Sao Paulo, November 17: Max Verstappen said his Red Bull was "flying" as he took pole at the Brazilian Grand Prix to give himself a golden opportunity to complete unfinished business at Interlagos.
Verstappen will start at the front of the grid for only the second time in his Formula One career after fending off Sebastian Vettel in qualifying.
The Dutchman looked to be heading for victory in Sao Paulo last year until he spun while lapping Esteban Ocon, giving Lewis Hamilton the chance to take the chequered flag.
Verstappen was clearly not haunted by those painful memories as he marked his boss Christian Horner's birthday by going quickest in all three segments on Saturday (November 16).
The 22-year-old said: "The car was really good. Throughout qualifying, the track temperature was changing a bit so we had to adjust for that.
"But straight away from Q1, the car was just flying and it was actually really enjoyable to drive, so I'm very happy with this pole position."
Verstappen was 0.123 seconds faster than Ferrari's Vettel, while world champion Hamilton had to settle for third place.
Charles Leclerc will start in fourth ahead of Valtteri Bottas, with Verstappen's team-mate Alex Albon sixth in a week when it was announced he will keep his seat next season.
BIRTHDAY BOY HORNER SALUTES VERSTAPPEN AND HONDA
Verstappen not only earned a rare pole for himself, but also engine supplier Honda's first in this race since 1991.
Red Bull team principal Horner was full of praise for both Verstappen and Honda on his 45th birthday.
"All credit to Honda," he said. "They're doing a wonderful job to get what is now officially their second pole position in the hybrid era.
"It's a high-altitude track, it’s tough on engines and if you think of where they were a few years ago, the effort that’s going in is really impressive.
"I think (Max) just got the car hooked up. The whole package was working really well. The circuit got a little tricky at the end there and it was difficult to improve, and he just eked out those last little gains and a brilliant qualifying from him."
VETTEL STARTLED BY RED BULL SPEED
Vettel was struggling to get his head around the straight-line speed Verstappen generated after he was edged out for pole.
The German said: "I'm a bit surprised with the speed Honda had down the straights, I don’t know where that came from. I think it’s funny a little bit. I don't know how.
"I think we have been fast down the straights for the entire season starting for the first couple of races and we are still fast and they haven’t been, and now they are."
Yet he added: "I'm reasonably optimistic for tomorrow that we should be in good shape, but I think tomorrow is supposed to be a bit warmer as well so it will be key to look after the tyre strategy to make the right call."
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
6. Alex Albon (Red Bull)
7. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso)
8. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
9. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
10. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
2018: Lewis Hamilton
2017: Sebastian Vettel
2016: Lewis Hamilton
2015: Nico Rosberg
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 381
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 314 (-67)
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 249 (-132)
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 235 (-146)
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 230 (-151)
1. Mercedes 695
2. Ferrari 479 (-216)
3. Red Bull 366 (-329)
4. McLaren 121 (-574)
5. Renault 83 (-612)
As Vettel said, temperatures are due to rise to around 28 celsius on race day, with some clouds but no rain forecast.