.
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