Sebastian Vettel achieved his 50th pole position in the sport with a dramatic qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix, knocking Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen off top spot at the end.
Verstappen was quickest on the first runs in Q3 with a one minute, 16.574 seconds, but lapped three-tenths slower on his final attempt.
This allowed Ferrari driver Vettel to snatch pole with a lap of one minute, 16.488 seconds, having been just over a quarter-of-a-second slower on the first runs.
Lewis Hamilton was third fastest for Mercedes after a moment in the Turn 12 right-hander which cost him time in the final sector, meaning the championship leader had to rely on his first-run time.
This put him ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who posted a lap good enough for fourth having had to abandon his first run without setting a time.
This was because of a lockup at Turn 13 after passing the slow Verstappen.
Kimi Raikkonen was fifth ahead of Esteban Ocon, with Daniel Ricciardo failing to improve on his final lap and ending up seventh.
The Renault duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr were eighth and ninth ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez.
Williams team-mates Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were the only drivers among the five eliminated in Q2 to post a lap time.
Massa ended up P11, missing out on a place in Q3 thanks to lapping 0.231 seconds slower than Perez.
Stroll was over a second behind his team-mate in P12, with much of the time lost with a scruffy run through the stadium section late in the lap.
Brendon Hartley, on his second Formula 1 appearance for Toro Rosso, reached Q2 for the first time but ended up P13 thanks to stopping with a loss of power exiting Turn 3 on his first flying lap.
With Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne carrying grid penalties of 35 and 20 position respectively, McLaren opted not to mount a serious assault on Q2 with both drivers completing a token run without attempting a flying lap – leaving them P14 and P15.
Sauber duo Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein were fastest of those eliminated in Q1 in P16 and P17 respectively.
Both did three runs in Q1, but Wehrlein was bumped into the dropzone by Vandoorne late on, moments before Ericsson jumped ahead of him.
Wehrlein did not improve on his final lap but still ended up ahead of Haas duo Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, who also both squeezed three runs into Q1.
Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly did not run in qualifying on his return to Formula 1 action after engine problems struck in final practice.
The 21-year-old already carries at least a 15-place grid penalty thanks to power unit component changes during practice, and completed only 12 laps on his first appearance at Mexico City.
So a fantastic result for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. The last time the Scuderia was on the front row at Mexico was Clay Regazzoni in 1970… Fingers crossed this qualifying result will be the start of Vettel’s championship fight back.
Qualifying positions, Mexican Grand Prix:
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m16.488s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m16.574s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m16.934s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m16.958s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m17.238s
6 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m17.437s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m17.447s
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m17.466s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m17.794s
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m17.807s
11 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m18.099s
12 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m19.159s
13 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Renault –
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m19.176s
15 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber-Ferrari 1m19.333s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m19.443s
17 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m19.473s
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda –
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda –
20 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Renault –