Lando Norris saw off triple world champion Max Verstappen to take pole position for today’s sprint race in Brazil.

The British driver, 23, beat Verstappen to top spot by 0.061 seconds in Interlagos with Sergio Perez third.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will line up from fourth and fifth respectively for Mercedes.

Norris believed he could have taken pole for tomorrow’s 71-lap main event, but for a McLaren strategy blunder in Friday’s rain-hit qualifying session.

However, the young Briton made amends by delivering the quickest time for today’s 24-lap dash to the chequered flag.

Norris, who is seeking his first win in Formula One, said: “It felt like one of the worst laps I have done so I am a little bit surprised to be on pole.

“But I feel like we have made up for yesterday. I have no idea how the sprint will go, but the pace has been good this weekend and the car has been quick.”

Perez was a tenth back from Norris, while Russell finished 0.235 sec behind, with Hamilton 0.318 sec adrift.

Yuki Tsunoda qualified sixth ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo.

Q1 ended early after Esteban Ocon crashed out following a collision with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Ocon was on a hot lap, but briefly lost control of his Alpine though the left-hander at Turn 3, and thumped into Alonso.

The Spaniard was off the racing line, affording space for Ocon, but the Frenchman clipped Alonso’s Aston Martin which sent him into the tyre barrier at Curva do Sol.

“F****** idiot, Fernando,” said Ocon after he sustained significant damage to the rear of his machine.

Alonso limped back to the pits with front suspension damage leaving his mechanics scrambling to get his machine ready for Q2.

A 28-minute delay followed as the barrier was repaired but Alonso was unable to continue. He will start 15th.

The double world champion’s team-mate Lance Stroll qualified an impressive third for Sunday’s grand prix. But the Canadian will line up three places from the back for today’s sprint which gets under way at 3:30pm local time (6:30 pm GMT).

British racing driver Susie Wolff announced on this day in 2015 she would retire from motor sport at the end of the season.

Wolff, aged 32 at the time, had become the first female to take part in a Formula One race weekend in more than two decades in first practice at the 2014 British Grand Prix with Williams.

The Scot had also taken part in practice for the German Grand Prix that year as well as sessions in Spain in 2015 and again at Silverstone – but expressed her belief as she announced her retirement that F1 having a competitive female driver was something that was not going to happen soon.

Wolff – married to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who was a minority shareholder in the Williams team – said: “My progression into Formula One came to represent so much more than a racing driver simply trying to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

“It was also the hope that finally there may again be a female on the starting grid.

“I rode the wave, was energised by all the support and fought hard. There were those who wanted it to happen. Those who didn’t.

“I can only tell you, I gave it my all. Do I think F1 is ready for a competitive female racing driver that can perform at the highest level? Yes. Do I think it is achievable as a woman? Most definitely. Do I think it will happen soon? Sadly no.

“We have two issues – not enough young girls starting in karting at a young age and no clear role model. Sometimes you just have to see it to believe it. My gut feeling tells me it is time to move on.”

Wolff, who competed in Formula Renault, Formula Three and the German DTM series before her stint in F1, was appointed as Williams development driver in 2012 before being promoted to the role of test driver.

But her hopes of becoming the first woman to start an F1 race since Lella Lombardi in 1976 suffered a huge setback when Adrian Sutil was signed up by Williams after Valtteri Bottas sustained an injury in qualifying for the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, a move that appeared to scupper any long-term hope she had of competing for the team in a race.

Wolff added: “At 13, the dream and the goal became Formula One. I got oh so close.

“I wanted and fought very hard to make it onto that starting grid but the events at the start of this year and the current environment in F1 the way it is, it isn’t going to happen.”

In March of this year, Wolff was appointed managing director of the all-female F1 Academy series.

The series aims to develop and prepare young female drivers to progress to higher levels of competition.

Max Verstappen required just one lap to put his Red Bull on pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The triple world champion saw off Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc as a huge storm brought a premature end to qualifying in Interlagos.

Verstappen finished three tenths clear of Leclerc as he chases his 17th win of a remarkable season, with Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso third and fourth respectively for Aston Martin.

Lewis Hamilton took fifth, one place ahead of George Russell in the other Mercedes, with Lando Norris, who waited too long in the pit lane as the downpour approached, finishing a disappointing seventh.

