Sebastian Vettel has beaten Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the closing moments of qualifying to take pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver narrowly pipped the Red Bull driver by eight-thousandths of a second.
However, Verstappen is under investigation after impeding the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas on his lap in Q3. Verstappen looked on course to take his maiden pole of his career before Vettel pulled out a narrow lead over the Dutchman.
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton will start third after being four-tenths of his title rival. Hamilton knows he only requires one-fifth place in the remaining three races to be champion, however, he has said he wants to seal his fourth world title with a victory this weekend.
Vettel said “We have to maximise every session. Today is really important and tomorrow [Sunday] we see. It is not as much in my control as I would like it to be. We go all out and attack. We deserve a good result. Ferrari deserves a good result. So we see what we can do tomorrow.”
Hamilton said “I gave it everything I could. The last lap could have been a couple of tenths quicker but I wouldn’t have been able to match those times [of the leading two]. We are still in for the win and I am hoping I get to have at least a battle with one of them.”
Hamilton struggled to get the lap together in the closing moments of the session after losing time in all three sectors, while the Ferrari gained the time Hamilton was losing. His fastest lap left him only two tenths faster than Bottas, who was forced to abort his final run thanks to the Verstappen incident.
It’s been a frustrating week for the Dutchman, he was stripped of third place last Sunday after a penalty for exceeding track limits and gaining an advantage in the battle with Raikkonen for third in Austin.
He told Sky Sports “I’m super annoyed. In Q3 it got a bit more difficult and couldn’t get the tyres to work. Second is good but not given the way it went. I really wanted that pole position.”
Kimi Raikkonen was a distant fifth fastest after struggling to match the front-runners. That put him ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo, who failed to improve on his final run in Q3 leaving him seventh fastest. Ocon’s teammate Sergio Perez, could only manage tenth for his home race.
Nico Hulkenberg starts eighth after he was three tenths faster than his teammate Carlos Sainz was ninth. The Williams drivers again missed out on a place in Q2 and were the only two drivers, apart from the top ten who managed to set a time. Felipe Massa starts eleventh and Lance Stroll twelfth.
For once, it was not McLaren having problems during the session, that honour went to Toro Rosso. Brendon Hartley abandoned his first run in Q2 because of a loss of power, while Pierre Gasly failed to set a time at all in qualifying after an engine issue in final practice that also resulted in a fifteen place grid penalty.
Something the team will probably need to get used to when they switch to Honda next season. McLaren went into qualifying knowing both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne would start at the back, so didn’t set times in Q2.
Both Sauber’s out-qualified the Haas’s with Marcus Ericsson ahead of Pascal Wehrlein.