Valtteri Bottes will start on pole position as Mercedes upstaged rival Red Bull by taking the front tow for the Mexican Grand Prix. Championship contenders Lewis Hamilton is in P2 with Max Verstappen in P3 followed by home crowd favourite Sergio Perez in P4.
Checo Perez is fourth in front of his home supporters, with the Red Bull duo having their final laps ruined when coming across Yuki Tsunoda off the track in the runoff at Turn 10.
But Red Bull, which had dominated in FP3, was already under pressure as Bottas had grabbed provisional pole on the first run in Q3 with a one minute, 15.875 seconds, with Hamilton slotting in 0.145 seconds behind.
Perez led Verstappen around for the final Q3 fliers – just as he had earlier in the segment, where Verstappen posted a time 0.350 seconds slower than Bottas’s time as the championship leader struggled with loose rear end.
Both Red Bulls posted personal bests in the opening sector on their final laps, but Tsunoda’s off-track moment at the fast Turn 10 right appeared to distract Perez, who went off as well, with Verstappen then coming across the pair and backing off expecting a yellow flag.
He then locked up during the stadium section and did not improve his best time while behind neither Mercedes driver improved, which sealed Valtteri’s nineteenth Formula 1 pole.
Red Bull had come into qualifying – where all the top ten runners traversed Q2 on the mediums bar Tsunoda, which means they will start on that rubber for Sunday’s race – hurriedly working on the rear wings of the RB16Bs, which had picked up small cracks in final practice at Austin and had to be repaired ahead of qualifying there.
Red Bull confirmed that the wings were not cracked this time around, but Verstappen’s car was spotting tape next to the endplate throughout qualifying, with Max saying in his immediate post-qualifying interview that the wings had had to be repaired.
Behind the leaders, Pierre Gasly took fifth, ahead of Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo, with Charles Leclerc eighth.
Tsunoda took ninth ahead of Norris – with the McLaren and AlphaTauri teams using their drivers that will take grid penalties for taking new engines this weekend to tow their teammates down the main straight at the start of the fliers in Q3.
In Q2, a personal best with his final flier just ahead of the chequered flag coming out was not enough to get Sebastian Vettel through and he was knocked out in P11 ahead of former teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
George Russell took P13 for Williams but will drop five places on the grid as a result of his post-FP2 gearbox change, although that will be ahead of all the drivers that have grid penalties for taking new engines.
They are Tsunoda, Norris, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon.
The last two drivers knocked out in Q2 were Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi, who spun off at the Turn 12 90-degree right at the entry to the stadium section on his final flying lap – the Alfa Romeo sliding off sideways at high-speed and knocking into the barriers deep in the runoff square-on.
Giovinazzi was able to drive away from the incident and returned to the pits, ending up P14 ahead of Alpine’s Ocon.
The opening segment was disrupted nearly halfway through – but before most of the field had posted times – by Lance Stroll crashing at the exit of the Peraltada.
The Aston driver was ending his opening Q1 lap when he accelerated out of the famous long right-hander that ends the lap in Mexico, but going slightly too wide put him on a dusty line and his car snapped out of control.
Stroll spun off backwards into the barriers on the outside at the start of the pit straight, which destroyed his rear wing and then the left-front wheel area as the Aston spun around and its front was knocked about as well.
The session was suspended for nearly half an hour as the wreckage was cleared and the barriers replaced, after which Fernando Alonso was the highest profile Q1 casualty as he was knocked out in P16 – the Alpine driver finishing his final lap just before the chequered flag fell, which meat he was shuffled down as others, including Russell, went quicker as the track conditions continued to improve.
The other Q1 fallers were Nicholas Latifi, the Haas pair and the absent Stroll – who went to the medical centre to be checked over after his 12G impact, where it was revealed “his vital signs and x-rays are normal”, per an Aston statement.
Mick Schumacher led Nikita Mazepin in P18 and P19, the latter having a tetchy exchange with his team about running behind his teammate and the Williams cars ahead of the final Q1 fliers.
Latifi and Russell will be investigated now qualifying has ended for lining up alongside the Haas cars at the pit exit at the end of the red flag period, and then setting off alongside their rivals when the session resumed.
Raikkonen also now has a trip to the stewards to explain why he crossed and the recrossed the pit entry – he had already passed the bollard at the start of the entrance line – just after Stroll’s crash.
The Iceman ended up doing an extra lap during the red flag period as a result of not coming in just as the red flag was activated.
So congratulations to Mercedes with this front row with Valtteri Bottas taking pole position. Sunday’s race is going to be fascinating.
Mexican Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:15.875
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.020
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:16.225
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:16.342
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:16.456
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:16.761
7 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.763
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.837
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:17.746
10 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:17.958
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:18.290
12 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:18.452
13 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:18.756
14 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:18.858
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:18.172
16 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:19.303
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:20.873
18 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:17.158
19 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.830
20 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:18.405