F1 News: Champion Max Verstappen on song again as he storms to Mexican GP pole position
A day after his Red Bull team was fined £6m for breaking Formula 1 financial rules, Verstappen pulled off a stunning lap through the breathless air of Mexico City to claim the qualifying spoils .
Russell finished second, 0.304 seconds behind Verstappen, with Hamilton 0.309 seconds behind.
Home favorite Sergio Perez will line up fourth ahead of the 811-metre scramble to the opening corner of Sunday’s race at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Hamilton finished runner-up to Verstappen at the United States Grand Prix last weekend before quickly dashing hopes of ending the campaign with a win and maintaining his record of winning at least one race in every season in which he participated.
But just six days later, Hamilton, armed with a new front wing, suddenly had a machine capable of leading the fight against Verstappen and Red Bull.
However, Hamilton had his first lap in Q3 scrapped for leaving the tarmac at the third corner and then complained about the lack of speed from his Mercedes machines.
“I’ve got some handling issues, mate,” he reported to his race engineer, Peter Bonnington, over the radio. “Power drop.
Hamilton returned to the track for his final race and was just 0.014 seconds behind Verstappen after the second sector, but the seven-time world champion was unable to maintain his pace in the final third of the lap, finishing at three tenths distance.
His team-mate Russell was also in a position to challenge for pole, but he ran far into the stadium section, dashing his hopes of winning his and Mercedes’ second pole of the year.
“Sorry guys,” a deflated Russell said on the radio.
Verstappen has already sewn up his second title but he surpasses Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel and takes the record for most wins in a single campaign if he triumphs for a 14th time in 2022 on Sunday.
Home crowds, however, will be desperate to see the other Red Bull triumph with 350,000 spectators expected in the Mexican capital over the three days to cheer on their man Perez in the 20th round of 22.
Behind Perez, Carlos Sainz finished fifth for Ferrari ahead of the impressive Valtteri Bottas in his Alfa Romeo. Charles Leclerc, who crashed in practice on Friday, only qualified seventh.