Austin, November 3: Valtteri Bottas' hopes of denying Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton a title party in Austin were boosted as he claimed pole position at the United States Grand Prix.
Bottas must win Sunday's race to delay Hamilton's celebrations, although the two-time defending champion will still clinch the championship this week if he finishes eighth or better.
The Finn could not have done more in qualifying on Saturday (November 2) to extend a one-sided title tussle, though, as he ran fastest in Q3 with a time of one minute and 32.029 seconds.
A week on from a big crash in Mexico that briefly put his involvement in the race in doubt, Bottas set the benchmark early in the final session.
And none of the Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull drivers could climb the standings with their second flying laps, meaning Hamilton is all the way back in fifth.
Sebastian Vettel will join Bottas on the front row, an agonising 0.012 seconds behind, with Max Verstappen third fastest and Charles Leclerc fourth.
Hamilton aborted his second flying lap as each driver struggled to match the early Q3 pace, while Alex Albon – in sixth – saw his follow-up effort deleted for a track limit offence, a common issue in practice.
"I'm really happy about that. It was a nice lap at the beginning of Q3," Bottas said, having ended a run of six consecutive Ferrari poles. "To get those laps on a track like this was a good feeling."
Bottas, 17th in FP1 on Friday, had not challenged until Q3, with McLaren's Lando Norris fastest in the opening session before Leclerc led the way for Ferrari in Q2.
Kimi Raikkonen, the winner in the United States last year, failed to make it out of Q1.
The second session saw Verstappen fume over the team radio when Hamilton almost made contact in an incident also involving Daniil Kvyat.
Red Bull driver Verstappen this week claimed he had got "in [the] heads" of Hamilton and Vettel following apparent criticism of his decision not to slow for a yellow flag in Mexico, an action that cost him pole.
1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:32.029
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0.012secs
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.067secs
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.108secs
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.292secs
6. Alex Albon (Red Bull) +0.519secs
7. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +0.818secs
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.146secs
9. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +1.459secs
10. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +1.572secs