Verstappen said the Red Bull machine – which has this year carried him to a third world title and a record 16 victories from the 19 rounds so far – was “bouncing around like a kangaroo” in the opening phase of qualifying.

But the Dutchman delivered at the pivotal moment after he wasted no time in putting in a lap with Q3 predicted to be hit by a huge storm.

“We did not know when the weather would hit but this is insane,” said Verstappen

“It seems that it will be very close in the race. You can see that in qualifying and I expect the same on Sunday.”

Leclerc said: “In my whole career I have never experienced anything like that.

“From turn four there was no rain but the car was very difficult to drive with no grip and I was thinking about coming in at the end of the lap, but we finished second which was a good surprise.”

Verstappen was one of the first on track but Norris, who had looked to be a contender – indeed he was the fastest man in Q2 – elected to stay in his garage.

As the bad weather arrived, Norris could not get his McLaren up to speed and he finished 1.2sec back while his team-mate Oscar Piastri, who was one of the last to join the circuit, span off at the final corner.

Sergio Perez was following Piastri and he had to back out, leaving him only ninth.

Moments later, the running was abandoned as heavy rain and thunder and lightning arrived underneath black skies.

Hamilton vowed not to leave Interlagos empty-handed after team-mate Russell took Mercedes’ sole victory of the season here a year ago.

However, the British driver, who is approaching two years without a win, faces an uphill task to end his losing streak after he finished seven tenths back.

Russell’s chances of following up his maiden win with another triumph on Brazilian soil also suffered a setback.

Russell, who is under investigation for impeding Alpine’s Pierre Gasly in the pit lane in Q1, was a tenth behind Hamilton. Hamilton now holds an 11-9 qualifying record over his younger team-mate.

Daniel Ricciardo put his name in the frame to bump Perez out of Red Bull next year following a display in Mexico hailed as “remarkable” by Christian Horner.

But after he qualified fourth in Mexico City, before finishing seventh, Ricciardo hit a stumbling block at Interlagos when he fell at the first hurdle.

The 34-year-old Australian will line up from only 17th place for Sunday’s race, one spot behind AlphaTauri team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.

Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari one-two in practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Sainz finished 0.108 seconds clear of Leclerc in the sole running before qualifying at Interlagos later on Friday.

George Russell took third spot for Mercedes, 0.133 sec adrift of Sainz, with Lewis Hamilton 12th and triple world champion Max Verstappen 16th in a topsy-turvy session.

Leclerc has been on pole at the past two races and Ferrari’s speed in Sao Paulo suggests the Italian team could be the favourites to lead the order again in qualifying.

However, neither Russell or Hamilton, nine tenths behind, posted a lap on the speediest soft tyre compound, with both British drivers electing to choose the medium rubber.

Verstappen, just over one second off Leclerc’s pace, also did not show his hand after he ran on the hard tyres.

Lando Norris finished 19th after he banged wheels with Nico Hulkenberg.

Norris attempted to make his way past the German driver at Turn 12 but their two machines made contact, and Hulkenberg was summoned to see the stewards.

Hulkenberg finished fourth ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon and the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.

Qualifying for Sunday’s main event is due to get under way at 3pm local time (6pm GMT).

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has revealed he has spoken to Sir Jim Ratcliffe about joining his bid to purchase a stake in Manchester United.

Ratcliffe, is set to buy a 25 per cent shareholding in the Old Trafford club, with the deal expected to see the 71-year-old billionaire have a significant say in sporting matters.

Ineos founder Ratcliffe, along with Wolff, 51, and Ola Kallenius own a third of the Mercedes Formula One team. Mercedes team principal Wolff has overseen six of Lewis Hamilton’s seven world championships.

Speaking to the PA news agency ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, Wolff, a close ally and business partner of Ratcliffe’s, said: “Jim has shared the trajectory with me.

“I very much respect his values and we trust each other. If we felt it would make sense to be part of the investment group then I would certainly look at it.”

Austrian Wolff bought a share in Williams in 2009 before leaving the British team to become an executive director of Mercedes four years later. He spearheaded the team’s record of eight consecutive constructors’ world championships between 2014 and 2021.

He added: “I have never aimed for trophy investments but I like the competitiveness of the Premier League.

