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F1 at COTA: Verstappen grabs pole position for Sunday's race at U.S. Grand Prix Qualifiers

Teammates Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez took first and third at the U.S Grand Prix Qualifiers on Saturday. (Red Bull Racing Honda/Twitter)

In a one-hour sprint that may be nearly as dramatic as the big race itself, Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen won the top starting position for Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix in the race qualifiers on Saturday.


The three-day Formula 1 event, which has brought hundreds of thousands to Austin's Circuit of the Americas to see a historic neck-and-neck rivalry between Verstappen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, will culminate in the final U.S. Grand Prix competition at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

And the duo didn't disappoint in the qualifying round. Just as rain began to fall, Verstappen edged out the seven-time champ in a crowd-pleasing qualifying round that saw the Dutchman take the pole position from Hamilton just after the checkered flag waved on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton took second as he fell behind his younger competitor, while Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez took the third position in the starting grid.

The world's best drivers first competed in a 20-, minute trial as they looked to grab the fastest lap times.

In Formula 1 qualifiers, each driver can attempt as many flying laps as they desire in F1's qualifiers until the flag is waved and the bottom five are taken out of the running for the best racing spots. The top 15 drivers then continue to Round 2, with the bottom five in that race taking the 11th through 15th spots in Sunday's race.

Finally, a hotly-contested 10-minute battle determines the top 10 spots for the final competition, with the fastest driver taking the pole position and winning a big advantage in the big race.

Final starting grid

Here's how that starting grid will look come Sunday afternoon:

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
  2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
  3. Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing
  4. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes (will start ninth due to a penalty)
  5. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
  6. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
  7. Daniel Riccardo, McClaren Mercedes
  8. Lando Norris, McClaren Mercedes
  9. Pierre Gasly, Alphatauri Honda
  10. Yuki Tsunoda, Alphatauri Honda
  11. Esteban Ocon, Alpine Renault
  12. Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin Mercedes
  13. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
  14. Fernando Alonso, Alpine Renault
  15. George Russell, Williams Mercedes
  16. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin Mercedes
  17. Nicholas Latifi, Williams Mercedes
  18. Kimi Räikkönen, Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
  19. Mick Schumacher, Haas Ferrari
  20. Nikita Mazepin, Haas Ferrari

Here's how those three rounds played out:

Round One- Leclerc takes surprise lead

With Verstappen and Hamilton just six points apart, it may seem like the qualifiers would stay a Red Bull vs. Mercedes battle. But even after a standout practice session from Hamilton earlier in the day, it was Ferrari's Charles Leclerc who took Round One.

The Mercedes two took second and third, while drivers Nikita Mazepin, Mick Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Nicholas Latifi and Lance Stroll were knocked out of the running. They'll take the last five spots in tomorrow's starting grid.

Round Two- Verstappen bests Hamilton

Round Two proved more predictable as Hamilton and Verstappen duked it out for the first two slots. Daniel Riccardo, a fan favorite and member of McClaren Mercedes, just scraped by with a ninth place finish. Drivers Fernando Alonso, George Russell, Antonio Giovinazzi, Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Ocon were eliminated from the final round.

Round Three- Verstappen takes down teammate and Hamilton for pole position

A gust of wind began as the final qualifying round commenced, and Red Bull took advantage of the breeze as Sergio Perez bested teammate Verstappen to take the provisional pole less than four minutes in. A Mexico native, he was met with plenty of cheers from admiring fans as he crossed that first finish.

But Verstappen wasn't finished. The Dutchman held second place over Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton until the clock ran out, when Hamilton pulled an upset for his final round to momentarily take first place.

Braving the rain, Verstappen pumped the gas for a final effort to finish with a race-best 1:32.91 lap time to take his seventh pole in the last ten races.

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‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

Austin's 7 Best Indian Restaurants

We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.

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