Daniel Ricciardo put in a superb final flying lap to claim pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix, beating team-mate Max Verstappen by just two hundredths of a second at the Autódromo Hermanos as Red Bull Racing claimed its first front-row lockout in five years.
Verstappen had looked well place to claim his first career pole position after taking provisional top spot in the first runs of Q3, but on the drivers’ final flyer Ricciardo found another gear and jumped from fourth after the first runs to pole position, with a time of 1:14.759. Unable to find an improvement, Verstappen was forced to settle for the back of the front row for tomorrow’s race. It will be the first all-Red Bull front of the hybrid turbo era, with the team’s last qualifying one-two being scored at the 2013 United States Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton claimed third place on the grid, and crucially for his bid to take a fifth world championship crown tomorrow, the Briton is one place further up the gird than title rival Sebastian Vettel.
In Q1 the early running was made by Ferrari, with Vettel setting the pace with a lap of 1:16.089.Team-mate Kimi Räikkönen slotted into P2 with a lap of 1:16.543, which he improved to 1:16.446.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Vallteri Bottas were behind in third and fourth places respectively. Ricciardo and Verstappen were keeping their powder dry in the early stages, but when they did take to the track they quickly rose to the top of the order. Ricciardo was first across the line in a time of 1:15.866, but he was quickly edged by Verstappen who posted a time of 1:15.756. Red Bull and Ferrari then opted to remain in the pit lane for the final runs of the session, but Mercedes sent its drivers out and Valtteri Bottas topped the session with a time of 1:15.580, 0.093s ahead of Hamilton.
At the other end of the order Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Renault’s Carlos Sainz were luck to escape the drop. Leclerc had a slow middle sector on his final flying lap and looked in danger of missing the cut, but he crossed the line in P15, just 0.005s ahead Haas’ Romain Grosjean was eliminated.
Sainz, meanwhile, ran wide and almost clipped the wall in the Foro Sol stadium section. The Spaniard managed to stay in control, however, and he claimed P12.
Eliminated at the end of the opening segment behind Grosjean were McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Williams’ Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin.
Q2 saw Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari take to the track on ultrasoft tyres and it was Verstappen who topped this timesheet in the first runs, just 0.004s ahead of Hamilton. Vettel was third ahead of Ricciardo, as the top four were separated by just two tenths of a second.
The top three teams switched to hypersoft tyres for the final runs, but none completed laps on the softest Pirelli compound on offer this weekend and thus they will all start the race on ultrasofts.
Eliminated at the end of Q2 were Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon in 11th place, followed by McLaren’s Fernando Alonos, the second Force India of Serio Pérez, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and his team-mate Pierre Gasly. The French driver is facing a PU-related grid penalty tomorrow and as such chose not to run in the session.
Verstappen was again in charge in the opening runs of Q3. Vettel initially went quickest with a good time of 1:14.970, three hundredths of a second ahead of Hamilton, but the Dutch driver powered past that benchmark with a lap of 1:14.785 to sit 0.185s ahead of Ferrari’s quickest man. Hamilton was in third place, ahead of Daniel who was 0.245s behind Max, in fourth place.
It seemed like 21-year-old Verstappen was set to claim his maiden pole and break Sebastian Vettel’s 10-year-old record for youngest pole sitter.
It wasn’t to be though as Ricciardo suddenly stepped up a gear and blitzed his final lap, crossing the line in 1:14.759 to claim his third career pole ahead of his young team-mate.
Hamilton held on to third place on the grid, but title-chasing Vettel, who was in P2 after the opening runs, dropped to P4 at the end of the session.
Behind the German, Bottas was fifth ahead of Räikkönen, Nico Hulkenber took sixth place for Renault ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz, while Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson were ninth and tenth respectively.
2018 Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:14.759 207.257
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:14.785 0.026 207.185
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:14.894 0.135 206.884
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:14.970 0.211 206.674
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:15.160 0.401 206.152
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:15.330 0.571 205.686
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:15.827 1.068 204.338
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:16.084 1.325 203.648
9 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:16.189 1.430 203.367
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:16.513 1.754 202.506
11 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:16.844 2.085 201.634
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:16.871 2.112 201.563
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:17.167 2.408 200.790
14 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:17.184 2.425 200.746
15 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso
16 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:16.911 2.152 201.458
17 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:16.966 2.207 201.314
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:17.599 2.840 199.672
19 Lance Stroll Williams 1:17.689 2.930 199.441
20 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:17.886 3.127 198.936