As expected, Red Bull pulled the rabbit out of the hat in final qualifying for today's US Grand Prix here yesterday, as Sebastian Vettel jumped team-mate Mark Webber to wrap up the front row of the grid. But where the times had been close all through practice, Vettel was almost a second clear of Romain Grosjean's third-placed Lotus.
Mercedes had hoped to take the fight to Red Bull after Lewis Hamilton was close to their pace in the final practice session, but tyre warm-up issues hurt them in qualifying, with the Briton fifth and team-mate Nico Rosberg only 14th. Hamilton had been much happier after the team rebuilt his car around a new monocoque after cracks and even a hole were found in the one with which he was clearly struggling in Abu Dhabi.
"After we changed the chassis the car felt better to drive, particularly on the long runs yesterday when it was pretty consistent," he said, "so that's a positive for me. But then we had a really tricky qualifying session this afternoon. I have to be pleased with fifth place although, of course, I'd rather have been fighting for a position on the first two rows."
While the future of Nico Hulkenberg remains unclear, with Lotus likely now to take Pastor Maldonado for next season, the German's fourth-fastest time for Sauber was a reminder of the young driver's ability.