Sebastian Vettel snatches pole position at the Mexico Grand Prix.
Doing all he can do to keep the F1 title fight going, Sebastian Vettel set the pace in qualifying to seize pole from Verstappen after the Red Bull driver leapt to the front in Q2. But, Lewis Hamilton remains in a title-clinching position with third place.
The battle in qualifying was tense from the off, with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all running within tenths of each other.
Not letting either rival get too far away as the three giants of Formula One all had pole position in sight.
That honour could go to one driver, however, and Max Verstappen laid his claim to what he wanted in Q2. Storming away from the tightly packed group by half a second to stun Mercedes and Ferrari.
Verstappen carried that pace into the pole shoot-out as well. Taking the provisional top spot with a storming lap again.
But things were not perfect for the pace-setter as the stewards announced they would look into an incident where Bottas may have been impeded by the Dutchman.
With that in the air, Verstappen returned to the track with his rivals. All vying for pole, but not going faster. Vettel, on the other hand, was.
When qualifying went green at the Autodromo Hermans Rodriquez, the field flocked to the track with Romain Grosjean the first driver out of the pits. Setting a 1:21:359 to kick the session off with a steady start.
Lewis Hamilton’s first run of the day saw the Briton also set a slow first lap as he opted for an extra warm up lap. Eventually crossing the line 0.060 seconds up on team-mate Bottas for P1, with Verstappen and Vettel within a tenth of Valtteri too.
Behind the front four, Fernando Alonso’s initial time saw the Spaniard emerge an unlikely challenger to the top teams. Crossing the line with a lap just three-tenths down on Hamilton’s best and ahead of the efforts set by home favourite Sergio Perez, who had thanked his fans for their support over his team radio as he made his way onto the track.
Alonso later returned to the track and reduced the gap to Hamilton to just two-tenths.
Carlos Sainz also had an early edge in qualifying as he out-paced Nico Hulkenberg in the battle of the Renault pair. Though, after a cool down lap, Hulkenberg overturned the deficit to return to the pits with an 8-hundredths margin in his favour.
Behind that Felipe Massa sat one place up on his team-mate for P11, albeit three-tenths down on Sainz. Sitting six-tenths up on Stroll, who could only muster a slender advantage over the best effort of Brendon Hartley, the sole representative for Toro Rosso in qualifying.
Pierre Gasly briefly looked as if he would be able to run in qualifying, with his mechanics confident they could complete the engine change before the flag.
But, after needing the change with Gasly suffering his second failure of the weekend in FP3 and parking up inside the first five minutes with a battery issue, the team could not complete the change and laid down their tools.
Gasly being out of qualifying meant only 4 of the running field would drop out in Q1. Promoting Pascal Wehrlein into the top 15, as the German usurped his team-mate, Vandoorne and the Haas duo in the opening runs. Covering Grosjean in 16th by 4-tenths.
Second runs, however, saw Wehrlein miss out on a Q2 slot with the German failing to improve while others did. With Stoffel Vandoorne leaping up to P13 to move safely through.
Kevin Magnussen had been first to improve as he found half a second. Though lost time in the final zone to Pascal, and finished the session only ahead of his team-mate.
Come Q2 with neither Haas or Sauber, Bottas set the opening time on a 1:17.161. Four-tenths faster than Raikkonen as Hamilton opted for an extra warm up lap.
Vettel, meanwhile, did not. Attacking immediately and lowering the benchmark to a 1:17.058, the latest lap in a string of track records at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez.
Vettel’s lead lasted all of a minute, though, as Hamiton crossed the line two-hundredths faster than his title-rival.
The fastest lap honours were not over yet though, with Verstappen going purple in the first sector. But forced to back out on his immediate flyer as double waved yellows hit the circuit for Hartley’s Toro Rosso.
The second Toro Rosso to retire from qualifying, as he too suffered a power unit failure and parked aside the track.
Yellow flags cleared, Verstappen attacked again with another purple first sector. Carrying the advantage through sector two to remain a tenth up on Hamilton. Smashing the final sector to round off the lap and go top by half a second. Punching into the mid 1:16s, 1.1 seconds faster than Ricciardo in the other Red Bull.
Down the order, McLaren and Williams both were yet to set a time with McLaren only completing install laps and Williams opting for single flying runs.
