Red Bull’s double world champion Max Verstappen swept to pole position at the Mexico City Grand Prix on Saturday with his sights set on a record 14th victory of the season.
The Dutch 25-year-old, who secured his second successive Formula One title this month with four races to spare, lapped the high-speed Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with a fastest time of one minute 17.775 seconds.
George Russell joined him on the front row, qualifying 0.005 ahead of seven-times world champion Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, with Red Bull’s Mexican Sergio Perez the fourth fastest with the crowd cheering.
“It was a close one,” said Verstappen, who was 0.304 faster than Russell.
“To be on pole here is of course amazing. It’s a very long run to turn one so we do need a good start but anyway I think we have a quick car and that’s what’s most important.
“Checo (Perez) will be there tomorrow. I’m sure we have a quick race car. I hope it will be quite a fun race with a lot of action.”
The pole was the 19th of Verstappen’s career and he will be hoping to convert it into a fourth Mexican victory to take the outright record of most wins in a season from German greats Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, who both managed 13.
Red Bull, fined $7 million on Friday for spending more than allowed last season, have won the last eight races and 15 of 19 so far.
Once-dominant Mercedes, who have yet to win this year, can take hope from history with the winner of the last two races at the high-altitude circuit coming from third on the grid.
The driver on pole has not won since 2016 and Hamilton won from third in 2019.
“The team deserved more today … I feel like it was our pole to have and it was just a terrible lap from my side, so I’m sort of kicking myself,” said Russell, who felt he might have sneaked it but for a mistake.
“But no points for qualifying and excited to be back on the front row. I’ll be going for it for sure so let’s see what’s possible.”
Hamilton was fastest in the first two phases but his first flying lap in the top-10 shootout was deleted, leaving the Briton with no time on the board and the pressure on to make no mistake.
“This is the best qualifying we’ve had all year, so it just shows that perseverance and never giving up is the way forward,” said the winner of a record 103 races.
“The last lap wasn’t good enough … (but) I’m pretty happy with that position to start, it’s a long way down to turn one.”
Perez said he had an electrical issue throughout qualifying.
“I was pretty much blind through quali. I had no reference lap time, no information on brake balance sometimes, so it was just a mess,” he explained.
“I nearly got knocked out in Q1 and Q2 (the first and second phases), so to be P4 is not the end of the world but I really believed that today we could have fought for pole position.”
Carlos Sainz qualified fifth with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas splitting the Spaniard from Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc.
Lando Norris will line up eighth for McLaren with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon completing the top 10.
Alpine are in a tight battle with McLaren for fourth overall.