The 2021 championship contenders find themselves sharing the front-row of the grid for the seventh time this season after Verstappen beat Hamilton by 0.209s in qualifying to take pole position at Austin

Hamilton and Verstappen have had several near-misses on the opening laps of races this year - most notably at Imola and Barcelona - but have also crashed on two occasions in races at Silverstone and Monza

Seven-time world champion Hamilton indicated he is willing to play the long game in his bid to win the race and does not feel he needs to pin all of his hopes on getting past Verstappen immediately. 

“I hope we make it through turn one and we get a good race,” he said. “I don’t think it’s all decided on turn one.”

Starting from the same P2 grid slot back in 2015, Hamilton was able to snatch the lead from title rival Nico Rosberg

On that day Hamilton got the better launch and drew alongside his Mercedes teammate into Turn 1, before forcing his way into the lead by running Rosberg out of road in greasy conditions. 

Asked how he plans to tackle the start against Hamilton, Verstappen, who leads the championship by six points, replied: “Like we always try, as professionals.

2983874.0064.jpg

“I don’t see why we always have to keep bringing this up,” he added. “It’s not like we’re the only ones who have touched in this sport. These things happen, unfortunately.

“We are on the front row again and everyone is just expecting a great race and that’s what we also expect as drivers and we just want to have a really good race.”

Meanwhile, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is predicting a “grandstand start” between the two title protagonists after they came close to contact in second practice on Friday. 

Hamilton and Verstappen briefly raced each other side by side along the main straight, with Verstappen calling Hamilton a “stupid idiot” and giving the Mercedes driver the middle-finger. 

Verstappen said he didn’t really understand his FP2 scrap with Hamilton, while the Briton described it as “fun and games.’

“I didn’t run him wide, he decided to go around the outside and ended up going wide,” Hamilton explained when asked about the near-miss following qualifying. “But we were battling in the last corner. 

“It’s a silly thing. It’s all fun and games and we’re going to have fun [in the race] and give it everything as you would expect. 

“There’s no real difference to any other part of the season.”