Sebastian Vettel boosted his slim hopes of keeping alive his world championship challenge on Saturday when he claimed the 50th pole of his career for this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.
The four-time champion, who needs to win on Sunday and hope championship leading Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes fails to finish in the top five, or worse, produced a dazzling lap in the final seconds.
Hamilton was third fastest in his Mercedes.
“I am so happy,” said Vettel, who took pole with a record lap in one minute and 16.488 seconds. “We will attack all the way and see what we can do.”
Dutchman Max Verstappen of Red Bull was second fastest ahead of three-time champion Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Esteban Ocon of Force India.
Hamilton was subdued, but not downcast.
“We’re still on for the win and we’ll see what happens with Max. I hope to have a battle with at least one of them," said Hamilton.
Verstappen was on course to take pole before Vettel's last-gasp heroics.
“I gave it all I could today and I really wanted that pole position,” said Verstappen. “It just wasn’t enough.”
Australian Daniel Ricciardo qualified seventh in the second Red Bull ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and his Renault team-mate Carlso Sainz with local hero Mexican Sergio Perez 10th in the second Force India.