Max Verstappen claimed a controversial second pole position of the season by beating both Ferrari drivers in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix.
The Ferrari drivers were the Dutchman’s primary challengers, but both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel had to abandon their final laps when Valtteri Bottas suffered a big crash out of the final corner.
The Finn oversteered over the curbs exiting Peraltada and was spat into the concrete barrier, writing off the front-left corner of his Mercedes before coming to a sudden head-on stop in the Tecpro barrier. He emerged from his car unscathed.
The crash triggered double waved yellow flags at the final corner, forcing the Ferrari drivers to lift off the throttle. However, Verstappen didn’t slow, and he improved in the final sector to record a new fastest lap.
The race director didn’t immediately refer the matter to the stewards for investigation.
“To come out on top was incredible,” Verstappen said. “We know Ferrari has been really quick on the straight, but for us to come back and get pole position here — big thanks to the team today.
“Secretly you always hope and you always keep pushing … in Q3 that all came together.”
Verstappen said he was optimistic that he could hold back both Ferrari drivers in the race.
“We’re going to give it all. We have a good race car anyway — even if something happens at the start and we lose a position, we’ll still be fine.”
Leclerc was ironically fortunate to encounter Bottas’s yellow flags, keeping a second place he looked certain to lose after a scrappy final lap relative to teammate Sebastian Vettel, who will start third.
“Red Bull was very quick, Max especially was extremely quick,” Leclerc conceded. “The start will be very important, but the top speed that we have is very good, so hopefully we can take advantage of this.”
Lewis Hamilton qualified fourth, but the lead Mercedes driver was half a second off Verstappen’s pole time. Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon followed 0.074s further back but ahead of the crashed Bottas.
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris confirmed McLaren’s midfield supremacy with a comfortable seventh and eighth on the grid, half a second ahead of Toro Rosso teammates Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly.
Sergio Perez qualified 11th, the Racing Point driver missing out on a top-10 berth by just 0.008 seconds, much to the disappointment of his boisterous home fans.
Renault’s difficult day continued in qualifying. After setting only one lap between both drivers during Saturday practice owing to “pollution of one of the cooling system” on both cars, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo were eliminated 12th and 13th, more than a second off the pace and half a second behind the Q3-bound McLaren drivers.
Kimi Raikkonen led teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, the Alfa Romeo duo knocked out 14th and 15th.
Lance Stroll complained of a lack of grip on his way to 16th, more than half a second behind teammate Perez’s best effort in Q1, making it 13 of 18 races to date that the Canadian has been knocked out at the first qualifying hurdle.
Haas has traditionally struggled in Mexico City’s high altitude, the American team having never made it out of Q1 since its 2016 debut. This year proved no exception, with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean locking out the penultimate row in 17th and 18th.
Williams teammates George Russell and Robert Kubica qualified 19th and 20th, the Briton more than 1.3 seconds quicker than the Pole.