MEXICO CITY, Mexico — While it looked like Max Verstappen would become the youngest polesitter in Formula One history, Sebastian Vettel slammed the record books shut by taking the track record and his 50th pole position by 0.086 seconds over the Dutchman.
“Yeah, it was quite a lap I have to say, I’m really, really happyYeah, it was quite a lap I have to say, I’m really, really happy,” Vettel said to Damon Hill after the session. ” It’s very difficult here. It’s very slippery and difficult to get everything in one lap. I had a little bit in the first sector and I managed to get that right, so I had a good start.”
“Then I had a bit of a moment in I think Turn 6. I nearly lost it there, I had to go down to first gear, but I didn’t lose any time and then I knew in the last sector if I just kept it clean across the line it should be enough and it was, so really, really happy.”
Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen led Q1 early, but Vettel grabbed the provisional pole by one-tenth of a second despite a slide through the esses at the circuit’s back end. Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas took the top two spots from the Ferrari men, with Max Verstappen grabbing third.
Hamilton complained of a power cut with about four minutes left in the session, but he was safe to move on to Q2.
Fernando Alonso jumped up to fifth in the session for McLaren. Alonso would complain late in the session that he had no power or turbo feel, but went fastest of all in sector two right at the end of Q1. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne sat in the drop zone for most of the session, but got into Q2 right at the end of the session, jumping up to 13th.
The cars out at the end of the session were Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein for Sauber, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for Haas, and Pierre Gasly, who wasn’t able to run due to a technical issue in final practice.
Hamilton and Bottas went out first in Q2, followed by Vandoorne and Raikkonen. Bottas set the first fast time, slightly off the track record time. Raikkonen jumped up to second, with Hamilton third, nine seconds off. Vettel stole Bottas’ thunder, smashing the track record and taking provisional pole by one-tenth.
Hamilton pushed as hard as he could on the next lap, taking a 1:17.035, 0.023 seconds quicker than Vettel for the track record. Brendon Hartley complained of the same engine issue teammate Gasly had in practice, leaving him 13th with no time set. The yellow flags came out in sector two for the incident.
Verstappen went quickest in the first sector by two-tenths over Hamilton, one-tenth in the second sector, then picked it up in the third sector to grab pole by half-a-second over Hamilton.
Vettel jumped up to second right at the end of the session. Both McLarens did not venture out into Q2 due to the engine penalties both sustained. Besides Hartley, Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa would be in the drop zone.
“It was good fun in Q1 to show the potential of the car,” Alonso said. “Yesterday was a nice surprise, how strong we were – the car felt great in the corners, in the high speed section, and today we proved it again in qualifying. Being two-tenths off P1 in qualifying, that shows probably for the first time in the last three years we had the best car out there.”
“Today we have the previous engine. Yesterday we used the new engine but saved it for Brazil and Abu Dhabi. So all the improvements are thanks to the aero and a bit to the suspension parts we’ve brought over the past races. It’s been a while since we set a pink sector. It’s probably the best weekend of the whole season.”
The 12-minute final session saw Bottas and Hamilton go out first, followed by Raikkonen.
Verstappen looked to be pushing hard, but backed off, and looked to impede Bottas coming through the stadium section. He would be cleared of any blame.
Hamilton grabbed the early pole with a 1:16.934. Vettel, however, stole it away not a second later with a 1:16.833. Verstappen was fastest in sectors one and two, then set a 1:16.574 to be 0.259 ahead of Vettel with seven minutes left.
The teams all put their cars in the garages to prepare for the final run for pole. Verstappen was the first to go out with just under four minutes left, then Nico Hulkenberg and Bottas. Hamilton and Carlos Sainz were the next to go out, with Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon being the next guys out, leaving Vettel last.
Verstappen backed off his first flying lap in order to set up for one final push. Hamilton was coming hard, though, and was under a tenth behind Verstappen, but was eight-tenths off the time to start third.
Vettel would grab the pole right at the end, and with Verstappen’s poor last lap, Vettel had it.
Vettel said he was was pleased with his 50th pole, but was more focused on the session at hand.
“It sounds like a lot, I guess it is a lot,” he said. “I don’t know really what to say. It’s a big number.”
“I’m very, very happy with today. Before qualifying I didn’t look at it that way, so I was surprised myself to hear just now. I think every session you try to get the best. Quali has obviously been tough for us, and really rewarding when it worked, just like today. So really, really happy with the session that we had, with the lap I had at the end. So I think at the moment, right now, that probably means more than the raw number, but for sure overall it’s a great achievement.”
1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Max Verstappen
3. Lewis Hamilton
4. Valtteri Bottas
5. Kimi Raikkonen
6. Esteban Ocon
7. Daniel Ricciardo
8. Nico Hulkenberg
9. Carlos Sainz
10. Sergio Perez
11. Felipe Massa
12. Lance Stroll
13. Brendon Hartley
14. Fernando Alonso
15. Stoffel Vandoorne
16. Marcus Ericsson
17. Pascal Wehrlein
18. Kevin Magnussen
19. Romain Grosjean
20. Pierre Gasly