All photos credit Kurt Bradley

Six Formula One drivers ran faster qualifying laps than the new F1 lap record set by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton earlier today at Circuit of the Americas, but it was Lewis Hamilton again who claimed pole position. Hamilton’s new lap record is an astonishingly fast 1:33.108, obliterating last year’s record of 1:34.999.

Lining up next to him on the front row of the grid is none other than Hamilton’s main championship rival Sebastian Vettel. Vettel ran a lightning fast 1:33.568 to claim second on the grid. Vettel needs to do well here to stay in contention for the drivers’ championship. If Hamilton wins and Vettel somehow finishes sixth or lower, it’s over—Hamilton will clinch the championship in Austin.

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Vettel had some drama after his chassis felt like jelly during Free Practice 2. His team rebuilt his car overnight with a new replacement chassis for Free Practice 3 and Qualifying today.

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas will start from third on the grid.

Hamilton’s lap record set in Free Practice 3 was already beaten in the second round of qualifying as drivers started to push harder and lap times started to drop. Yet it got totally annihilated by the fastest cars on the grid in the final session, with both Red Bulls, both Ferraris and both Mercedes cars all beating that previous 1:34.478 lap record.

Hamilton’s pole position here also gives him another record in F1: the most number of front row starts. This is Hamilton’s 117th front row start. Previously, the record was held by F1 legend Michael Schumacher, with 116 starts from the front.

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Carlos Sainz Jr., who was loaned to Renault for the rest of the year through the end of 2018 in exchange for Toro Rosso getting let out of their contract early, outqualified new Renault teammate Nico Hülkenberg in his first race with the team. Hülkenberg was knocked out in the second qualifying session for a 15th place starting position, but Sainz was not, and went on to nab an 8th place finish.

Another surprise that made it through to the last qualifying session was McLaren driver Fernando Alonso. Alonso’s ninth place start was the first time ever that a Honda-powered car made it into the third qualifying session in Austin.

Full results (before any grid penalties are applied—and four drivers are already expecting them) are below: