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As it happened: Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
Vettel17:50 Good afternoon everyone and welcome back to AUTOSPORT Live as we continue with coverage and rolling updates from the penultimate round of the 2012 championship campaign - the United States Grand Prix weekend.

Sebastian Vettel made it a hat-trick of practice sessions and topped the timesheet this morning with a great lap of 1m36.490s, but his large Friday gap was trimmed down to 0.258s by Lewis Hamilton, with Pastor Maldonado entertaining the fans thoroughly on his way to third place.

The Venezuelan could well become a thorn in Fernando Alonso's side over the next 48 hours, as the Ferrari driver could only manage fourth, but more importantly, he was almost seven-tenths of a second down on the flying Vettel - who lost 45 minutes yesterday with a water system issue.

Vettel completes United States GP practice sweep

The scene is set for a highly-charged final segment, but there are several stories to tie up before then. HRT has opted to run a truncated programme and both drivers are running the 107 percent limit to the wire. Jean-Eric Vergne is also under pressure after he clattered a kerb in the final session, losing out on a medium tyre run.

Qualifying begins in just under 10 minutes time and like you, we can't wait for the action to get underway.

17:52 Weather conditions remain fine and dry in the lead-up to this critical qualifying session.

Bright sunshine will continue for the rest of the day, while a light breeze is blowing from the south-east. Air temperature is getting up to today's maximum of 21 degrees, with track surface temperature expected to climb through the 30-Celsius barrier.

17:53 Stewards have taken no further action on the clash between Perez and Pic in final practice, with the panel satisfied it was a racing incident:

No penalties for Perez and Pic clash

17:54 Here is how the qualifying battle stands with just two grid deciders remaining:
Qualifying head-to-head

Vettel        10 - 8     Webber
Button         4 - 14    Hamilton
Alonso        17 - 1     Massa
Schumacher     9 - 9     Rosberg
Raikkonen      9 - 9     Grosjean / D'Ambrosio
Di Resta       8 - 10    Hulkenberg
Kobayashi     10 - 8     Perez
Ricciardo     15 - 3     Vergne
Maldonado     16 - 2     Senna
Kovalainen    14 - 4     Petrov
De la Rosa    17 - 1     Karthikeyan
Glock         11 - 6     Pic
Tyres17:56 Qualifying today is looking like a sticky situation for race engineers, as drivers struggle to find grip in the opening laps on both allocated Pirelli compounds.

In a chilly final practice session, it took several flying laps for most to develop tyre temperature - with some of the fastest times coming in after four or five flying attempts on the medium compound.

With a limited speed difference between the allocation, leading teams should comfortably escape Q1 on hard tyres. The challenge will then be planning longer runs in the final segments, while hoping the tyre situation will improve as the day warms up.

17:57 But it is bad news for Romain Grosjean as the gearbox trouble he encountered at the end of final practice proved terminal. He gets a five-place grid penalty:

Romain Grosjean hit with gearbox penalty

17:58 A large crowd is taking advantage of the grandstands and spectator banks. The event has been extremely well-attended this weekend.

17:59 Track temperature has risen to 32 degrees Celsius, as we wait for the green light, in less than one minute from now.

17:59 Championship challenger Alonso looks relaxed and in no hurry to head out for a long run in the first segment.

0 min: Qualifying is underway in the USA.

0 min: De la Rosa is first out onto the circuit, followed by HRT team-mate Karthikeyan.

1 min: The big challenge for HRT will be to get within 107 percent of the fastest Q1 time, given that the team has run a limited programme so far this weekend.

1 min: Glock sets off in his Marussia, with Pic also underway after the team repaired the floor on that car after the Perez crash earlier.

1 min: Williams drivers Maldonado and Senna are also on the track for an early run.

1 min: Raikkonen and Grosjean are also on track for an early run.

2 min: The HRT duo are into their first timed lap.

3 min: Perez heads out of the pits with strong support from Mexican fans at the circuit.

3 min: De la Rosa gets the ball rolling with a time of 1m45.674s.

3 min: Karthikeyan immediately betters his team-mate with 1m45.573s.

4 min: Raikkonen is next to head the early order with a 1m41.058s lap.

4 min: Glock and Pic are currently second and third fastest.

4 min: Based on this morning's lap from Vettel, the HRT duo will need to get under approximately 1m42.8s to have any chance of making the race based on performance alone.

5 min: Maldonado and Senna has both aborted their effort and have returned to the pits.

5 min: Meantime, di Resta is on track in the Force India. He has just left the pits.

5 min: Sauber has pitted its drivers after what appear to be laps to scrub in their fresh rubber.

6 min: Alonso and Massa are underway for hard tyre runs in the Ferraris.

6 min: Replays show de la Rosa locking up the left front heavily on his first effort. He has since improved to 1m43.386s.

7 min: Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Vergne are on the circuit, followed by championship leader Vettel.

7 min: Raikkonen has switched to medium compound rubber now, while team-mate Grosjean goes fastest in 1m39.078s on the softer tyre.

7 min: Webber and Rosberg join the racetrack, with 12 minutes of this first segment remaining.

8 min: We have 23 drivers on the circuit now and traffic will become an issue, as everyone makes sure of a lap that gets them into the top 17.

8 min: Hard tyres for the McLaren pair as they work around to begin a run of laps.

8 min: Di Resta posts a slow 1m48.045s lap as he builds up speed.

9 min: Plenty of drivers already going to the softer tyres, which are certainly durable enough to do a few runs.

9 min: De la Rosa improves his time again to 1m43.055s, as he bids to beat the 107 percent barrier.

9 min: Massa moves up to second fastest on hard tyres, with team-mate Alonso now third in the order.

9 min: A slow first lap from Hulkenberg as well, as he scrubs in tyres. The Red Bull pair are now on their first timed lap.

10 min: Vergne pops up into third spot, behind Grosjean and Massa, with a time of 1m40.197s.

10 min: Perez springs up to second fastest as he laps with medium rubber on his Sauber.

10 min: Vettel takes that third position with 1m39.921s at the completion of his first effort.

10 min: Grosjean improves his benchmark to 1m37.865s as he finds grip from the softer tyres.

11 min: Webber completes his first timed lap and goes second to Grosjean with 1m38.498s.

11 min: Hulkenberg climbs up to third spot with 1m38.611s, dropping Massa to fourth.

11 min: Vergne completes another tour and goes sixth with 1m38.717s in the Toro Rosso.

12 min: Raikkonen is now third fastest as the times continue to improve.

12 min: This is ominous - Vettel goes second with a time of 1m38.122s, but only briefly...

12 min: That's because Senna now heads the list with a lap of 1m37.850s.

12 min: Grosjean restores his Lotus to the top time in 1m37.486s, with Massa now second fastest on hard tyres.

13 min: Hulkenberg improves to third spot with a time of 1m37.756s and Webber improves with another lap, but he is fourth.

13 min: Senna, who was quickest a few seconds ago, is suddenly down to fifth in the Williams.

13 min: Vettel comes around again and now tops the pile with 1m37.165s.

14 min: Schumacher and Rosberg have yet to post a time on the board. They are coming round to complete their first timed lap.

14 min: Plenty of potential for an upset here, with times improving by the lap and the best pace being found deep into a long run.

14 min: McLaren's drivers are yet to make an impact on the hard tyres with Hamilton 10th and Button down in 14th.

14 min: A slow effort there from Schumacher as he builds up speed, but Rosberg moves into 14th with 1m39.143s.

15 min: That's better for Button with a seventh fastest time but McLaren may need to consider the medium compound.

15 min: Maldonado was quickest in the first sector, but he has backed off slightly in the middle section of the lap.

15 min: Nevertheless, he is a threat this weekend. Maldonado moves up into third spot with a time of 1m37.572s.

16 min: Webber makes it a Red Bull one-two for the time being with a time of 1m37.215s.

16 min: Still the Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari drivers circulating on the harder tyres, with the rest already making use of the softer option.

16 min: Bruno Senna is on another hot lap and looking good here to move well up the order.

17 min: Senna moves up to fourth spot with a lap of 1m37.520s, just ahead of team-mate Maldonado.

17 min: Hamilton is now up to eighth fastest, with Button ninth in his McLaren.

17 min: Karthikeyan has pulled off the track and is slowing in the HRT.

18 min: All 24 drivers have posted a time on the board. Ricciardo, Glock, Pic, Kovalainen, de la Rosa, Karthikeyan and Petrov are in the dropzone.

18 min: Karthikeyan's car is stranded at Turn 2 and the yellow flags remain out.

18 min: Petrov finally sets a decent time in his Caterham and needed that to get inside the 107% cut. He's now 21st.

18 min: Ricciardo improves to 17th, bumping Rosberg into 18th and the dropzone.

19 min: Karthikeyan finally gives up the ghost. He climbs out of the HRT and walks away.

19 min: Meanwhile, Hamilton has found some grip and clocked a 1m37.058s to go second fastest - still half a second off Vettel.

19 min: A tractor unit is on hand to remove Karthikeyan's car from Turn 2.

19 min: Worry for Sauber here with Kobayashi in 15th and Perez a dangerous 16th.

20 min: Rosberg comes through the trouble area and eventually posts a lap to go 17th, with 1m38.862s.

20 min: The flag is out on a busy first segment.

18:20 The positions are swapped and Ricciardo is back down in the dreaded dropzone.

18:21 There is little doubt that Rosberg passed yellow flags in Turn 2 on his way to that improvement.

18:21 A great outing for Marussia as Glock ends up 19th with Pic 20th - both faster than the Caterhams.

18:22 The first period of qualifying has been completed and the following seven drivers are eliminated:

18) Ricciardo 1m39.114s
19) Glock 1m40.056s
20) Pic 1m40.664s
21) Petrov 1m40.809s
22) Kovalainen 1m41.166s
23) de la Rosa 1m42.011s
24) Karthikeyan 1m42.740s.

18:22 Petrov did outqualify Kovalainen today, with the Caterham pair 21st and 22nd.

18:22 After a truncated programme, HRT gets both cars safely inside the 107 percent target, so we will have 24 cars in the race on merit tomorrow.

18:23 Ricciardo could consider himself to be unlucky to be eliminated. He fails to make it by three-tenths of a second.

18:24 Up front, Hamilton finally found some speed to end up best-of-the-rest behind Vettel and will hope to be quicker on the mediums in Q2.

18:24 Rosberg pipped the young Australian for 17th with his final effort, but yellows were out at Turn 2 for a long time on his improving lap.

18:26 So the 17 drivers that have progressed face the next challenge. They have 15 minutes to try and secure a slot in the top 10 - no easy task.

0 min: Q2 is underway.

0 min: Maldonado takes the bait and he is first out onto the track.

1 min: Rosberg joins the racetrack for his first run in this critical Q2 segment.

2 min: Maldonado is back into the pits, after one lap scrubbing in another set of tyres.

2 min: Raikkonen and Grosjean head out with medium rubber on the Lotus cars.

2 min: The Venezuelan is wheeled into the Williams garage, as team owner Sir Frank Williams watches on from the pitlane.

3 min: Schumacher, Vergne and Senna are on track.

3 min: Softer tyres for McLaren this time as both drivers head out.

4 min: A wobble for Raikkonen at the tricky Turn 19 and he comes around with the first time of 1m37.672s.

4 min: Rosberg comes through in a slow and sedate 1m46.072s as he builds up speed.

5 min: Maldonado is back out on the circuit for a run in the other Williams.

5 min: Senna posts 1m40.122s and moves into second spot, behind Raikkonen.

6 min: Grosjean is currently third fastest early in his run but now tops the first sector time.

6 min: Vergne completes a building lap of 1m43.203s and goes fifth.

6 min: Button joins the times in fourth fastest but plans several laps on this run with the medium compound.

7 min: All 17 drivers are on the track - many of them content to complete a first effort that is around 10s off the pace as they build heat into the medium tyres.

8 min: Raikkonen tops the final sector for a new best of 1m37.457s, while Grosjean falls short after a final corner wobble.

8 min: Hulkenberg pops up into fourth spot with 1m41.085s and Maldonado is up to fifth spot after posting a lap of 1m42.741s.

8 min: Button goes second fastest with a 1m37.616s lap in his McLaren.

8 min: Alonso takes fourth fastest and is very unhappy with Schumacher after a blocking incident.

8 min: Vettel completes his first building lap in 1m41.632s and goes 10th.

9 min: Hamilton winds up his McLaren now with a quick 1m36.795s to top the times.

