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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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