DANIEL Ricciardo has sealed pole in an exhilarating qualifying session, shutting out Max Verstappen’s charge to become the youngest driver in history to start atop the grid.
Red Bull locked out their first front row in five years, leaving championship favourite Lewis Hamilton to start in third.
The Englishman is inches away from a fifth F1 title on Monday morning (AEDT). Hamilton needs to finish below seventh place with Sebastian Vettel claiming victory for the championship race to extend to Brazil.
Ricciardo dudded in crazy start
Daniel Ricciardo was pipped from first place miliseconds after lights out after a screaming start from Lewis Hamilton.
The Englishman, who started directly behind the Aussie, darted in front and looked to have broken away from the pack, but Max Verstappen — who started in second — was able to blast in front of both of them and snag the lead through the first turn.
Verstappen soared ahead by the second lap, placing himself ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s DRS zone.
After a stunning qualifying weekend ending in a pole position, Ricciardo found himself losing ground to the rampaging Hamilton and sat four seconds behind the championship chaser by the 8th lap.
Sebastian Vettel, who needs to win the race to further the championship battle, sat behind him in fourth.
IT’S LIGHTS OUT IN MEXICO!!!#MexicoGP ?? #F1 pic.twitter.com/5lQqvdn27U
Heartbreak followed shortly after with Fernando Alonso departing the race with an unidentified mechanical problem. The retiring Spaniard left fans in the stands slapping their knees as he climbed out of his McLaren.
Verstappen fumes over ‘disappointing’ showing
Max Verstappen has bemoaned the car issues which he believes cost him pole position for the Mexican GP.
Verstappen missed out on becoming the youngest-ever pole sitter in F1 history by less than a tenth of a second when teammate Daniel Ricciardo snatched P1 out of his grasp.
Verstappen had previously topped all three practice sessions and held provisional pole position after the opening Q3 runs.
“It was just not good,” rued Verstappen.
“I was struggling the whole qualifying, with the same problems I had in Practice Two, when I had a lot of rear locking, on the downshifting and when I come off throttle. Somehow the behaviour was not correct.
“So we couldn’t do anything throughout qualifying, so I just had to lock a lot of tools, go forward on the brake balance to try and stabilise the whole car. It’s not how you want to do qualifying, normally you go more aggressive and be more aggressive on all the tools.”
A front row lock out for @redbullracing is a great result. We couldn’t get the car working in quali today, so to miss out on pole is disappointing. Still all to play for tomorrow! #KeepPushing #MexicoGP ?? pic.twitter.com/0a07x96DTv
In contrast, Ricciardo, who has endured a miserable run of form since winning May’s Monaco GP, was overjoyed at claiming what is likely to be his final Red Bull pole position before leaving for Renault.
“Max led the way through the practices. I knew there was a bit more in it and we just squeezed it out at the very end,” said Ricciardo.
“I knew the pace was there, it was just a matter of putting it together. To be honest, the first sector wasn’t that good, so I was surprised to have probably got the pole after that, but I saw the second and third sector were strong and that’s where I made the difference.”
Despite missing out on a front-row starting berth, Lewis Hamilton was also delighted to have claimed third on the grid — one place ahead of title rival Sebastian Vettel.
Really happy with today. The team did an excellent job yesterday to enable us to fight, I can’t thank them enough for their hard work. I’m happy for Daniel, he did a good job. We now place our focus and energy on race day #MexicoGP #F1 ? @Motors_images @MercedesAMGF1 pic.twitter.com/5XWklQv4Yf
“This is a great day for us,” said Hamilton. “Considering how bad yesterday was for us, and so I really want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s back at the factory who’ve been working hard overnight and also the guys here, to rectify the issues we’ve had and get the car back into a sweeter spot.
“To be as close as I am, I’m really quite happy with that, and to be on third, it’s not a bad start.
“It was testament to the work we did overnight and the decisions we made going into qualifying. I’m really, relay happy. On the engineering side, there’s nobody better than in my team,”
— Pete Gill, skysports
Hamilton on the brink of championship
Lewis Hamilton needs just a seventh place or better finish to wrap up the championship.Source:AP
Lewis Hamilton is set to be crowned a five-time world champion in tonight’s Mexican GP, exclusively live on Sky F1.
Hamilton needs to only finish anywhere in the top seven to settle the championship fight with two races to spare.
And that result is only required if sole championship rival Sebastian Vettel wins the race.
If Vettel finishes second or lower, the championship is Hamilton’s irrespective of where the Englishman finishes.
Hamilton starts ahead of Vettel on the second row, with the impressive Red Bulls ahead of both on the front row and favourites for victory in Mexico.
Given Hamilton has finished on the podium for nine successive races, and only once — when his Mercedes failed in Austria — outside of the top five this season, the outcome could appear as near to a sporting certainty as is possible.
However, driver and team have repeatedly cautioned against suggestions of ‘job done’ and last year’s Mexican GP proved how so-called straightforward routes to the title can be complicated.
Hamilton only required a fifth-place finish 12 months ago but endured a tough race after slipping to the back of the field at the start after Vettel’s Ferrari punctured his rear tyre. Battling on with a damaged car, Hamilton finished only ninth, although Vettel’s fourth-place finish was not sufficient to deny the Englishman the title.
This year, Mercedes suffered a rare reliability fault on Saturday morning in Mexico when a hydraulics problem shut down Valtteri Bottas’ car.
“We’ve just heard that Valtteri’s reliability issue shouldn’t affect Lewis’ engine,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff on Saturday evening.
“Nevertheless, it is a reminder how fragile the situation is and how much everyone is pushing in order to extract performance. Reliability will continue to play a crucial role in this championship and that’s why [Sunday] is about finding the right focus in finishing the race with the best possible performance.”
Wolff added: “We have it on our hands in having a good result with Lewis that could be a decisive result for his championship, but the emphasis is on could — it’s not done yet.
“We mustn’t drop the ball. It’s about carrying the ball over the line and this exercise needs to happen [on Sunday] and Brazil. This is why none of us wants to think too much about the championship, but just concentrating on the task at hand.”
— Pete Gill and James Galloway, Sky Sports
This story first appeared on Sky Sports and was republished with permission.
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