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Hamilton sweeps to 72nd career pole in US

‘The track was very difficult with the wind’

Gulf News

Austin: Lewis Hamilton swept to pole position for the United States Grand Prix as the Mercedes star targets wrapping up a fourth world title in Sunday’s race.

The British driver edged Ferrari title rival Sebastian Vettel with his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in third place. It was Hamilton’s 72nd career pole and 11th of the season.

“The team have done a great job. The track was very difficult with the wind. It’s going to be a great race,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton, 32, has to score 16 points more than Vettel on Sunday to make a fourth world title a mathematical certainty.

“It’s unlikely unless Sebastian makes a mistake — and he’s a four-time world champion,” added the Briton.

If Hamilton wins on Sunday and Vettel finishes outside the top five for Ferrari, he will be champion while he will also be crowned champion if he is second and Vettel is outside the top eight.

If Hamilton is third or lower, the 2017 title battle continues to the next race in Mexico next weekend. On Saturday, Hamilton set a new record by claiming his 117th career front row start, beating the old mark of 116 set by seven-time champion German Michael Schumacher.

Vettel said it was crucial he matched Hamilton as much as he could. “It was quite tricky out there with the wind. It was important to get on the front row as I think our race pace is good,” said the German.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo qualified fourth for Red Bull ahead of Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull, but the Dutchman will start close to the back of the grid after being given a 15-place penalty for taking new power unit parts.

Frenchman Esteban Ocon qualified seventh for Force India ahead of an impressive Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard making his debut with Renault after moving from Toro Rosso.

Fellow-Spaniard two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren Honda was ninth and Mexican Sergio Perez 10th in the second Force India.