Motorsport

Formula One: Ricciardo beats Verstappen to pole at Mexican Grand Prix

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, of Australia, walks down pit lane after obtaining the pole position dduring the qualifying session of the Formula One Mexico Grand Prix, at the Hermanos Rodriguez race track in Mexico City on October 27, 2018.

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, of Australia, walks down pit lane after obtaining the pole position dduring the qualifying session of the Formula One Mexico Grand Prix, at the Hermanos Rodriguez race track in Mexico City on October 27, 2018.   | Photo Credit: AP

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Daniel Ricciardo’s smile beamed its brightest in months, while his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen steamed.

Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, looked completely comfortable knowing he’s in a perfect spot to win his fifth career Formula One championship.

Ricciardo snatched the pole position from Verstappen at the end of a sizzling round of qualifying at the Mexican Grand Prix on Saturday, setting up a Red Bull fight from the front row as both drivers duel for the team’s third win of the season.

“I knew the pace was in the car,” Ricciardo said. “I’ve got to relax a little ... I need to save a little serenity for tomorrow.”

“To be as close as I am, I’m really quite happy,” Hamilton said. “I’m just praying for a smooth and safe race.”

The 1-2 start will be the first for Red Bull since the start of the hybrid engine era in 2014. Still, the 21-year-old Verstappen was fuming after missing his chance to be the youngest driver to earn pole position in F1 history. He lost it by 0.026 seconds.

Verstappen said his car didn’t feel right despite fast times in Saturday morning practice and the early stages of qualifying.

“I felt like I couldn’t push the car to its limit,” Verstappen said. “I didn’t feel good at all.”

The Red Bulls came in expecting to be strong in the high altitude at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Verstappen is the defending race champion and dominated the three rounds of practice.

Ricciardo’s effort set up what could be the Australian’s last best chance to win for Red Bull. He’s leaving the team for Renault in 2019.

Verstappen and Ricciardo will have to decide how much to fight each other for the win. The two had a costly collision in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that knocked both cars out of the race. Both drivers were reprimanded for dangerous racing moves and team tensions were high.

“It’s too early to say it’s just going to be a race between each other, as nice as that would be,” Ricciardo said. “Hopefully we’re in a quicker car all day.”

Team principal Christian Horner wants to keep it clean.

“Our priority now has to be to try and convert these fantastic grid positions into a haul of points tomorrow,” Horner said. “The team has worked very hard for this so it is crucial that we now make the most of it.”

“Those guys [Red Bull] are in a league of their own,” Hamilton said.

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.

“You saw what happened last year with the red car behind me,” Hamilton said. “Everyone is going to be barrelling into turn one. If there’s an opening and an opportunity to take it, I’ll take it. If not, I’ll hold position.”

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 6:40:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/motorsport/formula-one-ricciardo-beats-verstappen-to-pole-at-mexican-grand-prix/article25351396.ece

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