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Ricciardo takes Mexico pole

NEWS STORY
27/10/2018

Despite the changed conditions - as in cold and damp - in FP3 earlier Max Verstappen picked up where he left off yesterday.

Though this time around Hamilton and Vettel took their 'rightful' places right behind, the pace of Leclerc, Gasly, Sainz and Ericsson suggests we could still be in for some shocks this afternoon and tomorrow.

While Mercedes was dealt a blow when Bottas suffered a complete hydraulics failure, the team changed his engine without penalty, the Finn changing from a spec-2 unit to the spec-3 version used in Austin.

It wasn't all plain sailing for Red Bull earlier, for both Verstappen and fourth-placed Ricciardo encountered charging issues.

Following yesterday's heat, which - along with the smooth track surface and thin air - left the drivers struggling for grip, today's cooler temperatures - and damp patches following heavy overnight rain - meant fewer lock-ups and offs.

However, with an eye on tomorrow's weather, which could go either way, it is doubtful whether anyone is going to be able to qualify on the ultrasofts, though with the hypers proving to be so erratic there is even talk of drivers deliberately missing the cut in Q2 in order to have a free tyre choice tomorrow.

Another driver with issues earlier was Kevin Magnussen, the Dane failing to post a time after suffering an intercooler problem.

Thankfully, yesterday's shenanigans put the title 'fight' on the back burner, and instead focus switched to the possibility of Verstappen becoming the youngest ever pole-sitter in the history of the sport, though the pace of the Renault-powered cars (McLaren excepted) also dominated the headlines.

As in Austin, the stewards are cracking down on track limit this weekend, with drivers warned that four wheels over the line will result in qualifying times being deleted and punitive action should it happen on Sunday.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 18.5 degrees C, while the track temperature is 25.4. Still no sign of the sun we enjoyed yesterday, but the damp patches witnessed earlier have evaporated.

In the moments before the start of the session, Bottas' car is still up on its stand surrounded by engineers, while there is also work ongoing to Ricciardo's car.

The lights go green and Gasly - who will start from the back of the grid following an engine change - is first out. He is soon joined by the Ferraris and Silvers Arrows. The Mercedes pair are on ultras while the Ferraris are on hypers.

Gasly posts 1:17.876, but shortly after Bottas posts 17.160, Hamilton 16.746 and Raikkonen 16.543. However, Vettel responds with a 16.089, quicker than last year's pole time.

A 17.205 sees Ericsson go fifth, ahead of teammate Leclerc who posts 17.293.

Ahead of his first flying lap, Perez gets a hero's welcome in the stadium section. Elsewhere, Vettel runs wide in T1 and takes a long trip across the grass. "I locked up," he admits, "box?"

While Perez rewards his adoring public with a 17.152 to go fifth, Hamilton goes quickest in S2 but fails to improve on third. The Briton is advised to heed the track limits at T11.

All eyes on the Bulls as they head out, Ricciardo leading the way.

Ricciardo goes quickest in S2, maintaining the pace he crosses the line at 15.866 to go quickest. Moments later, Verstappen goes quickest in the final sector, stopping the clock at 15.756. Both Bulls on the hypers

As Hulkenberg goes sixth (16.913), Alonso goes wide at the infamous T11 and has his time disallowed. Replay shows Alonso did well not to have a big accident when he went wide, a great save from the Spaniard.

With 5:10 remaining, Alonso, Sirotkin, Stroll, Magnussen and Vandoorne comprise the drop zone.

Bottas and Hamilton head out again, this time on the hypers. The pair clearly experimenting before making a decision on what tyres to run in Q2 - the tyres with which they will start the race.

Bottas posts 15.580 to go top, while Hamilton posts 15.673.

A 16.987 sees Hartley go eighth, the kiwi maintain the strong pace he has shown all weekend.

While the top six have settled, the remaining 14 are all on track, which means traffic issues.

Alonso goes an impressive seventh (16.857). Vandoorne goes ninth, while, despite a major wobble, Sainz goes eighth.

Ocon improves to seventh, while Magnussen fails to improve. Hartley goes tenth with a 16.682.

Complaining at being backed up by his teammate, Hartley is told that with 14 drivers on track it's the same for everyone.

The timesheets light up with greens all over the place, and once the dust has settled, Alonso makes it to Q2 by the skin of his teeth, as does Leclerc. However, both Haas drivers fall at the first hurdle.

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

We lose Grosjean, Vandoorne, Magnussen, Stroll and Sirotkin.

The lights go green, and after a few moments Bottas leads Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen out, all four sporting the ultras. The Panthers, on the other hand, are running supersofts.

Bottas gets proceedings underway with a 15.923, Hamilton responding with a 15.644.

Vettel splits the pair with a 15.715, the German quickest in the first sector before losing pace over the final two sectors.

No sooner has Ricciardo gone third (15.845), than his teammate posts 15.640 to go top. Both, like the Mercedes and Ferraris, on the ultras.

"Is that good enough?" asks the Dutch youngster. "Yes, we're happy with that," comes the reply.

Hulkenberg goes seventh (16.222), ahead of Sainz, Leclerc, Ericsson, Ocon and Perez.

Hartley can only manage eleventh (17.184), ahead of the Panthers, who clearly need to switch from their supersofts if they are to make the cut. Of course, the pair could be looking to start the race with a free tyre choice, tyre strategy always a key factor with the Silverstone-based outfit.

Alonso posts 17.748 to go fourteenth, as Gasly heads out.

On used tyres, Alonso is told his lap was really good - particularly S1 - and that there is room for improvement.

Gasly, mindful that he is starting from the back, pits without posting a time.

Leclerc and Alonso are first out for the final assault. Vettel, Ricciardo, Hamilton and Ricciardo also head out. As do Verstappen and Bottas, all on the hypers.

The Panthers have switched to ultrasofts, still a step harder than their rivals.

Ocon looks set to improve, as does Hulkenberg.

Leclerc remains ninth, while Alonso goes eleventh.

Ocon goes eleventh and misses the cut, while Hulkenberg goes seventh.

"That's what we targeted, right?" asks Ocon.

Ericsson goes tenth, while Perez remains thirteenth.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo, Bottas, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Leclerc and Ericsson.

We lose Ocon, Alonso, Perez, Hartley and Gasly.

Raikkonen is first out for Q3, followed by teammate Vettel. The Bulls follow, and then the Renaults.

Last out is Verstappen.

All are on hypers.

On their out laps, Hamilton passes Bottas.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Mexico City, here.

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