“Jim and Manchester United is a love story because he is born there. Our personal relationship is strong and with Ola Kallenius, they call us the Three Amigos because we live in the no bulls*** world.

“If felt I could contribute then I would consider joining him at Manchester United.”

Lewis Hamilton said he does not plan on coming away empty handed from the Brazilian Grand Prix – in what could be his best chance of ending a two-year winless streak.

On Sunday, it will mark 700 days since Hamilton last won following Mercedes’ failure to provide the seven-time world champion with a machine to match Max Verstappen’s all-conquering Red Bull.

However, Mercedes claimed their sole victory of last season in Interlagos, with George Russell leading Hamilton home in a surprise one-two finish.

Hamilton also claimed one of the finest victories of his career here two years ago, and took his maiden world title on Brazilian soil back in 2008.

And speaking in Sao Paulo, with only rounds to follow in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, Hamilton said: “I anticipate Red Bull will blitz it because their car is great.

“But if that is not the case, I will be ready to take the fight to them, and if it can be anything like Austin (where Hamilton finished second before he was disqualified) and we can get our strategy better, than that would be incredible.

“I came away empty handed last season. I don’t plan on that this year.”

Hamilton finished runner-up to Verstappen in Mexico last weekend – 13.8 seconds behind the Dutchman – with Mercedes 22 points clear of Ferrari in the race for second place in the constructors’ championship.

Hamilton is only 20 points behind second-placed Sergio Perez in the drivers’ standings.

But Hamilton added: “After the last couple of races I have been getting messages from people saying, ‘it is looking good.’ But I said to them ‘well, it was looking good at the end of last year, too, but we started this season 1.5 seconds behind’.

“I am not dazzled by where we are currently. But I am thinking long-term at the moment, and in the short term, trying to solidify second in the constructors.”

Hamilton was handed a boost in his bid to take second spot in the individual standings after Verstappen hinted he will not help team-mate Perez.

Verstappen, who wrapped up his third world championship in Qatar last month, and claimed a record 16th win of the season five days ago in Mexico City, said: “At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter on me to get the points (for Perez).

“I am confident in Sergio that he can stay ahead. On average, we have had the fastest car this season. Let’s hope we don’t need to get into that situation.”

Mercedes have parted company with technical chief Mike Elliott following the team’s failure to win a single race this season.

James Allison returned as Mercedes’ technical director just three races into the new season – with Elliott moving into the chief technical officer role.

Although Mercedes said the job swap was Elliott’s decision, the announcement arrived after Lewis Hamilton and team principal Toto Wolff criticised the design philosophy of this year’s car on the eve of the curtain raiser in Bahrain on March 5.

The Silver Arrows, who claimed a record eight consecutive constructors’ championships and carried Hamilton to six world titles, have won only one race in the past two years.

And ahead of this weekend’s round in Brazil – with only races in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi to follow this year – Mercedes said Elliott is departing the team.

“Mike has been one of the pillars of the team’s achievements over the past decade,” said Wolff. “It’s with truly mixed feelings that we say goodbye to him today.

“Mike is a fiercely intelligent technical brain and a great team player. He has made a strong contribution not just to winning racing cars but also to building the culture of our team.

“But on the other side, it’s clear that he’s ready for new adventures beyond Mercedes – so I know this is the right step for him to take, too.

“He leaves the team today with our thanks for the effort, commitment and expertise he has brought to the team over the past 11 years and our very best wishes for the future.”

Hamilton finished a distant runner-up to Verstappen in Mexico last weekend, with the Dutchman winning a record 16 of the 19 races so far in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

It is nearly two years since Hamilton, who will remain alongside George Russell at Mercedes until at least the end of 2025, won a race.

Elliott, who is now set for a period of gardening leave, said: “Although the last two seasons have not seen us winning races in the manner we aspire to, they have tested us in many other ways – and forced us to question our fundamental assumptions about how we deliver performance.

“During the past six months, I have enjoyed developing the technical strategy that we hope can provide the foundations of the team’s next cycle of success.

“I have decided that now is the right time to make my next step beyond Mercedes – first to pause and take stock, after 23 years of working flat-out in this sport, and then to find my next challenge.”

