Charles Leclerc will start first in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as Max Verstappen had a pole-winning lap deleted in the final qualifying session for exceeding track limits.
Verstappen will start sixth at Circuit of the Americas in Austin behind Leclerc, Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz and George Russell because of the deleted lap time. He had to fall back on his first lap of the third session with his second lap deleted.
Leclerc is the fifth different pole winner in the last five United States Grand Prix races. His Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz won the pole in 2022 after Verstappen won it in 2021, Valtteri Bottas started first in 2019 and Hamilton had pole in 2018.
Verstappen has started worse than sixth three times in 2023 on the way to his third consecutive Formula 1 title and won one of those races. He started ninth at the Miami Grand Prix and led 36 of 57 laps on the way to what was the first of 10 consecutive wins. He finished second in Saudi Arabia after starting 15th and was fifth in Singapore after starting 11th.
Had Verstappen won the pole on Friday it wouldn’t have been in a blowout. Leclerc, Norris and Hamilton were within two-tenths of a second of Verstappen’s final lap and Hamilton posted the fastest lap of Friday’s practice session.
We’ll have a better idea of the parity of the field on Saturday in the sprint race (6 p.m. ET). Drivers will qualify early Saturday afternoon for the 19-lap race and it won’t be a surprise to see the same top six from Friday’s Grand Prix qualifying in the first three rows of the sprint. If Verstappen can’t work his way to the front or drive away from his competitors on Saturday, we could be in for a fantastic race on Sunday and the possibility of a second win by a non-Red Bull driver.
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