Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg admits team-mate Lewis Hamilton just had the upper hand in the opening sector during qualifying for the United States Grand Prix and that was why he missed out on pole.

Rosberg, who leads the Drivers' Championship by 33 points following his ninth win of the season in Japan earlier this month, was only 0.072secs slower after the first runs in the top-ten shootout, despite making a mistake and running wide at Turn 1.

Rosberg then improved on his second and final effort, posting a 1 minute 35.215 second lap to take provisional pole, before Hamilton also went better, 0.216secs quicker, stopping the clocks with a 1m 34.999s.

Hamilton lays down gauntlet with US GP pole

Asked what the problem was in the first sector, Rosberg replied: "It wasn't nothing specific. It is just I preferred Sector 2 and 3 today and that is it - and Lewis was just quicker in Sector 1, so pretty simple.

"It was a good lap that I did nevertheless in the end and so I was pleased with that. Of course I knew it when Lewis came over the line, I saw it on the TV, that he had beat me to it [pole]. But that's the way it goes sometime."

UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX - Qualifying results

Rosberg, however, remains optimistic for the race, and given Hamilton's start issues this year didn't seem too upset with second.

"As we have seen this year qualifying isn't all important and so from P2 I still have a great chance tomorrow," he added.

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