Nico Rosberg grabbed his hat-trick pole during a very wet US GP qaulifying session. Image: AFP / Mark Thompson
Austin, Texas - Lewis Hamilton will have to get past Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg if he is to secure his third Formula 1 world championship at the US Grand Prix on Sunday (Oct 25).
Rosberg took his third successive pole position, with Hamilton alongside on the front row, in a qualifying session postponed from Saturday and then cut short by further bad weather.
Just 2 point
Hamilton will become a triple champion with three races to spare if he scores two points more than Rosberg and nine more than Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who qualified fifth but has a 10-place grid penalty.
The grid places were decided by the positions in the second of the three qualifying sessions after the final phase was delayed and then cancelled.
"Qualifying was cut short so I guess we didn't really get to battle it out," said Hamilton, who was fastest in Saturday's final practice and would have been on pole had qualifying been cancelled altogether.
"But qualifying is just the beginning. The race is obviously a long battle and it's going to be hard out there today with those conditions varying throughout the race.
"There's no need to take any particular risks...it's not do or die this weekend," added the 30-year-old, who looks set to become the first Briton to win back-to-back titles.
'Difficult out there'
Rosberg, who failed to convert his last two poles into victories and has won just three races to Hamilton's nine so far this season, was delighted to have repeated his 2014 pole and given himself the best shot.
Hamilton won that race in Austin in 2014, however, and is chasing a hat-trick of wins at the Texan circuit having also triumphed in 2012.
Both of his previous two victories in Austin came from second on the grid.
"It's been a really good qualifying and I felt comfortable in the car," said Rosberg after Mercedes's 12th front row lockout in 16 races.
"It's difficult out there with aquaplaning and everything because when it happens you just really struggle to have control over the car."
Australian Daniel Ricciardo will line up in third place for Red Bull with Russian team mate Daniil Kvyat alongside.
Mexican Sergio Perez will move up to fifth for Force India and has German team mate Nico Hulkenberg next to him.
The qualifying was red flagged in the first session when Spaniard Carlos Sainz hit the wall in his Toro Rosso and resumed after a 10 minute break.
"It was because of standing water and a used tyre. I'm not sure I will make it into the race," said Sainz, who crashed heavily in final practice in Russia two weeks ago but made it back for the race.
Vettel just made it through to the second phase after brushing the wall and ending up 15th on the timesheets.
A succession of drivers, including Rosberg and Hamilton, then spun at the Turn 10 with four times champion Vettel saying over the radio that he felt the conditions were so bad the session should be stopped.
The fans at least got to see some action for the first time since Friday, with Saturday's final practice run behind closed doors for safety reasons.
"It was good for the fans to get to see the cars running," said Hamilton. "It seems like there's a big crowd there today so I hope the weather backs up a little bit for the race."
2015 US GP Qualifying results
1. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min56.824
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min56.929
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1min57.969
4. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) RedBull - Renault 1min58.434
5. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min58.596
6. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 1min59.210
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1min59.333
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min59.703
9. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min59.999
10. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso - Renault 2min00.199
11. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 2min00.265
12. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 2min00.334
13. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Mercedes 2min00.595
14. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 2min01.193
15. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - Mercedes 2min01.604
16. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber - Ferrari 2min02.212
17. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber - Ferrari 2min03.194
18. Alexander Rossi (U.S.) Marussia - Ferrari 2min04.176
19. Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia - Ferrari 2min04.526
20. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso - Renault 2min07.304
Third and final qualifying session was cancelled
1-15: second qualifying session
16-20: first qualifying session