Verstappen already holds a whole load of ‘youngest-ever…’ records, but the one for pole position looked like it might elude him – if he wanted it, he had to do it this year.
Mexico was his last realistic chance to do so and he was looking set to deliver. Fastest in FP1, FP2, FP3 and Q2, Ferrari and Mercedes then ramped up the pace in Q3 to dip into the 1:14s. Could Verstappen match that? Of course he could – he actually went much better and after the first runs he held a two-tenth advantage over Vettel.
Then came the second runs. Sebastian Vettel couldn’t beat Max and neither could Lewis Hamilton. Max was on course to beat Vettel’s record and become the youngest-ever pole-sitter, but then came Ricciardo. He found a load of time out of nowhere and snatched pole by just 0.026 seconds. Funny isn’t it? Ricciardo spends most of the year being outqualified by his teammate but when there’s a chance of pole he steps it up. Mega.
Hamilton pipped Vettel to third, with Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen fifth and sixth. Both Renaults and both Saubers rounded out the top 10 – although with tyres expected to be critical in the race, they could pay the price for having to start on the hypersoft tyres.
Contrast that to Force India, who looked thoroughly disinterested in making it through to Q3 by using the supersofts and the ultrasofts in Q2. Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez will start 11th and 13th with free choice of tyres and could be well placed to finish best-of-the-rest. Fernando Alonso was the man to split them and did a decent job to end up 12th.
Brendon Hartley’s strong weekend form only amounted to 14th after making a mistake on his Q3 lap, while Pierre Gasly didn’t even attempt a lap in Q2 – since he’ll start at the back with engine penalties anyway, why bother? Haas still Haasn’t figured out Mexico and both cars went out in Q1 along with the usual suspects of Stoffel Vandoorne and both Williams drivers.
It's @redbullracing's first 1-2 in qualifying since USA 2013!
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 27, 2018
After qualifying Danny Ric said he was “tripping major nutsack” while a frustrated Verstappen angrily drove into his number board in parc fermé. After looking favourite for pole all weekend, can you really blame him?
We’re nicely poised for an epic race tomorrow, though. The battle between the Red Bull drivers alone should be one to watch and the long run down to the first corner could prove the key moment of the race. Unless the tyres fall apart. Or it rains.
Oh yeah, and Lewis Hamilton will probably wrap up his fifth title – the only things likely to deny him that are if the first corner is as chaotic as it was last year. Or if the tyres fall apart. Or if it rains. OK, maybe not if it rains…