Mexican Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel takes pole with Lewis Hamilton third

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Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel stole pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix from Red Bull's Max Verstappen as Lewis Hamilton lines up third.

Verstappen was quickest after the first runs of the last part of qualifying by a quarter of a second, but a superb effort by Vettel put him on top.

He pipped the Dutchman by 0.086secs, saying on the radio: "What a lap."

Hamilton, who needs only to finish fifth in Sunday's race to be sure of the title, was 0.446secs off pole.

Hamilton still on course

Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton leads Vettel by 66 points in the standings with three races left

Mercedes expected Mexico to be a difficult track and so it proved in the end.

Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas topped the first part of qualifying but the presence of Vettel and Verstappen just 0.1secs behind them, despite using one grade harder tyres, suggested it would be difficult to stay there, and so it proved.

Hamilton said: "I gave it everything I could. The last lap could have been a couple of tenths quicker but I wouldn't have been able to match those times [of the leading two]. We are still in for the win and I am hoping I get to have at least a battle with one of them."

Predict your Mexican GP top three

Predict who will finish in the top three at the Mexican Grand Prix

Verstappen was under investigation by the race stewards for potentially impeding Bottas' first lap in the final session in the stadium section, but after studying the incident, the stewards ruled Verstappen had not impeded Bottas.

Verstappen said: "Which incident? I was on the inside and he was doing his line and so there is no incident."

Vettel claimed his 50th career pole and afterwards said: "We have to maximise every session. Today is really important and tomorrow [Sunday] we [will] see. It is not as much in my control as I would like it to be. We go all out and attack.

"We deserve a good result. Ferrari deserves a good result. So we see what we can do tomorrow."

Flying Vettel deposes fast Max

Red Bull F1 driver Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen was beaten to pole in the final lap of a dramatic qualifying session

Vettel needs to win the race with Hamilton lower than fifth, or be second with the Briton lower than ninth, to keep the title race alive to the penultimate race in Brazil in two weeks' time.

And the German did all that could be asked of him on Saturday, snatching pole when it looked like Verstappen had it in the bag.

Verstappen was 0.324secs quicker than Vettel in second qualifying and 0.259secs ahead on the first runs in the final top-10 shoot-out.

But he did not get a clean lap on his final run and Vettel pulled out a storming performance to sneak ahead.

"It was quite a lap, I have to say," Vettel said, explaining how he had been right on the edge at a couple of corners.

"It is very difficult here, very slippery and difficult to get it all together for one lap."

Verstappen said: "I am super-annoyed. Actually in Q3 it got a little more difficult getting the tyres to work. I gave it my all. In qualifying it was just not enough but we have a decent start position at least."

What of the rest?

Force India F1 driver Esteban Ocon
Force India's Esteban Ocon qualified sixth, while his Mexican team-mate Sergio Perez managed 10th place

Bottas, who said Verstappen had definitely destroyed his first lap, was 0.470secs off pole with his single run in fourth place, with Vettel's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen struggling in fifth, 0.75secs off the pace.

Force India's Esteban Ocon snuck into the top six, deposing Verstappen's team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who was a second off the other Red Bull and complaining of being "super frustrated and confused" about a bizarre lack of grip.

Nico Hulkenberg won the battle of the Renaults in eighth, ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz ninth, while local hero Sergio Perez will be disappointed to be 0.370secs and four places behind team-mate Ocon.

McLaren's Fernando Alonso caused a stir with the fifth fastest time in the first session, but then he and team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne did not take part in the second session, preferring to save engine mileage because they both have huge grid penalties for excessive engine usage and will start from the back.

They will be joined there by at least one Toro Rosso driver, after Pierre Gasly, who also has an engine penalty, did not even take part in qualifying after a failure in final practice.

The Frenchman's team-mate Brendon Hartley qualified 13th in his second grand prix but pulled off with a broken engine and could yet face penalties of his own.

How they stand
Lewis Hamilton 331Max Verstappen 123
Sebastian Vettel 265Sergio Perez 86
Valtteri Bottas 244Esteban Ocon 73
Daniel Ricciardo 192Carlos Sainz 54
Kimi Raikkonen 163Felipe Massa 36
Mexican Grand Prix
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