Christian Horner has left the door ajar for Daniel Ricciardo to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull next season following the Mexican’s retirement at his home grand prix.

Perez’s race lasted just 14 seconds after he crashed into Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the opening bend.

The 33-year-old had to watch Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen romp to a record 16th win of the season, while Ricciardo – who has already stated his desire to return to Red Bull – out-performed his modest AlphaTauri machinery to finish seventh after qualifying fourth.

Although Horner said it is Red Bull’s “intention” to honour Perez’s contract for 2024, he refused to confirm that the Mexican would remain with the world champions beyond this term.

Perhaps tellingly, he was also effusive in his praise for Ricciardo, lauding the Australian’s display in just his fourth comeback race as “remarkable”. It is possible that the two drivers could trade seats in 2024.

“Sergio has an agreement with us for next year and our intention is for him to be in the car in 2024,” said Horner.

“We will give him all the support he needs to ensure he finishes second in the championship.

“It was great to see Daniel perform so well and it endorses our decision to bring him back. I thought he was outstanding this weekend and if it was not for the red flag, he would have finished further up the order.

“It was a remarkable performance and he is back to his old self. He is relaxed and confident.”

Perez went for glory at the opening corner – perhaps sensing this could be his final opportunity to win on home soil – but he misjudged the move and collided with Leclerc.

Lewis Hamilton took second to reduce the deficit to Perez to just 20 points in the race for runner-up in the championship.

“There is no prerequisite that if he doesn’t finish second, he is out of the team,” added Horner. “It is not as binary as that. You have to look at the circumstances.

“It was a tough moment for him in front of his home crowd and he was very emotional, but he wouldn’t be a racing driver if he didn’t go for the lead at his home race. It is a big loss for him in a car that was capable of being on the podium.

“He is a tough operator and that is why he is in the car, because mentally he has always been able to bounce back. He will brush himself down and turn it into motivation. He has the full support of the team.”

 

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Ricciardo won seven times for Red Bull before taking the surprise decision to move to Renault in 2019. He subsequently joined McLaren, but endured two poor years.

Ricciardo’s career looked to be over when he was dumped by the British team at the end of last season. But the 34-year-old has performed admirably – despite being absent for five races with a broken wrist – since being handed a second chance with Red Bull’s junior team. Indeed, his seventh place in Mexico was AlphaTauri’s best result of the year.

Ricciardo will be back in action at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix – the first of three concluding rounds this season.

Charles Leclerc was subjected to boos by Sergio Perez’s disgruntled fans following his first-corner collision with the home favourite in Mexico.

Perez’s afternoon in front of his partisan supporters at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was over after 14 seconds when he drove into Leclerc at the opening bend.

Perez was forced to retire with damage sustained in the accident, as Max Verstappen claimed his 16th win – a new record for a driver in a single season – with Lewis Hamilton second and Leclerc third.

But as Leclerc was interviewed by Jenson Button in the Foro Sol stadium – which holds 30,000 people – in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s 71-lap race, the Ferrari driver was targeted by the locals.

“A lot of booing,” said Leclerc as he addressed the angry crowd. “Guys I had nowhere to go. I was a bit in between the Red Bulls and unfortunately I touched Sergio.

“It’s life. I damaged my car and unfortunately it ended the race of Sergio. Of course, I’m disappointed to end the race of Sergio like that but I really didn’t do it on purpose and I had nowhere to go.”

A record crowd of more than 400,000 spectators passed through the gates this weekend – with 130,000 here on race day – hoping to see Perez triumph or at least finish on the podium.

However, the 33-year-old, who hasn’t won a race since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30 and now faces further questions over his future at Red Bull, stood by his banzai move.

“To be honest, I feel I would have let the fans down more if I didn’t go for it,” said Perez.

“I saw the gap, I went for it. I decided to take a risk, I knew it was going to be very risky, and I ended up paying the price.

“I’ve had some really sad moments in my career, but this is up there, and as a race, the saddest one, because of the end result.

“But at the end of the day, this is just racing. I go home very sad, but I also go very proud of my team and of myself. We gave it our all. I knew that today a podium was not enough for me. I really wanted to go further.”

Max Verstappen equalled Alain Prost’s tally of 51 victories with an emphatic triumph at the Mexican Grand Prix – as Sergio Perez’s home race came to a sorry end after just 14 seconds.

