The Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz scored a surprising front row lockout at Mexico beating the pre-qualifying favourite Max Verstappen.
Verstappen ended up in third position after the Scuderia pair had nudged ahead on the first Q3 runs and could not beat them even though neither Leclerc nor Sainz improved on their second efforts.
Since qualifying has concluded, Verstappen faces an investigation for a Q1 impeding incident as does George Russell, while Lewis Hamilton is also under investigation for a yellow flag speeding incident.
On the first runs in Q3, the Ferrari cars appeared to respond well to the track temperature dropping a touch and Leclerc edged Sainz by 0.067 seconds with a time of one minute, 17.166 seconds lap.
Verstappen slotted in 0.120 seconds behind while Sergio Perez and the Mercedes drivers had to run used softs for the start of the final Q3 segment.
Then when the second runs commenced, the Ferrari cars led the pack around but neither driver improved and that gave a chance to Verstappen.
He posted personal bests in the first and second sectors – the latter Q3’s fastest – but it was not enough and he ended up 0.097 seconds adrift.
Daniel Ricciardo edged Perez to take a sensational fourth for AlphaTauri, with Hamilton unable to recreate his Q2-leading form and so he ended up sixth.
Oscar Piastri was seventh while his teammate Lando Norris was the highest-profile Q1 faller, with Russell eighth.
Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu rounded out the top ten for Alfa Romeo.
In Q2, where Hamilton’s late enough put him top with Verstappen still in the pits and easily through on just one run, Zhou was initially knocked out by Albon’s last-gasp effort.
But Albon’s time was then deleted for track limits at Turn 2 on that final effort – Albon appearing to cut the inside of the tight left-hander.
The Williams driver therefore finished ahead of Pierre Gasly, Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso, who had a last-lap personal best ahead of the chequered flag falling in the middle segment that nevertheless left him P14.
Yuki Tsunoda did not set a time as his job was about providing Ricciardo with a tow to ensure his Q3 progression as the AlphaTauri driver faces a drop to the back of the grid for taking a new power unit ahead of practice.
Tsunoda did feature in one of the session’s more bizarre incidents, as he appeared to clip a Williams jack leaving the pits ahead of the final Q3 runs – an incident that is also under investigation by the race stewards.
In Q1, topped by Verstappen, Alonso spinning at Turn 3 brought out yellow flags as a group of drivers began to start their final laps.
This prevented Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen, Lance Stroll and Norris from beating their personal bests and trapping them in the drop zone – Norris ending up there after a brief look at trying to set a laptime on mediums as did Piastri and the Mercedes cars and the Ferraris with Norris then failing to get higher than P19 on his first efforts on softs.
Logan Sargeant did improve and jumped ahead of Norris, but ended up back in P20 after losing his best time to a track limits infraction at Turn 11, having already lost his previous personal best for going too wide at Turn 12.
Sargeant faces two post-session investigations – one for possibly failing to slow down enough under the Alonso yellows late in Q1, as Hamilton is also suspected of doing, and the other for a possible overtaking incident under yellows with Tsunoda at the same point.
Russell, Norris and Zhou face the now traditional post-qualifying investigation for apparently going too slowly on warm-up laps, which has typically not led to sporting penalties since they became a regular feature from Monza as part of the FIA’s attempt to improve qualifying traffic.
The pitlane impeding incidents involving Verstappen, Russell and Alonso occurred as the pack headed out ahead of the final Q1 runs, with the first named spotted stationary at the end of the pitlane ahead of Russell who then did the same thing.
The Singapore Grand Prix stewards cleared Verstappen of a pitlane impeding incident but later admitted that was incorrect.
So a surprising qualifying result with Ferraris taking the front row. The Red Bulls were the pre-session favourites and yet unable to get the lap times or grid positions. The race could be different story as there’s a long run down to Turn 1 and the RB19 has stronger race pace. Bring on Sunday action.
Mexico Grand Prix qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:17.166
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:17.233
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:17.263
4 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:17.382
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:17.423
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.454
7 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:17.623
8 George Russell Mercedes 1:17.674
9 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:18.032
10 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:18.050
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:18.521
12 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:18.524
13 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:18.738
14 Alexander Albon Williams 1:19.147
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri No time
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:19.080
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:19.163
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:19.227
19 Lando Norris McLaren 1:21.554
20 Logan Sargeant Williams No time