Pole is sweet for Ricciardo but sour for Verstappen

Hamilton won nine season races for a career tally of now 71 and was on fire especially in the second half of the season when he pulled away from Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel to clinch the title with two races to spare on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, just as he did past year.

"Michael's still the (greatest)", Hamilton said.

Verstappen led the way for nearly the entire weekend, leading every session bar Q1 on the way to the top-10 shootout, and the Dutchman took provisional pole after the first runs with a healthy 0.185-second margin while Ricciardo languished nearly 0.3 seconds further down the order.

In a year Hamilton admits he often hasn't had the strongest auto, he ranks his fifth career championship among his best and hardest.

"Amazing", said Verstappen. "To be honest with you, I didn't sleep very well last night".

"I knew the pace was in the vehicle - Max showed that all weekend - I just knew it was putting together a clean lap at the end. I don't have any more words". He almost found it when he saw a gap between the Red Bulls and tried to take it.

It was their first lockout since the United States Grand Prix in 2013 and on a day that record-breaking speed gave them the initiative for a race won by Verstappen past year.

"I'm holding a lot of emotion in", the Australian said. Red Bull have only ever sealed pole at the high-downforce Monaco and Mexico tracks in the power-friendly hybrid era.

Hamilton was clearly overjoyed to be ahead of Vettel, and within striking range of the Red Bull pair, after Mercedes were well of the pace in practice on Friday.

Ricciardo qualified on pole for Sunday's race in Mexico, but the Aussie could only manage 61 laps before yet another reliability issue forced him to retire for the eighth time this season. His retirement in Mexico is the latest in a long list of mechanical failures this year and means he has failed to make the chequered flag on eight occasions in 2018.

Hamilton limped to ninth, still taking the title, but the coming together was at the front of his mind in the moments after qualifying. "I'll let (2019 Red Bull driver Pierre) Gasly drive it, I'm done with it".

"It was a shame to lose Daniel". I'm not superstitious or any of this bull--, but the car's cursed.

"Congratulations to Daniel. These guys were just too quick, in a league of their own in general up to qualifying and even in qualifying, his middle sector, there was no way I could get that", he said.

Lewis Hamilton sealed his fifth world championship on Sunday following an incident-packed Mexican Grand Prix. "The vehicle. I'll let Gasly drive it, I'm done with it".

Vettel starts right behind him again Sunday and must win if he has any hope of extending the championship to the next race in Brazil.

  • Julie Sanders