Verstappen’s remarkable winning sequence, which now includes a record 16 in one season, continued in the breathless Mexico City air following two pulsating starts after Kevin Magnussen’s high-speed crash resulted in a reg flag at the midway stage of Sunday’s 71-lap race.

Verstappen mastered both getaways to draw alongside four-time world champion Prost, with only Lewis Hamilton (103 wins), Michael Schumacher (91) and Sebastian Vettel (53) ahead of the all-conquering Dutchman in Formula One folklore.

Hamilton impressed to finish runner-up, ahead of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Lando Norris drove from 17th to fifth, passing George Russell with four laps remaining on a strong afternoon for the Brit, in an event that Perez will want to forget.

As Verstappen sliced through the middle of pole-sitter Leclerc, and his Ferrari team-mate Sainz on the 830 metre charge to the opening bend, 130,000 Mexican hearts sank when an over-eager Perez crashed into Leclerc.

Perez, who started fifth, ran line astern with Leclerc and Verstappen as the trio stamped on the brakes from 200mph for the opening bend – and Perez, occupying the racing line, sensed his opportunity for glory. But his banzai move was badly misjudged.

The 33-year-old turned into Leclerc, and was sent airborne before landing back on four wheels and spinning into the run-off area. Perez limped back to the pits but the damage sustained to his machine left his race in tatters.

Perez banged his steering wheel with both hands in frustration. Children were left seeking comfort from their parents in the grandstands.

Perez’s Red Bull mechanics attempted a quick fix to get their man back on track. But after a handful of laps they conceded defeat. Perez departed his Red Bull cockpit to watch team-mate Verstappen gallop to victory.

Question marks hang over Perez’s future at Red Bull. He has one year to run on his deal, but the paddock is awash with rumours that he could be replaced next year.

Daniel Ricciardo is mooted as a possible candidate, and Perez’s first-corner disaster – coupled with the Australian out-performing his modest AlphaTauri machinery to take the chequered flag in seventh in just his fourth comeback race, will do little to dampen the speculation.

Perez last won a race in Azerbaijan on April 30, and his failure to finish at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez leaves his second place in the championship under threat from Hamilton. Indeed, the seven-time world champion reduced the gap from 39 points to 20 with his strong display.

For Verstappen, this was his 32nd victory – remarkably the same tally double world champion Fernando Alonso has managed throughout his entire career – from his last 41 appearances, dating back to his controversial triumph over Hamilton in Abu Dhabi in 2021.

Hamilton, who has not won a race during that period, crossed the line a close second to Verstappen in America a week ago before he was disqualified for running his Mercedes too close to the floor.

He started sixth here, swiftly promoted one position after Perez’s crash. On lap 11 he blasted past Ricciardo for fourth.

Verstappen gave up his lead on lap 19 after he stopped for new rubber, with Hamilton in five laps later. Then on lap 34, the race was suspended.

Magnussen lost control of his Haas at 130mph through Turn 8. The Dane ended up in the wall following a suspected rear suspension failure. He swiftly emerged from his cockpit before his mangled machine caught fire.

The safety car was deployed but with significant damage to the tyre barrier, repairs were required, and the race was halted, leading to a 22-minute delay.

“That’s a joke,” complained Verstappen. “A red flag for what?”

The drivers lined up on the grid for the second standing start of the afternoon with Hamilton the sole man in the top five on the quicker, medium rubber.

But it was Verstappen who produced another scintillating getaway to leave the others trailing in his wake.

He set about building his gap, with Hamilton intent on taking Leclerc for second, and on lap 40, he did just that following a bold and gutsy move.

On the fastest straight of the year, Hamilton jinked to Leclerc’s right, dropping two tyres on to the turf and kicking up dirt at 225mph, before holding his nerve under braking for the first corner to make the move stick.

The British driver nursed his tyres to finish runner-up to Verstappen, 13.8 sec back.

Prost was 38 when he claimed his 51st and final win 30 years ago. Verstappen turned 26 only last month, with Vettel’s 53 triumphs now on his radar before the close of the year with races in Brazil and Las Vegas to follow ahead of the final round in Abu Dhabi on November 26.

