Despite holding an advantage over his team-mate all weekend, and securing a 10th Pole Position of the season, and 59th overall in his career, Lewis Hamilton will be deflated after qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix.
The Brit's first lap in Q3, a 1:18.704 was good enough for pole, but in the dying moments of the 12 minutes of the final session Nico Rosberg stormed ahead of the Red Bull duo to improve from P4 to secure yet another front-row lock-out.
Max Verstappen took third ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo as things continue to hot up in the fight between the Red Bull team-mates.
After promising much in practice, Ferrari were nowhere in qualifying ending up in sixth and seventh, Kimi Raikkonen once again ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Nico Hulkenberg put the Force India amongst the pigeons by taking fifth.
Williams were expecting to be ahead of Force India, but they could only manage eighth and ninth, Valtteri Bottas claiming bragging rights ahead of Felipe Massa.
Carlos Sainz Jr is in a rich vein of form and continued this on, with a 10th place start the reward for him and Toro Rosso.
Palmer sits it out
Even before the session started, the field was reduced to 21 runners, as Renault discovered a crack in Jolyon Palmer's chassis, which meant he was forced to sit qualifying out on safety grounds. The team will need to go to the stewards and ask for permission for the Brit to race, which will be granted as he set representative times in practice.
Haas had a disaster of a session, with their car once again proving troublesome to set up. Esteban Gutierrez was pushing in the closing stages, before he spun off in the esses, bringing out a yellow flag and causing an effective end to the session as others had to back off.
To make matters worse, Gutierrez's spin caused team-mate Romain Grosjean to have to abort his lap, meaning that he will start P21.
Rubbing salt in the wounds was Pascal Wehrlein, who with the last lap of the session, unaffected by the yellow flags, managed to get through by less than a tenth, pushing Gutierrez out in the process.
Danill Kvyat was sitting comfortably in P12, but as the teams were turning cars around for the second runs, he reported an engine issue with his Toro Rosso, which couldn't be fixed and meant he dropped down the order and was eliminated alongside Felipe Nasr and Esteban Ocon.
Up front, it was a routine session, as Hamilton stole Q1 honours, with Raikkonen leading Ricciardo, Vettel, Rosberg and Verstappen. All the front runners used the SuperSoft tyres.
"Can I go for a wee?"
As is now customary, Mercedes opted to run the Soft tyre in Q2, meaning they will start the race on that compound, which will allow them to go further into the race, and switch to the medium's for the expected one stop.
Unexpectedly, most of field followed suit, with only the two Red Bull's going on SuperSofts from the start among the leading teams.
Verstappen took P1, becoming the first driver to break through the 1:18 barrier, ahead of Hamilton and Vettel, who told his team that he was prefering the grip that the Soft tyre was giving him as opposed to the SuperSoft.
Vettel blocked Hamilton into the final corner, and was criticised by the Brit for doing so, although the German apologised when he overtook the W07 Hybrid down the pit-straight. If only there were blue flags in qualifying.
Think about some of the great all-time Formula One qoutes, Ayrton Senna stands out with "I am designed to win", and Vettel got in on the act with his own entry. He asked his team whether he was safe with his time and when it was confirmed he was, responded "Can I go for a wee?". Oh the gltiz and glamour of F1.
Raikkonen was sent out on a set of SuperSofts, just in case someone improved and Ferrari were caught out, but he didn't improve and wil start on the Softs.
Meanwhile, Sergio Perez couldn't make it through to Q3, falling by the wayside in P12, five milliseconds behind Fernando Alonso's McLaren who was the first to miss out in P11, although the double world champion didn't seem too dissapointed with the result.
Jenson Button was 13th, ahead of the sole Renault representation of Kevin Magnussen in P14.
Marcus Ericsson and Wehrlein will comprise the eighth row of the grid in P15 and P16 respectivly.
Pyschological advantage Rosberg
Heading into the final 12 minutes, all headed out early as the optimise their tyres, two warm-up laps were needed, meaning a full run would take four laps as opposed to the normal three.
The above didn't apply to the Red Bull's who went for it on their first lap, with Verstappen holding the advantage over Ricciardo by just over a tenth.
Hamilton came through to clock a 1:18.704 with Rosberg only managing a 1:19.263 and fourth place. It seemed as though the Brit would have a pyschlogical advantage over the German, but Rosberg had one more trick up his nomex layered firesuit.
As the track temparature began to rise, hitting the mid 50's, Ferrari began to struggle.
First runs had them languishing behind and things only got worse as they slipped behind the Force India of Hulkenberg, a stunning fifth on the grid, and Raikkonen used his new found mojo to once again be the lead Ferrari driver on the grid.
The Williams and Toro Rosso of Sainz clocked the slowest three times and take their positons accordingly.
At the death, Rosberg found a massive amount of time around the Circuit Hermanos Rodriguez and improved to a 1:19.958, to just pip Verstappen by under a tenth.
Despite closing in on Michael Schumacher's record of 68 poles, and being now just six behind Senna's total of 65, Hamilton will be gutted at seeing his team-mate alongside on the front-row, as he requires the Red Bull's to take points off of Rosberg and time begins to run out. The 890m run down to T1 tomorrow should be electric.
Showers are forecast for the race that gets underway at 19:00pm UK time tomorrow evening.
|3.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|5.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|
|10.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Toro Rosso|
|12.||Sergio Perez||Force India|
|18.||Danill Kvyat||Toro Rosso|