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Valtteri Bottas blisters to Mexican GP pole as Mercedes keep Red Bull at bay | Formula One

Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes proved they can never be written off having delivered the exceptional from the seemingly impossible in claiming a remarkable pole position for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix. The Finn was immaculate at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, beating his teammate Lewis Hamilton into second and securing a Mercedes one-two that had seemed unfeasible earlier in the weekend.

Hamilton’s title rival Max Verstappen could manage only third with his teammate Sergio Pérez in fourth as Red Bull were left licking their wounds.

Drivers’ championship leader Verstappen and Red Bull had expected to be on top and had looked on form all weekend. Yet it was Bottas and Hamilton who delivered with calm, assurance, able to exploit the absolute maximum when it mattered, Bottas eking out more from his car than anyone could have expected and leaving the opposition almost dumbfounded. Pierre Gasly was in fifth for AlphaTauri and Carlos Sainz in sixth for Ferrari.

Bottas, with a best lap of 1min 15.875sec, was clinical in delivering the perfect lap at the sharp end of qualifying and to which Hamilton and Verstappen, for all that they gave a valiant effort, had no answer. The margins were small – 0.145sec ahead of Hamilton and 0.35 ahead of Verstappen – but enough to once more illustrate that the world champions remain on top of their game even when seemingly outgunned.

To put the achievement in perspective, Hamilton and Bottas had been over half a second behind a Red Bull one-two in final practice with Hamilton having admitted Red Bull simply had the quicker car. They may yet prove that is the case in race pace but it was still not enough to deny Mercedes in qualifying.

Bottas will almost certainly face team orders in Hamilton’s favour should it benefit the world champion to take a vital victory in the title fight. Verstappen has a 12-point advantage over Hamilton, with a win and the Dutchman claiming at best second, his lead would be reduced to at least four, five or six points, maintaining the pressure and within striking distance with four races remaining.

Verstappen had been quick throughout the session but on the decisive runs it was Bottas who set benchmark on the first hot laps. Red Bull had been having issues with their rear wing, such that they had to apply tape to it but nonetheless they were no match for the Finn.

As the track reached its peak grip for the final quick laps Verstappen lost his slipstream from Pérez, who went wide, and could not improve while Bottas had already done enough. Neither he nor Hamilton went quicker but the pair had secured a most unlikely one-two at the front of the grid. Bottas’s lap had been inch-perfect through turn seven to the line, the sweeping quicker corners and then twisting stadium section where Mercedes have been unable to match Red Bull this weekend but where they found pace yesteron Saturday.

Daniel Ricciardo was in seventh for McLaren, Charles Leclerc in eighth for Ferrari.

Lando Norris was in 10th for McLaren but will start from 18th after the team opted to fit a new power unit for the race, beyond the three the regulations stipulate. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon also did so and qualified in 15th but will start in 19th.

George Russell was in 13th for Williams but will take a penalty for having to fit a new gearbox, beyond the team’s allocation, due to a fault and he will start in 16th.

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Sebastian Vettel was in 11th for Aston Martin and Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi were in 12th and 14th for Alfa Romeo.

Lance Stroll crashed out in Q1 for Aston Martin and will start in 20th. Yuki Tsunoda was in ninth for AlphaTauri and will start from 17th with penalties for having exceeded his allocation of power unit parts.

Fernando Alonso was in 16th for Alpine and Nicholas Latifi in 17th for Williams. Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were in 18th and 19th for Haas.

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