AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will start on pole position for the United States Grand Prix after season champion Max Verstappen finished third in Saturday’s qualifying session that began shortly after his Red Bull team learned that founder and owner Dietrich Mateschitz had died.
Verstappen will still start on the front row. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified second, but must take a 10-place grid penalty for using new engine parts. Every winner in the previous nine races at the Circuit of the Americas has started from the front row.
Verstappen is chasing a single-season record-tying 13th victory. He clinched his second consecutive season championship at the previous race in Japan.
Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez had to drive less than an hour after the team was gathered together to be told Mateschitz had died at age 78.
“What he has done for me, my career so far, my life,” said Verstappen, who joined F1 as a 17-year-old with Red Bull’s junior team, then named Toro Rosso. “It’s a very tough day … We tried to give it everything but unfortunately we missed out. But there’s a race tomorrow and we’ll try and make (him) proud.”
Since its founding, Red Bull has won six driver championships and four constructors titles. The team is close to clinching a fifth team championship and could wrap it up on Sunday.
Matesich bought the Jaguar team in 2004 and rebranded it as Red Bull in 2005. He added a second team to the Red Bull stable when he bought the Minardi program renamed it Toro Rosso in 2006 to be a program for training younger drivers. That team is now Alpha Tauri.
Red Bull’s greatest success came with Sebastian Vettel’s four consecutive driver’s championships from 2010-13.
Verstappen said he had a chance to meet with Mateschitz just a few weeks ago.
“He was a big race fan, you know?” Verstappen said. “He admired young talent … To believe in me at such a young age, to see that relationship grow year after year, it was very special.”
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of the FIA, Formula 1’s governing body, called Mateshitz “a towering figure in motor sport, and with Red Bull not only established two hugely successful Formula 1 teams, but also supported motor sport of every kind and helped the careers of countless young drivers through Red Bull’s junior programs.”
A Verstappen win Sunday would tie the season record held by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
Sainz acknowledged he may not have the pace to hold off the Red Bull.
“I’m realistic,” Sainz said. It’s going to be tough.”
Verstappen said he’s not chasing the record as the previous marks came in eras of different cars and shorter seasons.
“You can’t compare (eras),” Verstappen said. “It’s impossible. I just try to go out every single weekend and do my best.”
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