Hamilton grabs pole in US as fifth world title beckons
LEWIS Hamilton secured pole position for the potential title-deciding United States Grand Prix by just 0.061 seconds with another record-breaking performance for Mercedes in a tense qualifying session.
The 33-year-old topped the times with a late flying lap that kept him narrowly ahead of his only remaining title rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari who, after taking a three-place penalty, will be fifth on the grid.
Hamilton needs to beat fellow-four-time champion Vettel by eight points to clinch his fifth drivers championship.
Kimi Raikkonen was third-fastest in the second Ferrari ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes with Daniel Ricciardo fifth for Red Bull.
Esteban Ocon was an impressive sixth for Force India ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Renault, Romain Grosjean of Haas, Charles Leclerc of Sauber and Sergio Perez in the second Force India.
"That was close and I didn't know how close it was going to be when we got down to it," said Hamilton.
"I knew it was edgy between us on my last run, but my second lap was just that little bit better and that enabled me to pull it out.
"I was adamant that I was going to do a better second lap so I am very happy with that."
It was Hamilton's third successive pole at the Circuit of the Americas and the 81st pole of his career.
"That was pretty close and it is always a bit of a shame when you miss out by such a little time," Vettel said.
"But I was pretty happy with the laps I had.
"It was tricky to get it all together, but given the last few weeks that we have had, I am pretty happy that we are back in range."
Red Bull's Max Verstappen damaged his car running over a kerb in the first session and could not set a further time, leaving him 15th.