The first times by Massa and Stroll then moved the pair into P11 and 12 with Stroll the slower of the two, after wildly going out of shape through the final sector. Locking up into the stadium and fighting the kerbs through it to end the lap 1.2s down on Hulkenberg.
Without attacking again, the Williams duo were out of qualifying here. While Ocon, Vettel and Hulkenberg were the only drivers to return and improve.
Verstappen may not have improved on his flyer, but his second time would still have bettered the best lap by Hamilton. Who now sat third after Vettel improved and became the second driver to dip into the 1:16s.
Verstappen also noted on the radio that something needed to be changed if they were to do just a single warm-up lap. Suggesting he felt he benefited from the enforced warm-up lap when Hartley’s yellows prevented him from attacking.
The pole position shoot-out began with Verstappen leading the contenders around the track. Though the Red Bull driver later backed out of his flyer in the middle sector. Eventually pulling aside for the inbound Bottas coming into the stadium.
Verstappen’s slow path somewhat caught the Finn off-guard, locking up into the chicane and immediately pitting with his lap ruined.
Hamilton was then next to close on Verstappen as the lap rounded out and the Red Bull started his attacking lap. Setting the time to beat with a 1:16.934.
Hamilton’s first time in the 1:16s was soon dismissed by Sebastian Vettel as he crept a tenth ahead in the important stages of qualifying.
But Verstappen was flying. Setting a string of purple sectors to go two-and-a-half tenths clear for provisional pole. Again covering Ricciardo by a sizable margin.
However, while Verstappen may have been on provisional-pole, confirmation emerged from the stewards that Max would be investigated after the session for impeeding Bottas.
As that emerged, Verstappen returned to the track to try his hand again. Going 0.094 seconds slower in the first sector, before backing out again. Opting for the extra warm-up lap that had done him well so far.
The man who felt he had previously lost out due to Verstappen was attacking, though. As Bottas completed the first sector 0.085 down on Max’s benchmark. Unfortunately losing out further across the lap, before crossing the line four-tenths down in P4.
Hamilton, too, ended the first sector marginally down with just 6-hundredths the split at the line. But, like his team-mate, continued to leak time and ultimately failed to improve.
With the Mercedes pair out of contention, only Vettel could challenge Max for pole. A pivotal place to start the Mexico Grand Prix from with Sebastian needing a win to have any chance of continuing the title fight beyond Round 18.
Pushing hard, Vettel ended the Ferrari’s best sector five-hundredths up on Verstappen. Tackling the stadium to maintain the edge, and crossing the line a slender eight-hundredths ahead of the benchmark Max set.
With a narrow gap to what was his pole, Max pushed to reply. Rounding the final corner with the throttle pushed down, but crossing the line without improving.
Ocon and Sainz had the initial edge of their team-mates in the fight behind the pole chasing teams. Though seconds runs saw Hulkenberg improve to usurp Carlos. While Ocon’s lap kept him in sixth place, ahead of Ricciardo who failed to improve.
Mercedes’ best set by Hamilton may have been strong enough for third. But the now four-times consecutive constructors’ champions ended qualifying over four-tenths off of pole. Contrasting to the dominance they have set in Formula One since the start of the hybrid-era.
Pole today is also Sebastian Vettel’s 50th in Formula One.
|2||33||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:17.630||1:16.524||1:16.574||19|
|6||31||Esteban Ocon||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:18.336||1:17.827||1:17.437||19|
|7||3||Daniel Ricciardo||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:18.208||1:17.631||1:17.447||15|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:18.020||1:17.868||1:17.807||19|
|11||19||Felipe Massa||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:18.570||1:18.099||10|
|12||18||Lance Stroll||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:18.902||1:19.159||11|
|13||28||Brendon Hartley||TORO ROSSO||1:18.683||DNF||12|
|14||14||Fernando Alonso||MCLAREN HONDA||1:17.710||DNS||9|
|15||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||MCLAREN HONDA||1:18.578||DNS||13|
|16||9||Marcus Ericsson||SAUBER FERRARI||1:19.176||9|
|17||94||Pascal Wehrlein||SAUBER FERRARI||1:19.333||9|
|18||20||Kevin Magnussen||HAAS FERRARI||1:19.443||10|
|19||8||Romain Grosjean||HAAS FERRARI||1:19.473||11|
|20||10||Pierre Gasly||TORO ROSSO||DNS||0|