Mexico Qualifying: Ricciardo steals it from Verstappen

After watching teammate Max Verstappen dominate proceedings up until Q2 on Saturday, Daniel Ricciardo stole pole position with a stunning last-ditch effort in Q3 to claim a surprise pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Verstappen was thus denied becoming the youngest ever pole winner by his own teammate and the Dutchman was not happy with the fact that he was ambushed by the big smiling Aussie.

“The whole qualifying was crap,” lamented Verstappen. “Same problems from P2, engine braking not how I want to, rear-locking the car. We tried to make the best of it and I thought it was going to be enough with the problems we had, but it’s still good to be second.”

What was almost his day, in the end, belonged to Ricciardo who was delighted, “I knew it was there somewhere, I knew putting the lap together would be crucial as always. Max showed the pace was in the car all weekend. I just knew I had to put in a clean lap at the end. Shout out to the team, it’s a one-two. It’s pretty cool.”

It was no surprise that Red Bull dominated the session as they have held all the aces since the start of the weekend, setting the pace at the high-altitude.
On a weekend when seventh place will be enough to wrap up this year’s world championship title, Lewis Hamilton did what was needed to claim third place on the grid, qualifying ahead of Sebastian Vettel in fourth.

Hamilton said afterwards, “I’m really, really happy with it. We had a difficult day yesterday and it was a big improvement today. Yesterday we were much further back so I wasn’t expecting to be up as high as we got but the team did a great job last night.”

“That’s as good as I could get. I’m really happy for Daniel so congratulations to him. Being behind the Red Bulls is not a bad thing,” added the world championship leader

Ferrari and Mercedes were for the first time comprehensively beaten this season, Hamilton a 0.135 of a second down on the top time, with Vettel fractionally slower.

The German reflected, “It was not a clean lap. I tried very hard and I knew I had to find two tenths to improve it didn’t happen but it was very close it wasn’t a bad lap but I had some snaps here and there.”

The title contenders will share the second row of the grid on Sunday.

Valtteri Bottas was fifth in the Mercedes, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in sixth, the Finns a couple of tenths shy of their respective teammates.

The #77 Silver Arrow needed an engine change after FP3 when the hydrauics failed, credit to the team for getting the car out in time for Q1.

Renault were Best of the Rest on a weekend that their car has performed better than it has all season, with Nico Hulkenberg seventh fastest and Carlos Sainz eighth making for an all yellow fourth row.

Behind them were the Sauber duo with Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson ninth and tenth.

FIA Blow-By-Blow Report

In Q1 the early running was made by Ferrari, with Vettel setting the pace with a lap of 1:16.089 and Räikkönen slotted into P2 with a lap of 1:16.543, which he improved to 1:16.446.

Hamilton and Bottas were behind in third and fourth places respectively. Ricciardo and Verstappen were keeping their powder dry in the early stages, but when they did take to the track they quickly rose to the top of the order.

Ricciardo was first across the line in a time of 1:15.866, but he was quickly edged by Verstappen who posted a time of 1:15.756. Red Bull and Ferrari then opted to remain in the pit lane for the final runs of the session, but Mercedes sent its drivers out and Bottas topped the session with a time of 1:15.580, 0.093s ahead of Hamilton.

At the other end of the order, Leclerc and Sainz were lucky to escape the drop. Leclerc had a slow middle sector on his final flying lap and looked in danger of missing the cut, but he crossed the line in P15, just 0.005s ahead of Grosjean who was eliminated.

Sainz, meanwhile, ran wide and almost clipped the wall in the Foro Sol stadium section. The Spaniard managed to stay in control, however, and he claimed P12.

Eliminated at the end of the opening segment behind Grosjean were Vandoorne, Magnussen and Stroll and Sirotkin.

Q2 saw Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari take to the track on ultrasoft tyres and it was Verstappen who topped this timesheet in the first runs, just 0.004s ahead of Hamilton. Vettel was third ahead of Ricciardo, as the top four were separated by just two-tenths of a second.

The top three teams switched to hypersoft tyres for the final runs, but none completed laps on the softest Pirelli compound on offer this weekend and thus they will all start the race on ultrasofts.

Eliminated at the end of Q2 were Ocon in 11th place, followed by Alonso, Pérez, Hartley and Gasly. The French driver is facing a PU-related grid penalty tomorrow and as such chose not to run in the session.

Verstappen was again in charge in the opening runs of Q3. Vettel initially went quickest with a good time of 1:14.970, three-hundredths of a second ahead of Hamilton, but the Dutch driver powered past that benchmark with a lap of 1:14.785 to sit 0.185s ahead of Ferrari’s quickest man.

Hamilton was in third place, ahead of Daniel who was 0.245s behind Max, in fourth place.

It seemed like 21-year-old Verstappen was set to claim his maiden pole and break Vettel’s 10-year-old record for youngest pole sitter.

It wasn’t to be though as Ricciardo suddenly stepped up a gear and blitzed his final lap, crossing the line in 1:14.759 to claim his third career pole ahead of his young team-mate.

Hamilton held on to third place on the grid, but title-chasing Vettel, who was in P2 after the opening runs, dropped to P4 at the end of the session.

Behind the German, Bottas was fifth ahead of Räikkönen, Hulkenber took sixth place ahead of Sainz, while Leclerc and Ericsson were ninth and tenth respectively.