Nico Rosberg didn’t quite get the result he was looking for in the recent US Grand Prix qualifying, falling 0.216s short of his flying team mate, Lewis Hamilton. Despite setting the best 2nd and 3rd sector of the session, Nico Rosberg would lose 0.295s to Hamilton in the tricky sector one, ultimately costing him his 3rd pole position in Austin, Texas.
Upon replays, we can see a large proportion of this 0.295s was lost in the Circuit of the Americas most famous corner: Turn 1. The steep up hill hairpin is recognizable by its large openness on entry which then narrows at the apex and exit – making it extra difficult to master.
As you can see in the photo above – it’s Lewis Hamilton who is right on the apex of the corner on his pole position lap, whereas Nico Rosberg is, at the least, one meter away on his fastest time. Given the tight 17.2m exit, going this way around the corner is definitely not the fastest. It’s an important corner to hook up correctly, as it sets up the whole lap. It’s evidently clear that Hamilton’s car is in a far better position – which would go onto reward his with a brilliant sector one time.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time Rosberg had run wide at Turn 1, making the exact same mistake on his initial Q3 run. However, Hamilton took a similar line which left him only 0.076s clear of Rosberg with 5 minutes left in the session.
“Lewis found some extra time in the first sector,” reflected a calm and composed Nico Rosberg after qualifying. “As we’ve seen this year, it’s not always about where you qualify,” he told the media.
Hamilton agreed with his first hypothesis, saying: “I’ve always been quite bad around the first corner, finding it hard to get the right line and losing time at this part of the track.” He would also add: “but today I finally got it right.”
I’m almost sure that the difference between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in Turn 1 was the deciding factor of pole position for the US Grand Prix. But as proved so many times in 2016, pole position isn’t everything.