Max Verstappen will start the Mexico Grand Prix from pole position alongside George Russell after a strong day for Mercedes.
The German marque led the first two qualifying segments, but Verstappen broke loose in Q3 and was within 0.132s of the rest of the field, led by Russell. Lewis Hamilton ended up in third, but had a lap removed for going through Turn 3, forcing him into one session at the death.
Verstappen was first into the top three in the second heat and immediately set a faster time, lowering the benchmark by 0.172s to 1min 17.947s.
Russell was next to respond, but at Turn 12 he ran wide and went off the track, spoiling his lap and leaving him 0.304s off the pace.
Hamilton crossed the line next, but was a little behind his team-mate, putting him third and 0.309s off the pace.
Verstappen took his sixth pole of the season, making it his seventh at the circuit since its revival in F1 in 2015.
“It was a good qualification,” he said. “It was close, but I think after FP3 we made some adjustments and the car got into a better rhythm. Being on the pole here is certainly amazing. It’s very long until the first corner, so we need a good start, but we have a fast car and that’s the most important thing.”
Russell was upset that he missed his pole chance, believing that his car had enough speed to take first place.
“The team deserved more today,” he said. “They produced a really good car this weekend. Last week with Lewis we saw what the car is capable of. I felt that it was our pole, but a terrible circle away from me.’
Hamilton was pleased with the most competitive Saturday of the year for the team and was looking forward to starting directly behind Verstappen ahead of one of the longest runs from the grid to the first corner of the year.
“This is the best qualification of the whole year. It shows persistence and never giving up is the way forward,” he said. “It’s even more productive. I am very satisfied with this position – the 1st stage is still a long way off.”
No pole sitter has finished on the podium in Mexico City since 2016.
Home favorite Sergio Perez qualified fourth, 0.353s slower than his team-mate, but he was still significantly quicker than the Ferrari cars in contention.
Carlos Sainz was fastest among them, but he was 0.576s off the pace as he struggled with chronic understeer. Charles Leclerc fared much worse, qualifying seventh and 0.78s behind due to handling and power issues.
Splitting the Scuderia teammates was the excellent Valtteri Bottas, an Alfa Romeo who reveled in the low-grip conditions and started sixth.
Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren, ahead of Alpine teammates Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon. Daniel Ricciardo missed Q3 by 0.053s, leaving him 11th ahead of Zhou Guanyu, while AlphaTauri’s Touki Tsunoda pipped team-mate Pierre Gasly by less than a tenth for 13th.
Kevin Magnussen qualified 15th but will start on the back row after an unscheduled combustion engine change following Friday practice.
Mick Schumacher was knocked out in 16th after his fastest lap, which was fast enough to progress, was disqualified for going off the curb at turn two.
Sebastian Vettel dropped out with an identical lap time set later than Schumacher, leaving him 17th ahead of Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll, who will start last after serving a three-place penalty for a crash with Alonso at the last US Grand Prix the weekend
Williams team-mates Alex Elbon and Nicolas Latifi round out the grid, although Elbon was confounded by an off-track moment through essays he was tempted to put on a erratic gust of wind.