9 min: Webber puts more vigour into his lap and is second with 1m36.870s.

9 min: Oh but here we go. Vettel, now comfortable with his tyres, is now quickest in the first sector.

10 min: Another purple sector by Vettel and this is looking set to blast the opposition apart in the next few seconds...

10 min: Alonso drives for the line but doesn't improve and is now down in a worrying 12th place.

10 min: Vettel duly tops the order with a time of 1m35.971s.

10 min: This isn't good for the championship challenger but there is surely still grip left in his tyres for another few flying laps.

11 min: Button reports a loss of power in his McLaren.

11 min: So it's Vettel up top, then Hamilton second, Webber third, Hulkenberg fourth and Alonso way down in 14th!

11 min: Alonso has slipped to 14th but is on an improving lap.

11 min: Button, currently ninth, is touring back to the pits in a struggling McLaren.

12 min: Alonso makes it up to fourth fastest with a much better 1m37.123s.

12 min: All 17 drivers have posted a time on the board. Schumacher, Senna, Grosjean, Vergne, Kobayashi, Rosberg and Perez are in the dropzone.

12 min: Button reports that the throttle isn't making the engine budge from idle as he pits for the team to hurriedly repair.

13 min: McLaren mechanics dive into the pedalbox area but it could be too late for Button to get out again.

13 min: Grosjean goes sixth and that puts di Resta into 11th and the dropzone.

13 min: All over for Button in this one as he is dumped out of the top 10 and wheeled back into the McLaren garage.

13 min: Schumacher improves to fifth spot with a time of 1m37.102s.

14 min: Massa has moved up to fourth fastest in his Ferrari.

14 min: Rosberg is slow in 16th through the first sector. He is eliminated.

14 min: Raikkonen is currently 10th and stays there after only fractional improvement.

14 min: Not looking good at Sauber with Kobayashi down in 15th and Perez a lowly 17th.

15 min: The flag is out on Q2.

15 min: Senna is on a hot lap on his final attempt. This could spoil Raikkonen's day...

18:42 More improvement from Massa with a late drive to second fastest, splitting the Red Bull pair.

18:43 Senna moves up and goes 11th, failing to edge out Raikkonen by two-tenths.

18:43 Perez clocks his best of the segment but can only make it to 15th.

18:43 Alonso ends the segment in ninth and doesn't appear too happy with his Ferrari this afternoon.

18:44 But it is disaster at McLaren as throttle problems for Button deny him a late attempt and he is eliminated in 12th.

18:44 The second period of qualifying has been completed and the following seven drivers are eliminated:

11) Senna 1m37.604s
12) Button 1m37.616s
13) di Resta 1m37.665s
14) Vergne 1m37.879s
15) Perez 1m38.206s
16) Kobayashi 1m38.437s
17) Rosberg 1m38.501s.

18:45 Schumacher makes it through in a solid eighth place, but his team-mate Rosberg is nowhere, ending up 17th.

18:45 Up front, the Red Bull pair comfortably topped the times and few would bet against another pole for championship leader Vettel.

18:45 Maldonado keeps up his decent run with sixth in the Williams - easily through to the shootout.

18:46 It's another 'one in, one out' story at Force India. Hulkenberg progresses in seventh, but di Resta could only manage 13th.

18:47 Schumacher could well be making an appearance in the stewards' office after slowing Alonso, despite the presence of blue flags.

18:49 So these are the 10 drivers that have made it through to the final shootout:

Sebastian Vettel
Mark Webber
Felipe Massa
Lewis Hamilton
Romain Grosjean
Pastor Maldonado
Nico Hulkenberg
Michael Schumacher
Fernando Alonso
Kimi Raikkonen.

18:49 Massa looks to be on strong form this weekend and is getting final instructions from engineer Rob Smedley ahead of the shootout.

0 min: The battle for pole is underway in Texas.

0 min: Michael Schumacher is the first to go and he joins the racetrack.

1 min: Alonso and Massa head out for a run in the Ferraris.

1 min: Hamilton is also on the move in the sole remaining McLaren.

1 min: Maldonado joins the circuit, as Schumacher crosses the line to start his first attempt.

2 min: Vettel rolls out of the Red Bull garage for his first run.

2 min: No move just yet from Webber or Hulkenberg.

