Sebastian Vettel scored his first pole position in four races after edging out Max Verstappen’s Red Bull by just under a tenth of second in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix. The Dutchman was looking certain for pole but a stunning lap from Vettel at the death made sure he was best placed ahead of Sunday’s race.
At the start of qualifying, Pierre Gasly was told he would miss out all together after a battery problem in his Toro Rosso so only four drivers would battle it out for safety and progression into Q2.
In the first part of qualifying, the usual suspects were fighting at the front for the fastest times which would end up being Lewis Hamilton from Valterri Bottas with Verstappen and Vettel close behind. The top four covered by just a tenth of a second.
Towards the back, though, Haas were struggling. Kevin Magnussen had picked up an illness over the weekend and will face a fitness test ahead of the race on Sunday. He would eventually be joined by teammate Romain Grosjean and the two Sauber’s of Marcus Ericcson and Pascal Wehrlein in being eliminated from the first part of qualifying. Perhaps, the surprise result from Q1 was Fernando Alonso in the McLaren in 5th and just 0.2 seconds behind Hamilton.
At the start of Q2, thanks to grid penalties which are a combined 355 places for the season, both McLaren’s remained in the garage to save tyres and petrol. Everyone else made it out on track but Brendon Hartley’s luck soon ran out after engine problems forced him to stop at the side of the road and out of he session. A bad Saturday at the office for Toro Rosso.
At the front, it was the turn of Verstappen to set the fastest time. A 1:16.524 was comfortably the fastest of anyone and was 0.3seconds ahead of Vettel with Hamilton and Bottas further behind the Ferrari’s. The final two ‘red zone’ places were filled by the two Williams’ cars of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa after Sergio Perez managed to sneak through to the top 10 shootout at his home race.
Q3 was expected to be a three team shootout and it didn’t disappoint. Verstappen set another scorcher of a lap to set the benchmark at 1:16.5 again, much like Q2 but a last gasp effort from Vettel gave the German driver the pole position by just under 0.1seconds.
Mercedes occupied the second row but are a full 0.5s behind the pole sitter with Hamilton edging out Bottas with Kimi Raikonnen behind his countryman in 5th place. Esteban Ocon was impressive again for Force India in 6th ahead of a disappointed Daniel Ricciardo in 7th. The two Renault’s of Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz and the second Force India of Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10.
It’s hard to see Hamilton not securing his fourth drivers crown (his 3rd in four years) as he needs 5th place or better but for Sebastian Vettel, the win on Sunday would be encouraging given Ferrari’s troubles in recent races. The race should be a good one with the prospect of Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton along side each other on the long run down to Turn 1.