Sebastian Vettel claimed the fiftieth pole position of his Formula 1 career in dramatic fashion at the Mexican Grand Prix, narrowly denying Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen by just 0.086 seconds in a tense qualifying session.

Quickest overall in the preceding Q2 session, Verstappen broke the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez’s outright lap record on his first run in Q3, but couldn’t better the effort next time out and lapped three-tenths of a second slower.

Vettel managed to overcome his time deficit to the Dutch youngster on his second run to snatch pole position with an impressive lap of 1:16.488 to claim a vital front-row start in his championship battle with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen’s front-row start is provisional, however, with the FIA Stewards set to investigate claims that he impeded Valtteri Bottas during the Finn’s first Q3 run. Bottas abandoned his first flying lap when he came across Verstappen through the baseball stadium section of the lap and locked his brakes as he passed the Red Bull Racing driver. He subsequently returned to the track and posted a time good enough for fourth place.

Hamilton will start Sunday’s 71-lap race one spot ahead of his teammate, having ruined his chances of a shot at pole with a mistake on his last flying lap. The Mercedes driver braked fractionally too late for the Turn 12 right-hander and ran over the exit kerbs, meaning he had to rely on his first Q3 run’s lap time to secure his grid position.

Kimi Räikkönen had a relatively quiet run to claim fifth on the grid in the second Ferrari, while Force India’s Esteban Ocon continued his impressive qualifying form to be sixth-fastest.

The Frenchman’s excellent qualifying result came at the expense of Daniel Ricciardo, who was unable to match the pace of his teammate after struggling to build front tyre temperatures. The Australian will start from seventh place on the grid ahead of Renault duo Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr., and the second Force India of Sergio Pérez, who disappointed in front of his home crowd.

The two Williams’ of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were the only two drivers eliminated in Q2 to post a lap time. Massa fell just under a quarter of a second shy of making the Q3 cut, while teammate Stroll had a scruffy session and was over a second slower than his Brazilian teammate.

Toro Rosso rookie Brendon Hartley reached Q2 for the first time in his brief F1 career but suffered a loss of power as he exited Turn 3 on his first flying lap. The New Zealander will take a grid penalty for Sunday’s race, along with the two McLaren-Hondas of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne who both made the Q2 cut but opted not to set a time in lieu of their combined 55 places worth of grid penalties they carry into the race.

Alonso was superb in his attempts to make the second phase of qualifying and lapped just 0.4 seconds slower than Hamilton’s Q1-topping effort before declaring the McLaren MCL32 to be the best chassis in the field in another not-so-subtle dig at outgoing engine partner Honda.

Eliminated in the first segment of qualifying were the two Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein, who both outqualified the Haas Ferraris of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean on merit despite the Swiss cars running one-year-old Ferrari engines.

The Haas VF-17s were all at sea in qualifying, as they have been for the weekend, repeating their poor showing at the Mexican circuit from a year before.

After his car failed in the earlier practice session on Saturday, Toro Rosso rookie Pierre Gasly did not run in qualifying and will seek dispensation from the FIA Stewards to start the race. The French youngster has had a torrid weekend in Mexico, totaling just 12 practice laps all weekend while his car was afflicted with power unit issues.

Sunday’s 71-lap race is likely to prove the 2017 season’s title-decider, with Hamilton leading Vettel by 66 points. With a maximum of 75 points available over the remaining three Grands Prix, the Englishman can join Vettel as a four-time World Champion by either:

  • finishing inside the top five, regardless of Vettel’s finishing position;
  • finishing between sixth and ninth, with Vettel finishing second or lower;
  • finishing tenth or lower, with Vettel finishing third or lower; or
  • if Vettel does not finish first or second.

FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE MÉXICO 2017 – QUALIFYING RESULTS
Q3 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap Tyre
1. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:16.488 Pirelli Ultra Soft
2. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:16.574 + 0.086 Pirelli Ultra Soft
3. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:16.934 + 0.446 Pirelli Ultra Soft
4. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:16.958 + 0.470 Pirelli Ultra Soft
5. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:17.238 + 0.750 Pirelli Ultra Soft
6. Esteban Ocon fr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:17.437 + 0.949 Pirelli Ultra Soft
7. Daniel Ricciardo au Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:17.447 + 0.959 Pirelli Ultra Soft
8. Nico Hülkenberg de Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:17.466 + 0.978 Pirelli Ultra Soft
9. Carlos Sainz Jr es Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:17.794 + 1.306 Pirelli Ultra Soft
10. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:17.807 + 1.319 Pirelli Ultra Soft
Q2 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap** Tyre
11. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:18.099 + 1.575 Pirelli Ultra Soft
12. Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:19.159 + 2.635 Pirelli Ultra Soft
13. Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 no time Pirelli Ultra Soft
14. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MCL32 no time Pirelli Ultra Soft
15. Stoffel Vandoorne ca McLaren-Honda MCL32 no time Pirelli Ultra Soft
Q1 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap* Tyre
16. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:19.176 + 1.658 Pirelli Ultra Soft
17. Pascal Wehrlein de Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:19.333 + 1.815 Pirelli Ultra Soft
18. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:19.443 + 1.925 Pirelli Ultra Soft
19. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:19.473 + 1.955 Pirelli Ultra Soft
Outside 107% Team / Entry Time Gap* Tyre
DNQ. Pierre Gasly fr Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 no time

* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:17.518 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:16.524 posted by Max Verstappen

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • Daniel Ricciardo (7th) will serve a 20-place grid penalty for the use of new power unit elements above his car’s allocated limit.
  • Brendon Hartley (13th) will serve a 20-place grid penalty for the use of new power unit elements above his car’s allocated limit.
  • Fernando Alonso (14th) will serve a 20-place grid penalty for the use of new power unit elements above his car’s allocated limit.
  • Stoffel Vandoorne (15th) will serve a 35-place grid penalty for the use of new power unit elements above his car’s allocated limit.
  • Pierre Gasly (22nd) will serve a 15-place grid penalty for the use of new power unit elements above his car’s allocated limit.

Image via Scuderia Ferrari

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.
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