Charles Leclerc saw off team-mate Carlos Sainz by just 0.067 seconds as Ferrari locked out the front row for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen improved on his final run at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez but could not usurp the Ferrari drivers, finishing 0.097 sec adrift.

The triple world champion faced a nervous wait to see if he was moved down the grid after being summoned to see the stewards.

Verstappen, charged with impeding on the pit exit, was among four drivers hauled in front of the race officials.

Lewis Hamilton, disqualified from finishing runner-up to Verstappen at the United States Grand Prix a week ago, was also summoned after failing to slow under yellow flags. Hamilton finished only sixth, 0.288 sec back.

George Russell, who qualified eighth, and Fernando Alonso, 13th on the grid, were called to see the stewards, too, for blocking on the pit exit in Q1.

However, it was announced three hours after the conclusion of qualifying that the quartet escaped without penalties.

Verstappen’s bid for pole unravelled when he hit the kerb at Turn 8 in his first attempt in Q3 to leave him trailing Leclerc by 0.120 sec.

The Red Bull man, who has won 15 of the 18 rounds so far, produced a quicker last lap, but could not prevent Leclerc from sealing his second pole in as many weekends.

“I didn’t expect to be on pole because we looked to be lacking quite a bit of pace after practice,” said Leclerc.

“But for some reason once we put everything together it went well and on the new tyres we gained a lot.

“I’m already focusing on tomorrow’s race because we have had many pole positions this season, but we need to convert it into victory and that is going to be very difficult.”

Nearly 400,000 spectators will pass through the gates at the high-altitude Mexico City venue this weekend with the majority here to support Sergio Perez.

But the home favourite failed to deliver, finishing nearly three tenths adrift of Verstappen and qualified fifth, one position behind Daniel Ricciardo who impressed in his AlphaTauri, to take fourth.

Earlier, Lando Norris was the surprise name eliminated from the opening phase of qualifying, leaving the in-form British driver in 19th place.

Norris, who has finished on the podium at the past four races, attempted to progress from Q1 on the slower medium rubber in order to save a set of speedier softs.

But the plan backfired when Norris’ lap wasn’t quick enough. Norris bolted on the soft tyres but then made a mistake at Turn 10.

He aborted the lap and prepared for one last attempt, only to run into yellow flags at the opening bend after Alonso spun in his Aston Martin. Norris’ qualifying was over leaving him a tall order to salvage anything from the race.

American rookie Logan Sargeant, who earned his first point in F1 last weekend in Austin, will prop up the grid after he saw two laps scrubbed off by the stewards for exceeding track limits.

Charles Leclerc saw off team-mate Carlos Sainz by just 0.067 seconds as Ferrari locked out the front row for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen improved on his final run at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez but could not usurp the Ferrari drivers, finishing 0.097 sec adrift.

The triple world champion also faces a nervous wait to see if he is moved down the grid after being summoned to see the stewards.

Verstappen, charged with impeding on the pit exit, is among four drivers who will be hauled in front of the race officials.

Lewis Hamilton, disqualified from finishing runner-up to Verstappen at the United States Grand Prix a week ago, may too feel the wrath of the race referees for failing to slow under yellow flags. Hamilton finished only sixth, 0.288 sec back.

George Russell, who qualified eighth, and Fernando Alonso, 13th on the grid, have also been called to see the stewards for blocking on the pit exit in Q1.

Verstappen hit the kerb at Turn 8 in his first attempt in Q3 to leaving him trailing Leclerc by 0.120 sec.

The Red Bull man, who has won 15 of the 18 rounds so far, produced a better last lap, but could not prevent Leclerc from sealing his second pole in as many weekends.

“I didn’t expect to be one pole because we looked to be lacking quite a bit of pace after practice,” said Leclerc.

“But for some reason once we put everything together it went well and on the new tyres we gained a lot.

“I’m already focusing on tomorrow’s race because we have had many pole positions this season, but we need to convert it into victory and that is going to be very difficult.”

Nearly 400,000 spectators will pass through the gates at the high-altitude Mexico City venue this weekend with the majority here to support Sergio Perez.

But the home favourite failed to deliver, finishing nearly three tenths adrift of Verstappen and qualified fifth, one position behind Daniel Ricciardo who impressed in his AlphaTauri.