3 min: All 10 drivers on the circuit now for a timed lap.

3 min: Schumacher gets the ball rolling with a time of 1m51.627s - a slow building effort.

3 min: Teams still looking at longer runs in this segment, at least for the first attempt.

4 min: Vettel is also building his pace, but he is still on his lap out of the pits.

4 min: Alonso clocks 1m42.411s, hardly a stellar time. Massa is even slower, with the Ferarris still building tyre temperature.

4 min: Maldonado pops into second place with a time of 1m42.204s.

4 min: Grosjean pulls out a proper time with a 1m37.227s in his Lotus.

5 min: Hamilton is also in the 1m42s bracket on his first tyre-warming lap.

6 min: Alonso comes around in 1m40.010s, which is second fastest at the moment but he needs a lot more than that to get high up the grid.

6 min: Vettel completes his first timed lap and is only seventh with a time of 1m46.992s.

6 min: Grosjean blunders the latter stages of his next effort, now demoted to second.

6 min: Hamliton tops the middle sector and also the end of the lap for a quick time of 1m36.209s.

6 min: But here he comes. Vettel now fastest in the first sector with a stunning 25.9s.

7 min: That's a good effort from Hamilton, but we've yet to see what Vettel can do.

7 min: Webber into second spot, behind Hamilton with a lap of 1m36.845s.

7 min: Vettel also extremely quick through the second sector. This is looking strong...

7 min: Raikkonen clocks 1m37.040s, which is fourth fastest before being pipped by team-mate Grosjean.

7 min: Vettel crosses the line and it is 1m35.877s - four-tenths clear of Hamilton.

8 min: Webber completes another tour and he is third with 1m36.383s.

8 min: Alonso is now down in seventh, with Massa 10th and told to push.

8 min: Hulkenberg comes through in 1m39.198s and he is eighth quickest.

9 min: No sign of late pitstops, with teams opting to stay out and gun for another time after a gentle lap on the tyres.

9 min: Not good for Alonso - still down in seventh.

9 min: Vettel comes through after backing off and starts one final attempt.

9 min: Hamilton is on a better lap, topping the middle sector now. Can he cause an upset?

10 min: Hulkenberg goes sixth with a time of 1m37.141s.

10 min: 1m35.928s for Hamilton and he's just fractions off toppling the Red Bull.

10 min: The flag is out, but Hamilton can try again...

10 min: Webber is briefly fastest of all through the first sector of the lap.

19:00 Alonso drives for the line and... stays seventh.

19:00 Vettel fastest of all in sector two as he looks to head off the threat from Hamilton.

19:01 Hamilton is the fastest man through the first sector but Vettel is pushing as well.

19:01 1m35.657s for Vettel and that gives Hamilton yet more to think about...

19:01 This is sensational stuff as Hamilton tries to stop the Vettel steamroller...

19:01 Webber stays third with his final effort.

19:01 Sebastian Vettel claims pole position for tomorrow's United States Grand Prix!

19:01 1m35.766s for Hamilton, just a tenth short after a valiant fight.

19:02 Meanwhile, Alonso ends up a lowly ninth.

19:02 It's Vettel's sixth pole of the campaign and critical for his title hopes. He edges out Hamilton with Webber third and Grosjean fourth.

19:03 Vettel is delighted on the team radio as he has the news confirmed. Continuing the order, Raikkonen is fifth with Schumacher sixth.

19:03 Massa ends up seventh with Hulkenberg in eighth, but it is a disaster for Alonso, who is only ninth and has it all to do.

19:04 Maldonado was quick this morning, but he can only round out the top 10 at the end of a pulsating qualifying session.

19:05 With the penalty for Grosjean, Raikkonen will move up to fourth, Schumacher to fifth, Massa to sixth, Hulkenberg to seventh and Alonso to eighth.

19:05 So it's all smiles for Vettel, with Alonso set to start from eighth on the grid. Join us tomorrow for the United States Grand Prix.

Session length: 60 minutes
Clear skies High Temp: 21°C / 70°F
Track: Dry
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Friday 16 Nov Start GMT
 Friday practice one 14:55
 Friday practice two 18:55
Saturday 17 Nov
 Saturday practice 14:55
 Qualifying 17:50
Sunday 18 Nov
 The United States Grand Prix 18:45