Daniel Ricciardo’s surprise pole position at the Mexican Grand Prix relegated teammate Max Verstappen to second position and set up an intriguing contest in Monday’s race.
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 qualifying session at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Saturday.
The Australian has suffered seven retirements in 18 races this year and his long and triumphant whoop over the team radio, and some typically colourful language afterwards, said it all.
“I’m holding a lot in. I let a bit out once I heard I got pole,” Ricciardo said, after the third poll of his career and first since his win in Monaco in May.
“I held a lot in, I’ve got to save some energy for tomorrow.
“Just super happy. It’s been a while since pole.”
Hamilton will start third, knowing he can let the Red Bull cars go off and running while he coasts his Mercedes to the finish line.
A seventh-place finish will secure the Briton’s fifth career title, matching the late Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina for second behind only the seven of Germany’s Michael Schumacher
“To be as close as I am, I’m really quite happy,” Hamilton said.
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 – by 0.026 seconds.
“I was struggling in the qualifying,” last year’s race Verstappen said. “I didn’t feel good at all.”
Ricciardo’s effort set up what could be his last 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.
“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.”
Hamilton said he’d like to go for a win to punctuate a season championship but he doesn’t give himself much of a chance to do that Sunday.
“Those guys (Red Bull) are in a league of their own,” he said.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the only man that can deny Hamilton the title, starts from fourth and must win if he has any hope of extending the championship to the next race in Brazil.
Valtteri Bottas was fifth for Mercedes ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
The top 10 was rounded out by the Renault’s of Niko Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz and the Saubers of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson.