Lewis Hamilton could give Max Verstappen a run for his money in Austin

By Sports Desk October 20, 2023

Lewis Hamilton raised the prospect of challenging Max Verstappen for pole position at the United States Grand Prix after he finished third in practice.

Hamilton trailed Verstappen by 0.281 seconds in the sole running before qualifying later on Friday with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc splitting the rivals.

But the seven-time world champion, in his upgraded Mercedes, clocked the fastest first and second sectors before hitting traffic in the final part of his speediest lap at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.

Verstappen claimed his third world title in as many years at the previous round in Qatar.

But Hamilton’s early pace at a track where he has enjoyed so much success over the years suggests he might be able to give the Dutchman a run for his money in qualifying for Sunday’s 56-lap race.

Leclerc could also be a contender in the Lone Star State after he finished just 0.156 sec behind Verstappen.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez took fourth spot, three tenths back, a place ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen with George Russell sixth for Mercedes.

Oscar Piastri survived a hairy moment when he temporarily lost control of his McLaren through Turn 8.

The Australian rookie, who won the sprint race in Lusail a fortnight ago, looked destined for the barriers after he ran on to the grass at high speed.

Piastri wiggled one way to the next but managed to catch his out-of-control machine to avoid a big shunt. He sustained minor damage to the floor of his McLaren in the accident and finished only 19th.

Lance Stroll was rooted to the foot of the time charts after he completed just five laps following a brake failure on his Aston Martin.

Qualifying takes place at 4pm local time (10pm BST).

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    Charles Leclerc ensured pole position for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, while Max Verstappen could only manage sixth place after crashing into a wall during qualifying.

    Leclerc beat Oscar Piastri by 0.154 seconds for his third pole in the last four races in Monaco, where Ferrari have excelled on the narrow track layout, high kerbs and slow-speed corners.

    Verstappen was seeking history by surpassing Ayrton Senna for an eighth successive pole in Qualifying, while maintaining his perfect record at the start of the season.

    However, the runaway Drivers' Championship leader hit the wall at Sainte Devote on his final lap, and had to settle for sixth on a track where overtaking is regarded as the most difficult on the calendar.

    Leclerc now hopes he and Ferrari can now convert their position at the head of the grid into victory, having failed to do so in each of the last two years.

    "It was nice. The feeling after a qualifying lap is always very special here," he said. "[I am] really, really happy about the lap, the excitement is so high, but it feels really good.

    "But now, I know more often than not, qualifying is not everything. As much as it counts, we need to put everything together on the Sunday. In past years, we did not manage to do it, but we are a stronger team now, and I am sure we can achieve the target."

    His Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz was third, though he faces an investigation for impeding Williams' Alex Albon in the first session, ahead of Lando Norris and George Russell.

  • Verstappen not expecting 'very easy weekend' at Monaco Grand Prix Verstappen not expecting 'very easy weekend' at Monaco Grand Prix

    Max Verstappen believes it will be a far from "very easy weekend" at the Monaco Grand Prix, as he looks to extend his lead at the top of the Drivers' Championship.

    The three-time world champion has a 48-point advantage at the summit after winning five of the opening seven races this season.

    Verstappen could make history by surpassing Ayrton Senna with an eighth successive pole in Qualifying, and maintaining his perfect record at the start of the campaign.

    Although, the narrow track layout and high kerbs may present a problem to Red Bull, who struggled with the latter at last year's Singapore Grand Prix, where they failed to finish on the podium for the only time in 2023.

    Ferrari's strength in slow-speed corners could also prove crucial, while Lando Norris' challenge appears to be gathering momentum after the McLaren driver finished less than a second behind him in Imola last weekend. 

    "In Monaco, you might have some surprises," Verstappen said. "It's one of the more difficult tracks for us.

    "In the last few years, Ferrari have always been very, very strong here. Plus, McLaren lately - the last two races - really ramped up in performance. They are, for sure, ones to watch as well.

    "I don't think this is going to be a very easy weekend. Our car normally struggles a bit over bumps and kerbs. Monaco is never very straightforward, even when you have the best car. Monaco is a very tricky track to get everything to work.

    "For sure, things have closed up [the challenge from Norris], which makes it very important to try to be at our very best. I know that is not always a very realistic possibility, but you always try to get to a certain point and maybe the last few races we haven't been operating at that."

  • Norris: McLaren can challenge Red Bull for title Norris: McLaren can challenge Red Bull for title

    Lando Norris believes McLaren can open up the F1 title fight when they head to Monaco for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

    The 24-year-old finished in the top two of the previous three grand prix, claiming his maiden victory in Miami.

    He threatened to finish ahead of Max Verstappen for a second time at Imola last Sunday with a late charge, but finished within one second of the Red Bull driver.

    Looking back at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Norris said while he is sure he could have done things differently, he sticks by his choices.

    "I did everything I believed was right at the time," Norris told Sky Sports.

    "When it's so close you always think 'What really could I have done that little bit differently,' but you always could have done something a little bit better or a little bit differently. I'm sure Max could have reviewed things and said the same thing.

    "But nice to know it wasn't an easy one for him. It's about time someone put him under pressure, and he felt a bit of nerves again because I'm sure he hasn't felt it for a while.

    "I don't want to be overconfident - that's never been me - but we want to come into races now and be confident in racing against the Red Bull, racing against Ferrari because we are in the mix with them."

    Before the race at Imola, Norris said he believed McLaren were not quite ready to challenge Red Bull for the title this year.

    The Briton currently sits fourth in the standings, 60 points behind Verstappen, but he now thinks they can count themselves in the running this year.

    "We're a third of the way through so we have a very long way to go, so I think many, many things can happen," he added.

    "But also, Monaco is a place where anything can happen. So, I would never say 'no' anymore.

    "I've got fed up of myself kind of underestimating what we can achieve as a team. So, we're going to come in, we're positive, we've had a very good run of results - second, first, second - and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to continue that here in Monaco.

    "It's not known to be our best track but, at the same time, anything can happen."

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