- The F1 title contenders are back on the front row together for the first time since early September at the Circuit of the Americas; Watch Sunday’s United States GP live only on Sky Sports F1 and Main Event – 6.30pm build-up, 8pm race start
- By James Galloway and Matt Morlidge
- What are the Sky F1 pundits saying about the race?
- What are the top three on the grid saying?
- Verstappen vs Hamilton on the front row: The story so far
- The 2021 front-row outcomes
The F1 title contenders are back on the front row together for the first time since early September at the Circuit of the Americas; Watch Sunday’s United States GP live only on Sky Sports F1 and Main Event – 6.30pm build-up, 8pm race start
By James Galloway and Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 24/10/21 9:48am
Formula 1’s big showpiece race in the USA has its biggest front-row draw with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton set to battle into the first corner at Sunday evening’s Grand Prix in Austin.
In front of what is set to be the largest race-day crowd of the season, 140,000, on F1’s return to the Circuit of the Americas for the first time in two years, 2021’s engrossing championship duel finds itself centre stage again after Verstappen and Hamilton qualified on the front row together for the seventh time in 2021.
Red Bull’s Verstappen, who won pole from his Mercedes rival by 0.2 seconds, holds a slender six-point championship advantage with six races to go. Sunday’s United States GP starts at 8pm, live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event, with build-up from 6.30pm.
Having collided twice already this season, the first time when they started on the front row at the British GP in July, questions about how they will approach racing each other have been inevitable since then.
Their respective responses on Saturday evening in Austin were similarly to be expected.
“Like we always try as professionals,” said Verstappen.
“I don’t see why we always have to bring this up. It’s not like we are the only ones who have touched in this sport.
“These things happen unfortunately but we are on the front row again and I think everyone is expecting a good race and that is what we expect as drivers, we just want to have a really good race.”
Hamilton said: “Hopefully make it through Turn One and we have a good race. I don’t think it’s all decided in Turn One.”
Speaking to Sky F1, Hamilton added: “They’ve generally had better starts than us this year, Max particularly has, but I’ll try to give it my best off the start. Into turn one is an opportunity.”
In addition to the absolute starting advantage of pole position with Verstappen, Red Bull also have the added boost for both the start and race strategy of Sergio Perez starting third after an improved showing from the Mexican all weekend so far.
Valtteri Bottas did qualify fourth in the second Mercedes but drops down to ninth on the grid owing to an engine change penalty, leaving the Finn with significant work to do to get back into the front-running mix.
What are the Sky F1 pundits saying about the race?
“The times they’ve been on the front row and they’ve had a moment at the start of the race, it’s always been Max on the inside. This time it’s Lewis so I’m guessing he’s going to be the one to throw it up there. It’s going to be an interesting one. Who knows, Checo [Perez] could get in the mix, there’s a tow up to Turn One and it could be enough to get past Lewis
“Hamilton will hope to get close enough on that first lap. The tow here is big and we’ve seen their straight-line speed. He’s going to be trying his hardest to get it done early because once you settle into a rhythm, it’s a lot more difficult to make a move.”
Thoroughly enjoyed that classic Austin qualy session. Punch and counter punch after the chequered flag had fallen and laps completed. Cracking grid for tomorrow and for the 7th time this season Max and Lewis on the front row. COTA is just full of people and atmosphere. https://t.co/boExFeY4fu
— Martin Brundle (@MBrundleF1) October 23, 2021
“Max’s nature is to be really aggressive and I think Lewis’ nature is to make sure that he gets to the end and gets the points. I think that’s the right way to play it anyway, there’s so much that happens in the race, tyre deg, pitstops, mistakes, just hanging onto that thing around here.
“I just think you do what feels natural to you and not step too far out of your comfort zone.”
What are the top three on the grid saying?
Verstappen vs Hamilton on the front row: The story so far
In the six previous occasions this season that the title rivals have started first and second, there have been three changes of order on the opening lap.
Verstappen overtook the pole-sitting Hamilton at the start in Spain, while Hamilton profited from a mistake from his Dutch rival to lead out of the first corner in France. However, on each of those occasions, the driver who finished the opening lap in second place ended up winning the race.
The 2021 front-row outcomes
|Grand Prix||Grid line-up||End of first lap|
|Bahrain||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd|
|Spain||Lewis 1st, Max 2nd||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd|
|France||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd||Lewis 1st, Max 2nd|
|Styria||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd|
|Britain||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd||Lewis 2nd, Max DNF (collision)|
|Netherlands||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd|
|USA||Max 1st, Lewis 2nd||???|
Then, of course, there was the high controversy of the British GP when the pair collided at high-speed into Copse. Verstappen crashed out, and Hamilton, despite a time penalty, ultimately went on to win.