Nico Rosberg beat Lewis Hamilton to secure a high-pressure pole position for the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.
While Hamilton had dominated the weekend to that point, Rosberg posted a lap time of 1:36.067 to secure his ninth pole of the season by almost four tenths of a second from his Mercedes team-mate and title rival.
Valtteri Bottas was third for Williams, and will be joined on the second row of Sunday’s grid by his team-mate Felipe Massa.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest for Red Bull, the highest non Mercedes-powered runner, while Fernando Alonso was sixth in the lead Ferrari.
Jenson Button headed his McLaren team-mate Kevin Magnussen in seventh, but the Englishman will drop five places on the grid after a gearbox change.
Kimi Raikkonen ended the session ninth for Ferrari, while Adrian Sutil recorded both his and Sauber’s best qualifying performance of the year in 10th, the first time the team has made it into Q3 this season.
Due to the absence of the Marussia and Caterham teams the qualifying format was altered in Austin, with four cars eliminated in both Q1 and Q2.
Pastor Maldonado was eighth fastest in Q1, but slipped to 11th in the second part of qualifying after a scrappy final lap, missing out on a spot in the final shootout to Sutil.
The Force Indias were 12th and 13th, Sergio Perez a tenth clear of his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, ahead of Daniil Kvyat, who will take a grid penalty after using his sixth ICE of the year.
Jean-Eric Vergne was 15th in the sister Toro Rosso, with Esteban Gutierrez down in 16th after the pair failed to clear the first four car knockout phase.
Sebastian Vettel, who will start from the pitlane after an engine change, was just 17th after a single flying lap, the German eliminated in Q1 for the first time since the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, ending a run of 94 consecutive races.
Romain Grosjean rounded out the standings in 18th, last for Lotus after an error on his final lap.
Qualifying – Provisional Classification
- Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:36.067
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:36.443
- Valtteri Bottas – Williams-Mercedes 1:36.906
- Felipe Massa – Williams-Mercedes – 1:37.205
- Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull-Renault – 1:37.244
- Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:37.610
- Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:37.665
- Kevin Magnussen – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:37.706
- Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:37.804
- Adrian Sutil – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:38.810
- Pastor Maldonado – Lotus-Renault – 1:38.467
- Sergio Perez – Force India-Mercedes – 1:38.554
- Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes – 1:38.598
- Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso-Renault – 1:38.699
- Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso-Renault – 1:39.250
- Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:39.555
- Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1:39.621
- Romain Grosjean – Lotus-Renault – 1:39.679
Image courtesy of Daimler