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By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Saturday, November 17, 2012
* Race distance: 56 laps (191.947 miles/308.896km)
* Start time: 13.00 (local)/19.00 GMT
* Circuit length: 3.427 miles/5.516km
* 2011 winner: N/A
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star from Hertfordshire will line-up on the front row at the Circuit Of The Americas in tomorrow’s US race.
He clocked a final hot lap of 1m 35.766s to finish second in American qualifying, just a tenth behind Vettel’s Red Bull, who recorded a 1m 35.657s.
Hamilton said: “I came here this weekend to push almost beyond the limit – and that approach seemed to work in qualifying. I gave it everything.
“I did two consecutive quick-laps – and, on my second lap, having put in a ‘banker’, I didn’t really have anything to lose, so I went almost over the limit, really on the edge, but the car still seemed to handle it well.
“On the final corner, I gained a little time on the entry but lost it on the exit. I got every corner perfect, I reckon, except for that last one.”
Hamilton headed out of the pits at the beginning of Q3 and posted a first flying lap of 1m 42.121s for P4. He then slammed down a 1m 36.209s to go fastest at that point.
However, Red Bull racer Vettel eclipsed that on his first run with a blistering 1m 35.877s – 0.332secs faster than the McLaren.
Both went quicker with their second runs, with Vettel bagging pole 0.109secs quicker than the rest. Hamilton prevented a Red Bull front-row lock-out by relegating Mark Webber into third place on the grid. Webber posted 1m 36.174s.
Fellow F1 racing driver and commentator Karun Chandhok tweeted: “Fair play to @LewisHamilton – that was pretty damn impressive to take the fight to RBR!”
Roman Grosjean qualified fourth ahead of Lotus colleague Kimi Raikkonen.
Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher, Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso and Pastor Maldonado completed the top 10. Grosjean’s grid penalty for a gearbox change means he will drop down five places and start ninth.
After his final qualifying lap, the McLaren pitwall told Lewis: “That was a fantastic last lap, Lewis. Well done! We are P2, just 0.1s off pole.
“What a great lap. You were fastest in sector 1, Vettel pulled out 0.2s in the final sector. Your lap time was 1m 35.766s.”
World championship leader Vettel had earlier topped the timesheets in Q1 on the slower tyre ahead of Hamilton, who was on a 1m 37.058s, with Webber third fastest in the second Red Bull and Grosjean fourth for Lotus.
The McLaren pitwall told Stevenage-born Lewis: “We think the cut-off for Q2 will be 1m 36.9s.
“We need to look at a 1m36.6s – we found 0.7s on the options this morning, so we should be okay.”
Early in Q2, Hamilton was told over the McLaren team radio: “You’re currently P1, fastest in sectors 2 and 3. Vettel is the car behind.”
However, Vettel soon went 0.8secs quicker than Hamilton, while Jenson Button limped out of qualifying with a mechanical problem with his McLaren and failed to make Q3 in 12th place.
Hamilton eventually progressed to the top 10 shootout in fourth place behind Vettel, Webber and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari.
German Vettel was half a second faster than the rest and Lewis asked: “Where is Vettel finding all that time?”
Having gone quickest in Friday’s two practice sessions, Vettel also went fastest in third USA practice ahead of Hamilton, the British driver clocking a lap of 1m 36.748s in FP3.
The 2012 United States Grand Prix starts at 7pm UK time on Sunday.