Max Verstappen claimed his second pole position of the 2019 Formula 1 season with the fastest time in qualifying for the Mexico Grand Prix.
Verstappen’s poleman status was secured by a heavy last corner crash for Mercedes AMG Motorsport driver Valtteri Bottas, but the Dutchman managed to improve by a fraction of a second to a 1:14.758 – albeit under yellow flags.
The time could be deleted post-session but, barring any grid penalty from the stewards, the Red Bull Racing driver will start start from pole for the second time in his F1 career.
Scuderia Ferrari couldn’t utilise its straightline advantage to take a sixth successive pole, but occupies second and third place through Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel – 0.266 and 0.412 seconds behind Verstappen.
Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Bottas could only manage fourth and sixth in a disappointing Saturday for the Constructors’ champion.
Red Bull held the advantage at the end of Qualifying 1 with Verstappen ahead of team-mate Alex Albon by 0.226s, while Mercedes retorted in the second segment.
Hamilton led Bottas in another 1-2, with Leclerc the only driver to finish in the top three in every segment of qualifying.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner estimated that his drivers were ceding half-a-second to the Ferraris on the straights in the first and final sectors of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, but had the upper-hand in the more technical middle sector and stadium section at the end of the lap.
Verstappen’s initial benchmark of a 1:14.910 was enough to pip the first Qualifying 3 efforts of Leclerc, Vettel, Hamilton, Albon and Bottas before the session’s natural break.
The final set of runs saw no improvement from Albon and Leclerc, the latter suffering a scruffy final sector to his lap, as TV cameras looking down the straight caught Bottas scraping his Mercedes along the barrier.
The Finn lost traction on the kerb at the final corner was dragged into the wall, also having a violent impact with the edge of the TechPro barrier – rendering him breathless but able to get out of the car unaided.
He had been on course to improve his time, but will start from a maximum of sixth place and will face grid penalties should a monocoque change be necessary before Sunday’s race.
Hamilton, following his team-mate, also improved and may be subject to an investigation but looks safe in fourth.
The Brit needs to outscore Bottas by 14 points in the race to secure his sixth Drivers’ Championship.
Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris fought for the best of the rest title in an all-McLaren F1 Team battle, the Spaniard getting the better of his rooke team-mate by 0.308s.
Four Honda-powered cars made it into the top 10 finalé, Daniil Kvyat leading Pierre Gasly – who had been nursing a stomach virus that has spread across the pitlane – to round off the top half of the grid for Scuderia Toro Rosso.
UPDATE – Following the session stewards handed Verstappen a three-place grid penalty for not slowing down for yellow flags.
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