Earlier, Lando Norris was the surprise name eliminated from the opening phase of qualifying, leaving the in-form British driver in 19th place.

Norris, who has finished on the podium at the past four races, attempted to progress from Q1 on the slower medium rubber in order to save a set of speedier softs.

But the plan backfired when Norris’ lap wasn’t quick enough. Norris bolted on the soft tyres but then made a mistake a Turn 10.

He aborted the lap and prepared for one last attempt, only to run into yellow flags at the opening bend after Alonso spun in his Aston Martin. Norris’ qualifying was over leaving him a tall order to salvage anything from tomorrow’s race.

American rookie Logan Sargeant, who earned his first point in F1 last weekend in Austin, will prop up the grid after he saw two laps scrubbed off by the stewards for exceeding track limits.

Ollie Bearman was barely three months old when Fernando Alonso won his first world championship in 2005 – but on his Formula One debut in Mexico City, the Essex 18-year-old finished ahead of the double world champion.

“That was an added bonus,” he said with a broad smile.

On Friday, Bearman made history by becoming the youngest British driver to step foot in an F1 machine at a Grand Prix weekend. And he quietly impressed, too.

Competing for American outfit Haas, Bearman finished 15th in first practice, only 1.6 seconds slower than triple world champion Max Verstappen, and three tenths adrift of Nico Hulkenberg – a veteran of 200 grands prix – in the other Haas. He was also speedier than Alonso.

Five rookies were fielded at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and Bearman was quickest of them all.

Raised in Chelmsford, and schooled at King Edward VI Grammar, Bearman joined Ferrari’s driver academy, aged only 16.

Bearman had just won both the German and Italian Formula Four championships, and his performances made those at Maranello sit up and take note.

He quit school – despite initial resistance from his mother, Terri – left the family home in Chelmsford, and moved to Modena, a dozen miles north of Ferrari’s headquarters in northern Italy. Two years on, and his Italian twang is noticeable.

“Maybe I got a bit lucky not to get the Essex accent,” he joked, in an interview with the PA news agency.

“A lot of people have told me my accent has changed even if I don’t notice it. I spend a lot of time with Italians and to communicate with people where English is not their first language is not easy, so I have changed my word order and ended up with this everywhere accent.

“When I moved to Modena it happened pretty quickly. It was like going to university two years early, but I have loved every moment so far. My mum was very pro-school and very pro-education, but we managed to convince her in the end.

“I miss my family, my two dogs – I have an English Bull Terrier and a Boston Terrier and they are very cute – and that is the negative side. But the food in Italy is a big chunk above the English stuff, and the weather is better, too.”

Following four victories in his rookie Formula Two season – the feeder series to F1 – Bearman was thrust into the spotlight in Mexico City, eclipsing Lando Norris as the sport’s youngest Brit.

Norris, now in his fifth season, was three months shy of his 19th birthday when he took part in practice for McLaren in Belgium in 2018. Bearman turned 18 in May.

When Lewis Hamilton made his F1 bow, Bearman was only 18 months old. Yet on Friday, he shared the same asphalt as the seven-time world champion.

“When I heard Hamilton was coming up behind me on a push lap I was like ‘wow, I will get out of the way’,” he added.

However, it was Hamilton’s former McLaren team-mate, the 2009 world champion Jenson Button, who was Bearman’s childhood hero.

“I heard Jenson was praising me on Sky, and that was amazing for me to hear,” he adds.

“I don’t know why, but he was always the guy I loved and really looked up to. It is cool that he recognised my performance in practice, and I will try to speak to him here – that is my goal.”

Bearman will remain in F2 next season and he will be back in an F1 machine in practice for Haas – effectively Ferrari’s B team – next month in Abu Dhabi.

“It is really cool that I have been given this opportunity,” he said. “My whole career has been a pinch-yourself moment, and this is another one.

“Ferrari is such an elusive team. They are an iconic brand, they have an iconic colour and they have the best-looking car on the grid. They are putting a lot of trust in me, and loyalty is an important part of this paddock.

“Of course my goal is to become a Ferrari driver, and I need to do that with my performances on track. Today was an amazing moment, and one I will savour for years to come.

