There were vastly differing fortunes at Williams as qualifying got underway at the Circuit of the Americas, with Valtteri Bottas topping the time and Pastor Maldonado missing the cut.

The Venezuelan appeared to be the victim of not one, but three, blocks during the 20-minute session, but failed to improve on his final effort, and was left down in 18th spot, ahead only of the Caterhams and Marussias.

Esteban Gutierrez, who was weaving across the track when Maldonado encountered him early on, was the worst of the offenders, while Max Chilton and Charles Pic were also caught receiving blue flags as the Williams approached.

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Maldonado was joined on the sidelines by Adrian Sutil, as the German appeared to have his final effort damaged by a transmission problem. Having failed to break out of the bottom six with his penultimate effort, Sutil then ran wide into the turn one run-off on his final lap, and was later seen pulling over before taking the chequered flag.

With the expected backmarkers joining the two bigger names in missing the cut, it was left to another unheralded name to set the pace, with Bottas putting his Williams top of the pile after a late run on the medium Pirellis.

The softer compound became the tyre of choice in the closing minutes as a gusting wind and cooler than expected temperatures caused headaches up and down the pit-lane. Bottas was followed by Lewis Hamilton, Gutierrez, Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg in the top five, more than one of whom complained about the lack of grip...