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Vettel digs deep to take Mexico pole


Ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 18 degrees, while the track temperature is 42 degrees. It remains bright and sunny and a bit warmer than earlier, though not as warm as Ferrari would like.

Max Verstappen topped the timesheets earlier in a practice session which saw the top five - Verstappen, Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas and Ricciardo - covered by just 0.248s.

While Lewis Hamilton only needs to finish fifth (or higher) tomorrow to finally put Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari out of their misery, the Briton admits he wants to do it in style by standing atop the podium.

Of course, despite an impressive performance by the Bulls this weekend, their cause is hampered not only by reliability but that little extra Mercedes and Ferrari can turn to in qualifying. Indeed, Daniel Ricciardo's lack of running at the end of FP3 because he wanted to save mileage should tell you all you need to know.

Behind the top six we have the prospect of a thrilling battle for the remainder of the weekend with the Pink Panthers - led by local hero Sergio Perez - just ahead of the Renault, Carlos Sainz already doing a superb job of getting his feet under the table.

A highly impressive eleventh earlier was Brendon Hartley, the Kiwi really beginning to impress. Sadly, further engine issues meant teammate Pierre Gasly was unable to post a time. Indeed, the Frenchman will not take part in this session because the team didn't feel it worth the effort of putting in a new engine due to the grid penalties he has already incurred (15 to date).

Both McLarens were in the nether regions of the timesheets, but we know from yesterday that they have pace here, especially Fernando Alonso. Therefore, with an eye on the fact they both are starting from the back of the grid - need you ask why - the Woking outfit is focussing on the race as opposed to qualifying.

A number of drivers and teams are having a difficult weekend of it in Mexico, not least Haas, though Kevin Magnussen, who suffered a stomach bug yesterday, looked fairly strong.

In the same way that we cannot see anything preventing Hamilton from taking his fourth title this weekend, so to it appears inevitable that he will chalk up pole number 73.

The lights go green and Grosjean gets things underway, followed by Hartley, Magnussen, Ericsson and Wehrlein.

The Ferrari duo are the first of the big guns to head out.

A 21.359 from Grosjean gets things underway, Hartley subsequently posting 19.948.

A 18.148 sees Raikkonen go quickest, the Finn on the red=banded supersofts. Moments later, teammate Vettel, also on supers, posts 18.045.

Great slo-mo shot of Vettel using the kerbs to his advantage.

Perez talks to the crowd, first in English and then Spanish, from his car as he begins his out-lap.

Bottas goes quickest (17.578) and then Hamilton posts 17.518, both on the ultras. However, Vettel looks set to improve on his supers.

Despite improving to 17.665, Vettel actually falls a position as Verstappen (supers) posts 17.630 to go third.

Perez goes 6th with an 18.196, ahead of his teammate, much to the delight of the crowd.

Alonso is told to swap positions with Vandoorne as McLaren appear to be practising tows again.

Ricciardo heads out on the supers as Alonso goes fifth with a 17.803.

In the Toro Rosso garage there is confusion as it appears Gasly might be going out after all. The Frenchman has hurriedly changed from civvies to his racing overalls.

Ericsson goes 15th with a 19.898 but is demoted again when Wehrlein posts 19.333.

Back at Toro Rosso, Gasly is back in his civvies. Don't ask.

Grosjean can only manage 16th (19.785) as Haas looks to Magnussen who is still down in 18th.

With 4:00 remaining we are likely to see another flurry of activity as driver make a final bid to make the cut. Traffic and the fact the tyres are only good for one lap appearing to dictate the agenda.

Currently, Gasly, Vandoorne, Magnussen, Ericsson and Grosjean comprise the drop zone, with Wehrlein, Stroll, Hartley and Massa hovering.

In 9th, Hulkenberg is told he won't be running again.

Alonso is back on track despite being fifth, the Spaniard probably set to give his teammate a tow and thereby enable him to make the cut.

At which point, Alonso complains: "I have no power, I've lost the turbo." "we think that has recovered," he is told.

Magnussen loses time in S3 and fails to make the cut, while Hartley remains 13th.

Grosjean also fails to improve while Vandoorne goes 13th and thereby demotes Wehrlein.

Alonso goes quickest in S3 but remains fifth, while Wehrlein fails to make the cut.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Bottas, Verstappen, Vettel, Alonso, Perez, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Ocon.

We lose Ericsson, Wehrlein, Magnussen, Grosjean and Gasly.

Told he's failed to make the gut, the disappointment in Grosjean's voice is obvious.

Only the Bulls and Ferraris made it through Q1 on the supersofts, but will they take the gamble in this session?

All alone at the end of the pitlane, waiting for those green lights, is Vandoorne, the Belgian subsequently joined by the Mercedes duo.

Passed by the Mercedes', Vandoorne slows in order to create some space.

As more drivers head out, all are on ultras.

Bottas gets things underway with a 17.161, with Hamilton easing off and posting 26.470.

Raikkonen goes second with a 17.534.

A 17.058 sees Vettel go quickest, but that looks likely to change as Hamilton is on a sizzling lap. Indeed, the Briton crosses the line at 17.035.

Perez goes fifth with a 17.868 as Hartley grinds to a halt. "No power, no power," shouts the Kiwi. He parks up at T6, bringing out the double waved yellows.

All of which is bad news for Verstappen who was on a hot lap and had gone quickest in S1.

Next time around, the yellows withdrawn, Verstappen again goes quickest in S1. S2 is only a PB, but at the line the Red Bull driver posts 16.524 to go quickest by half-a-second. Besides all else, that was on his second lap.

Elsewhere, Ricciardo has gone sixth and Sainz seventh.

With 5:30 remaining, Hartley, Stroll, Alonso, Massa and Vandoorne have yet to post times.

As the aforesaid finally come out to play, so too do the front runners, even Verstappen.

Neither the McLarens or Ricciardo look to be running again.

Hamilton is unable to improve, while the Williams duo are both way off the pace and fail to make the cut.

Vettel improves to second with a 16.870 while Ocon leapfrogs his fellow Pink Panther, demoting him to a perilous tenth.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Sainz, Hulkenberg, Ocon and Perez.

We lose Massa, Stroll, Hartley, Alonso and Vandoorne, only the Williams duo posting times.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Mexico, here.


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