Ricciardo blasts to pole in RBR front-row lockout


Lewis Hamilton cut a cheery figure after qualifying third for the Mexican Grand Prix, a race in which he need only finish seventh to clinch the Formula One title.

Hollywood superstar Will Smith's voice boomed at Hamilton seconds after he snagged his fifth title with a fourth place finish in Mexico on Monday morning (AEDT). "We tried to make the best of it and I thought it was going to be enough for pole with the problems we had".

"I knew putting the lap together would be crucial as always and Max showed the pace was in the auto all weekend".

Verstappen had suggested that the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez might suit Red Bull and so it proved, but it is not the Dutchman who will lead the grid on race day after Ricciardo's late show.

The Red Bull driver said immediately after the race that he felt "helpless" and that he was "done" with the RB14 for this season, but his boss believes he was speaking in the heat of the moment. While Ocon in 11th is well placed with a free tire choice for the race, Perez was beaten to 12th by Fernando Alonso on the hypersofts as McLaren looked more competitive than in recent races.

But there was a sour end to both his, and Red Bull's, impressive day after the team's temperamental reliability issues struck again.

The Englishman performed a series of celebratory doughnuts in his Mercedes for the 40,000-strong crowd in the former baseball stadium section of this unique Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez venue, before standing on top of the auto to salute them.

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"Where I am now, I don't see the point of doing the next two races", he said.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel hugged in a gesture of mutual respect between two drivers with nine Formula One championships between them.

"All eyes have been on Verstappen, he's dominated all the sessions but when it mattered most, Ricciardo delivered", racing expert Martin Brundle said.

"I congratulated him, I think he drove superbly all year and was the better one of us two".

Vettel's tilt for victory saw him pull off impressive overtakes on Ricciardo and Hamilton over the course of the race, but he ultimately finished as runner-up to Verstappen. Ferrari beat him Sunday with title rival Sebastian Vettel taking second and Kimi Raikkonen third. But it was a run of wins over the second half of the season that sent Hamilton to Mexico City all but assured of the championship. Total retirements throughout 2018 for the other five drivers at the top three teams-Hamilton, Bottas, Räikkönen, Vettel, and Verstappen-number just nine.

Ricciardo, who leaves the team for Renault next year, offered his vehicle to replacement Pierre Gasly early, claiming he was "done with it" and it was "cursed".