Lewis Hamilton will chase the Formula One world championship from the No. 2 position at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday after Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg grabbed pole in a rain-shortened qualifying session.
Heavy rains have pounded the Circuit of the Americas for three days. Race officials allowed only two qualifying rounds in the morning as conditions worsened in a session that was delayed from Saturday.
Hamilton can clinch his second consecutive world championship and third overall if he outscores Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by nine points and Rosberg by two. Rosberg started on the pole here last year before Hamilton won.
Vettel posted the fifth-fastest time but has to take a 10-spot starting penalty because his car is using its fifth engine, one more than the season limit.
Formula One was forced to use its first Sunday qualifying since 2013 and fourth overall since 2004. Rain was still falling when the drivers took the track.
Race officials hope for better race conditions as rain chances are forecast to decrease Sunday afternoon.
“It’s incredibly tricky out there. You are basically on your tip-toes the whole time,” Hamilton said of the wet track that caused drivers to spin through turns on several occasion.
Red Bull placed both of its cars near the front. Daniel Ricciardo will start third and Daniil Kvyat fourth. At one point late in qualifying, Kvyat radioed his garage that conditions were getting “dangerous.”
Ricciardo said a wet race “would be cool” and would help more teams compete for the podium.