“It is a shame it was only practice, but it is all part and parcel of the work we have been doing to get to the top.”

Max Verstappen completed a practice double for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix by edging out Lando Norris.

After leading the way in the first running at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Verstappen – who has won 15 of the 18 rounds so far – set the fastest time in the day’s concluding running.

The Red Bull driver finished 0.119 seconds clear of McLaren’s Norris, with Charles Leclerc a quarter of a second back in his Ferrari.

Home favourite Sergio Perez finished fifth, three tenths behind Red Bull team-mate Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton took seventh for Mercedes, a third of a second down.

Verstappen has dominated this year, and wrapped up his third successive world championship in Qatar earlier this month.

And the Dutchman will head into the remainder of the weekend in the breathless Mexico City air as the man to beat.

The high-altitude venue, which sits 2,200 metres above sea level, can often throw up anomalies, and Valtteri Bottas was a surprised fourth for Alfa Romeo, with Daniel Ricciardo sixth in his AlphaTauri, just three tenths off the top.

Hamilton finished a close second to Verstappen in the United States a week ago before he was disqualified for running an illegal floor on his Mercedes.

But despite his post-race exclusion, Hamilton hoped his speed in Austin would enable him to challenge Verstappen here.

However, the seven-time world champion failed to challenge the top of the leaderboard on Friday, finishing 11th and seventh respectively in the two sessions.

George Russell, who sat out the opening running as Mercedes blooded academy driver Frederik Vesti, finished 10th, half-a-second behind Verstappen.

Earlier on Friday, Ollie Bearman made history by becoming the youngest British driver to take part in a Formula One weekend.

Bearman, 18, competing for American outfit Haas, ended his F1 debut in 15th, only 1.6 sec slower than Verstappen and three tenths adrift of Nico Hulkenberg – a veteran of 200 grands prix – in the other Haas.

Bearman also finished one place ahead of double world champion Fernando Alonso.

F1 teams must run a rookie driver at least twice during the season and Chelmsford-born Bearman was handed his chance to impress, breaking the British record previously held by Norris.

Norris was three months shy of his 19th birthday when he took part in practice for McLaren in Belgium in 2018 before he was promoted to a race seat the following season. Bearman turned 18 in May.

The teenager, a member of the Ferrari academy, has taken four victories in F1’s feeder series Formula Two and is sixth in the standings ahead of next month’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Max Verstappen set the fastest time in practice for the Mexican Grand Prix as teenager Oliver Bearman made history by becoming the youngest British driver to take part in a Formula One weekend.

Verstappen denied Williams’ Alex Albon top spot by just 0.095 seconds at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City as home favourite Sergio Perez finished third, three tenths back.

Lando Norris was fourth for McLaren – half a second behind Verstappen – with Lewis Hamilton only 11th, one second off the pace in his Mercedes.

Bearman, 18, competing for American outfit Haas, ended his F1 debut in 15th, only 1.6 sec slower than Verstappen and three tenths adrift of Nico Hulkenberg – a veteran of 200 grands prix – in the other car. Bearman also finished one place ahead of double world champion Fernando Alonso.

F1 teams must run a rookie driver at least twice during the season and Chelmsford-born Bearman was handed his chance to impress, breaking the British record previously held by Norris.

Norris was three months shy of his 19th birthday when he took part in practice for McLaren in Belgium in 2018 before he was promoted to a race seat the following season. Bearman turned 18 in May.

The teenager, a member of the Ferrari academy, has taken four victories in F1’s feeder series Formula Two and is sixth in the standings ahead of next month’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.

He is also expected to be given a second run for Haas at the Middle Eastern venue.

Hamilton was disqualified from last weekend’s United States Grand Prix after running an illegal floor on his Mercedes.

Hamilton finished a close second to Verstappen to provide him with hope he could challenge the all-conquering Dutchman here.

But the seven-time world champion struggled for pace at the venue which sits 2,200 metres above sea level.

Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell was forced to miss the first running with Danish junior driver Frederik Vesti taking over. He finished 19th.

In all, five young drivers were fielded in the running with Bearman the fastest.

Elsewhere, Charles Leclerc finished fifth, with Oscar Piastri sixth for McLaren. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, sidelined from Thursday’s media sessions with a stomach bug, ended the running in seventh.

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