Formula 1

Nico Rosberg storms to US Grand Prix pole

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Nico Rosberg stormed to an incredible pole position for Sunday's United States Grand Prix in qualifying at Austin.

The Mercedes driver posted a 1:36.0 to lead team-mate Lewis Hamilton by four tenths of a second at the Circuit of the Americas and at the same time sewed up the pole position trophy with his tenth pole of the year.

Hamilton struggled throughout the session with brake issues locking up into turn one and turn 12 on several runs and was simply unable to respond to the German's incredible pace.

Williams head 'best of the rest'

The German car maker had more to cheer as the Williams led the 'best of the rest' with Valtteri Bottas only half a second slower than the works team in third as Brazilian Felipe Massa produced a good final lap to complete an all-Mercedes powered top four.

Daniel Ricciardo gave Red Bull a platform claiming fifth as his team-mate Sebastian Vettel completed an obligatory run in the first part of the qualifying despite starting tomorrows's race from the pit-lane after a full power unit change.

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Fernando Alonso led a quiet day for Ferrari in sixth continuing his statistic of failing to make the top five an any of the three qualifying sessions since F1 starting visiting COTA back in 2012.

He led the two McLaren's as Jenson Button claimed seventh but will drop to 12th following an unscheduled gearbox change, that promotes Kevin Magnussen to seventh ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as Adrian Sutil gave Sauber their first appearance in the top 10 shoot-out this year and will start ninth.

An altered format

The demise of Caterham and Marussia, after both teams fell into administration this week, meant the FIA had to alter the qualifying format with just 18 cars taking part.

As a result only four cars from the first two segments were eliminated and also meant that for the midfield teams the pressure was on from the start.

Romain Grosjean took the unwanted privilege of being 18th on the track, however, the Frenchman won't start from that position as Vettel starts from the pit-lane and also because Daniil Kvyat, who was 14th fastest for Toro Rosso, will take four of the ten-place grid penalty for taking another new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) with the other six carrying over to next weekend's race in Brazil.

Toro Rosso's day further darkened as Jean-Eric Vergne was perhaps the most surprising casualty of the opening part of qualifying only managing 15th fastest and with an old engine in the back following an issue with his intended unit in the final practice session.

Maldonado stars

The new format seemed to benefit at least one of the Sauber and Lotus cars as Sutil made his first appearance in Q3 this year but also Pastor Maldonado made some positive headlines with an excellent 11th for Lotus.

The Venezuelan will start in the top 10 following Button's penalty and could have his best chance to score his first points of the 2014 season at the race nearest to his home city.

The big disappointments were Force India as both crashed out in the second part of qualifying.

While single lap pace has been their main weakness this year, the wind also was a major factor destabilising the VJM07 in the high-speed turns.

Sunday could be better, however, as the less durable tyres could suit the main strength of the Force India car and Sergio Perez will be hoping to take full advantage in front of many Mexican fans as he starts 11th, with team-mate Nico Hulkenberg 13th.

Advantage Rosberg?

Back at the front, and all the attention will be on the latest chapter in Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton's season long battle to be crowned world champion.

Saturday's pole lap by Rosberg was the first to be faster than 2013 as softer tyres and rapid development see the gap between the two very different types of F1 car close but it may not just be raw speed the German has in his favour heading into the race.

Hamilton's brake issues mean his first set of tyres are not in the optimum condition with a small but potentially obstructive flat-spot from where the Briton locked up in qualifying and should the problem persist in the race it could be Rosberg's best chance to halt his team-mate run of five consecutive wins and try and claw back some of the deficit in the championship standings.

Fireworks should be expected and with so many good battles up and down the grid it promises to be a fascinating race on Sunday in Texas.

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