Sebastian Vettel secured pole position for the US Grand Prix, putting the German in the perfect spot to chase his third consecutive Formula One championship.
Vettel is on the brink of history with two races left on the calendar. He would be just the third driver and youngest to win three consecutive championships, joining Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
Dubbed the "Boy Wonder," Vettel made his F1 debut at the US Grand Prix in 2007 as a 19-year-old. At the ripe old age of 25, the Red Bull driver appears ready to join the series' elite.
Vettel leads Ferrari's Fernando Alonso of Spain, a savvy veteran and two-time world champion himself, by 10 points.
Vettel avoided saying anything that would sound overconfident about winning another title. Two weeks ago, a penalty forced him to start in last place at Abu Dhabi before he finished third in the crash-filled race.
"I'm very happy with the (qualifying) result, but nobody has scored any points yet," Vettel said. "We saw in the last race how quickly things can change. It's the best strategy to keep your head down and try to get the best."
But the smiling Vettel clearly feels at ease in America and had no trouble navigating the new Circuit of the Americas built specifically for F1's return to the US after a five-year absence.
Vettel posted the fastest times in the three practice sessions before his qualifying time of 1 minute, 35.657 seconds edged McLaren's Lewis Hamilton for pole position.
Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber was third.
"The asphalt is brand new and it takes a while for the track to come in, but it's also quite a lot of fun to slide around a couple of corners, and it just got better
throughout," Vettel said.
His ability to start up front puts more pressure on Alonso, who was 1.643 seconds slower. Alonso finished ninth in qualifying but will start No. 8 after Lotus' Romain Grosjean was penalised for changing his gearbox after the third practice session.
If Vettel wins, Alonso must finish no worse than fourth to force the title race to the series finale next week in