Mexico City, October 27: Max Verstappen stormed to pole position at the Mexican Grand Prix as Valtteri Bottas suffered a big crash in the final seconds of qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fourth on a weekend where he is hoping to wrap up a sixth Formula One world title.
Red Bull star Verstappen, the winner in Mexico for each of the last two years, topped Ferrari's Charles Leclerc by 0.266secs on Saturday (October 26).
Sebastian Vettel finished in third position, 0.412s off the pace and will share the second row with Hamilton, who was half a second behind Verstappen.
Alex Albon came fifth, just 0.002s ahead of Hamilton's last remaining title rival and Mercedes team-mate Bottas, who walked away after slamming into the wall at the final corner as Q3 was drawing to a close.
Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10.
After the first runs of Q3, Verstappen led Leclerc by one tenth and ultimately extended his advantage at the end despite Bottas' crash bringing out double yellows, while Vettel's final run was hampered when the Finn hit the wall and caused significant damage to his W10 in the process.
Hamilton had topped the pile in a Q2 session that accounted for the top-10 hopes of home hero Sergio Perez and the two Renaults, but the Briton, who leads the standings by 64 points, was not close when it came to the laps that mattered.
He needs to score 14 points more than team-mate Bottas this weekend to seal the drivers' title, which means he must finish on the podium. The crash for his team-mate – who will hope the damage is not significant enough to result in a grid penalty - means he is at least well placed to increase his lead.
Hamilton has won the title in Mexico in each of the last two seasons but finished ninth and fourth respectively in the races themselves as Verstappen won on both occasions and the Dutchman is now eyeing a third triumph at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Verstappen started from second in both of those victories, though, and is yet to win an F1 race from pole in his young career, having lost out to Hamilton after claiming his first pole in Hungary earlier this year. "It's been an interesting day but to come out top is incredible," he said.
"Ferrari have been really quick on the straights, so to come out and take pole here is great.
"It will be a bit different starting first instead of second so I'll give it all. We have a good race car anyway so if something happens at the beginning we can get it done."
Ferrari's run of five straight poles came to an end, while Sunday's race will now be the seventh in a row where Mercedes do not start at the front.
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:14.758
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.266s
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0.412
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.504s
5. Alex Albon (Red Bull) +0.578s
6. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.580s
7. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +1.256s
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.564s
9. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +1.711s
10. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +1.828s