Max Verstappen edges Lewis Hamilton for US Grand Prix pole in front of 120,000 fans
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Austin, United States - Max Verstappen in a Red Bull stormed to pole position for the US Grand Prix on Saturday, edging out title rival and Mercedes' world champion Lewis Hamilton in front of an estimated crowd of 120,000 people.
Verstappen, who leads Hamilton by six points in the championship race, claimed his ninth pole of 2021 with a time of 1min 32.910sec, just two tenths faster than the British driver.
Sergio Perez, in the second Red Bull, was third, only 0.15sec behind Hamilton.
Valtteri Bottas, in the other Mercedes, was fourth quickest, but will drop to ninth on the gird for Sunday's race after changing his engine.
"In Q3 my first lap wasn't amazing but in the final lap it started drizzling in the final sector so I wasn't sure if I could hold on to my lap time but it came together," said Verstappen.
On Sunday, organisers say the crowd figure at the Circuit of the Americas will swell to 140,000 to see Verstappen and Hamilton go head-to-head and side-by-side.
"I guess that's that people like," said the Dutch driver.
"From here onwards we hope to have a good start and work together as a team and have the best possible result."
Hamilton has won five of the eight races held at the Austin track since its 2012 debut.
He also wrapped up world titles at the Texan circuit in 2015 and 2019.
Bottas was victorious once, in the last event held in 2019, before the 2020 race was dropped from the schedule due to the pandemic.
Verstappen has finished fourth, third and second.
"I gave it everything today - it was a bit of a struggle through qualifying," said Hamilton.
"I think from P1 onwards we kind of fell back a little bit and the Red Bull guys were incredibly quick.
He added: "I was happy with my last lap, of course there's always areas we can improve but I think that was pretty much everything we had.
"We'll just work as hard as we can tomorrow. My mindset is to win the race."
In an indication of the intense pressure building in the title race, Verstappen had branded Hamilton a "stupid idiot" in Friday practice.
He was angered by the Mercedes man pushing past on the inside of his Red Bull when the Dutchman was lining up a flying lap.
The rest of Sunday's top half of the grid is made up of Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz followed by Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris in the McLarens.
AlphaTauri duo Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda were the next fastest.
Former world champions Fernando Alonso, of Alpine, and Aston Martin's Vettel, as well as George Russell in a Williams, will all start from the back of the grid on Sunday after power units were changed on their cars.