RACE DAY

Formula 1: United States Grand Prix qualifying results and race preview

Sebastian Vettel will start fifth. Charles Coates/Getty Images

The expected rain did not come so the teams were treated to their first dry running of the weekend. After the third free practice session Ferrari were at the top of the standings but given that all the teams were truly running test programs to gather data for the qualifying session later in the afternoon, it was impossible to know the true pecking order.

Sebastian Vettel set the early mark in Q1 showing that the speed Ferrari had shown in FP3 was real, however it was soon bettered by both Mercedes. A broken suspension that occurred by driving over the curbs ended Red Bull’s Max Verstappen’s session even though he had gone fast enough to make it to Q2.

During Q2 it became apparent that the top teams were taking a chance with race strategy by attempting to reach Q3 on the Super Soft as opposed to the Ultra Soft Tires. The rule is that for the 10 cars who reach Q3, their race will start on the set of tires used to set the fastest time in Q2. The advantage is that the Super Soft will last much longer than the Ultra Soft which will give those cars more strategic pit stop options. Ferrari decided to try a split strategy with Kimi Raikkonen setting his time on the Ultra Softs whereas Sebastian Vettel matched Mercedes strategy by setting his early hot lap on the Super Softs. Late in the session, both Mercedes, Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo all set out on a warm up lap on the Ultra Softs, preparing to ensure their matriculation to Q3 if the times set on the Super Softs failed to hold up, but they were all able to pit without needing to better their previous mark.

Hamilton set the initial fastest time on the first timed laps in Q3. He was soon bettered by Raikkonen with Vettel on the hunt in the second hot lap. On the third, Hamilton was able to put down the lap that Ferrari only just missed with the top three of Hamilton, Vettel, and Raikkonen separated by only 7 hundredths of a second. Bottas was fourth by a further three tenths with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finishing 1.2 seconds back in 5th.

Hamilton scores his record setting 81st pole position, while Kimi Raikkonen will join him on the front row with Sebastian Vettel being moved to fifth on the grid after being forced to serve a three position grid penalty for failing to adequately slow during a red flag.  

Hamilton’s road to his fifth championship is now before him. Vettel must find a way to finish second if Hamilton retains first throughout the race. The Ferrari strategy is clear. Kimi will start in second on the grippier Ultra Soft tires. His job will be to get ahead of Hamilton going into the first turn and hold him up until Vettel can clear the competition. As Formula 1 begins the race with a standing start that has no benefit of any launch control or traction control or any driver aid of any kind, the starts can be unpredictable. Will Hamilton get a clean start in his bid to secure his fifth World Championship, or will Ferrari play spoiler and keep Vettel’s chances alive for another day?

 

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Houston's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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