Sebastian Vettel produced a dramatic last-gasp surge on his final lap in the dying seconds to snatch pole position as Red Bull swept the front row of the grid for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.
In a tense qualifying session run in windy conditions on Saturday, the 26-year-old German clocked a best lap of one minute and 36.338 seconds to outpace nearest rival and teammate Mark Webber by 0.103 seconds.
It was the eighth pole of the season for the newly crowned four-times world champion and the 44th of his career as he seeks to deliver a record eighth consecutive victory in Sunday’s race at the Circuit of the Americas.
It was the fifth time this year that Red Bull had locked out the front row and a perfect 40th birthday present for team boss Christian Horner.
“Happy birthday to Christian. It’s a good result to have both cars on the front row,” said Vettel.
“It was a tricky session as the wind picked up quite a lot from this morning. It’s not that easy round the high-speed corners. I was not happy with my first run, but I think I had a solid run at he end which was enough to put the car on pole.”
Romain Grosjean was third fastest for the Lotus team ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Sauber and last year’s winner, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
Fernando Alonso was sixth for Ferrari and Sergio Perez seventh for McLaren ahead of two Finns, Heikki Kovalainen for Lotus and Valtteri Bottas of Williams with another Mexican, Esteban Gutierrez taking 10th in the second Sauber.
Kovalainen shone again as he did on Friday after stepping in as a late replacement for fellow-Finn, Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen, who on Friday underwent back surgery in Strasbourg.