Mexican Grand Prix - Qualifying results
Lewis Hamilton has taken a dominant pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix as an under pressure Nico Rosberg gave his title hopes a timely boost after leaving it late to haul himself onto the front row.
With question marks over tyres and issues with traffic in practice making it difficult to draw firm conclusions from free practice, the opening two phases of qualifying nonetheless revealed speed in hand for Hamilton as he comfortably eased into Q3 without having to break onto the super-soft.
By contrast, Rosberg was continuing to struggle in comparison as he found himself mired amongst the rival Red Bulls and Ferraris, so when Hamilton pumped in a 1min 18.704secs lap at the start of Q3, the German could only respond with a lap half a second adrift in fourth and down in fourth.
Faced with potential implications for the title fight, Rosberg nonetheless pulled it out of the bag with a determined last gasp effort that while still two tenths slower, crucially lifts him onto the front row alongside his Mercedes team-mate.
Even so, Hamilton heads into the race with an evident pace advantage over Rosberg, with the championship leader still under pressure from those behind.
Leading that challenge will be Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, the Red Bull Racing pair showing impressive pace in qualifying conditions to almost get amongst the title contenders. Indeed, had Verstappen matched his Q2 time he would have started on the front row, though significantly the Mercedes' will begin on the soft tyres, whereas Red Bull played safe on the super-soft.
Though perhaps not the Force India fans had hoped to see in the top five, Nico Hulkenberg produced a star effort to qualify in an excellent fifth place, ahead of both Ferraris, with both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel failing to capitalise on their practice form in a respective sixth and seventh.
Completing the top ten, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa will start eighth and ninth for Williams, while Carlos Sainz was once again inside the top ten for Toro Rosso with a fine showing in 10th.
Outside the top ten, Fernando Alonso missed the Q3 cut by a mere 0.018s to place 11th on the grid for McLaren-Honda, ahead of Sergio Perez, the Force India driver failing to give the home fans the result they had hoped for, particularly relative to Hulkenberg.
Having not progressed beyond Q1 in Japan and the USA, Jenson Button will head up row seven in 13th alongside Kevin Magnussen, with Sauber's Marcus Ericsson in 15th and Pascal Wehrlein 16th, the Manor driver cracking Q2 for the fourth time this season.
Haas had Esteban Gutierrez to blame for failing to get either of its cars past the Q1 stage, the Mexican spinning on his final fast lap into the path of Romain Grosjean – forcing the Frenchman to lift - preventing either from making the improvements they needed to progress.
However, while Gutierrez starts up in 17th, Grosjean is set to start on the back row in 21st alongside Jolyon Palmer, who didn't start qualifying after a crack was discovered in his Renault chassis.
Between them, Daniil Kvyat was hampered by technical issues on his Toro Rosso to leave him languishing in 18th, while Felipe Nasr and Esteban Ocon will start 19th and 20th having been comprehensively out-paced by their respective Sauber and Manor team-mates.