Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton will start the 2016 Mexican Formula 1 Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday, while team-mate Nico Rosberg will start in second place. The championship leader salvaged the spot on his final run on Saturday after being well behind Hamilton's pace throughout the practice sessions.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will start from the second row, and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg beat out Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel to fifth place.
The final simulation runs were heavily affected by traffic, keeping the likes of Rosberg and Vettel from posting sharp times on the supersoft tyres. Rosberg finished fourth, while Vettel took sixth after impressing earlier in the session.
Here's a look at the final times and the grid for Sunday's race, via Formula 1's official Twitter account:
As shared by F1 Madness, the track temperature was sky-high, which was bound to have an impact on the tyres and expected to wreak havoc early:
The two Haas drivers both aborted their first hot laps due to warm-up issues, setting the tone early. Romain Grosjean, who complained at length about his car during the final practice session, ran wide over a kerb and had to retreat to the pits almost immediately.
Hamilton opened proceedings at the top but was immediately overtaken by Vettel, and Verstappen slid in between the two. Rosberg still couldn't close the gap that's been between him and Hamilton all weekend long, and Raikkonen backed up Ferrari's pace with a blazing lap.
Red Bull and Ferrari took the fight to Mercedes, but Hamilton reclaimed the top spot several laps into his run on the super-softs. In the background, Daniil Kvyat dropped out of the session with a power issue, failing to qualify for the second session.
A spin by Esteban Gutierrez meant Grosjean had to abandon his final flying lap, knocking both of the Haas cars out in the first session. Per F1 on NBC Sports, it was a major disappointment for the team:
Most of the teams went with the soft tyres for the second session, where Mercedes looked dominant on Friday. Once again, Hamilton took the early advantage, with Rosberg losing more than half a second in the first two sectors.
Vettel blocked Hamilton, but the latter still set the fastest lap by some distance. The defending champion was far from happy, however, via F1 Fanatic Live:
Race officials announced an investigation into the matter, while out of nowhere, Verstappen became the first man to duck under the 1:19 minute mark, albeit on the super-softs.
Rosberg came back out on a set of soft tyres, but once again, he couldn't keep up with his team-mate in the early sections. Heading into the final session, the Daily Telegraph's Daniel Johnson thought the German needed a great run:
The Red Bulls came out first, with Verstappen on top, while Hamilton once again took a half-second lead on Rosberg through the first two sectors. The championship leader slid in behind the Red Bulls on his first run, with Hamilton taking the lead. Vettel only managed eighth place, with one run remaining.
Rosberg's final lap proved to be the decisive one, as he finally improved during the early sectors and beat the Red Bulls to second place. Hulkenberg took fifth place, beating both Ferrari drivers.
It was a huge final run from Rosberg, who now has the chance to dive into Turn 1 in the lead rather than risk getting stuck in fourth or fifth place at the start of the Grand Prix.
Here's a look at the final timesheets, per Formula 1's official Twitter account:
The third and final practice session had a bit of a slow start, with the two Haas cars setting the early pace. Mercedes joined in on the fun after a couple of minutes, and Rosberg was the first man to set a proper time.
Over at Ferrari, there was a minor problem, as Vettel was nowhere to be found within the first 10 minutes of the session, per Sky Sports.
Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to dip under one minute, 20 seconds on the soft tyres before returning to the garage, and Rosberg couldn't match the feat, although he improved on his personal best in his final hot lap.
Vettel didn't appear on the track until 25 minutes into the session but promptly recorded the second-best time, besting Rosberg. The Red Bulls also took their time, with Ricciardo spending the first half of the session in the garage.
They weren't the only ones not gunning for hot laps straight away, as shared by Honda Racing F1:
Verstappen impressed on his hot laps, taking second place ahead of Vettel, and team-mate Ricciardo did even better, pushing the Ferrari into fourth.
Williams didn't feature at the top of the timesheets, but their pace appeared just fine, per Formula 1's official Twitter account:
Rosberg opted for a three-lap run with a heavier fuel load while the rest of the top drivers prepped for a qualifying simulation on the supersofts, with plenty of changes expected on the timesheet. Verstappen laid down the marker early with a 1:19.137, with the Dutchman consistently beating Hamilton in the first sector.
Ricciardo had his path blocked by Kevin Magnussen, and Jolyon Palmer did even worse, blocking Vettel and forcing him off the track.
Hamilton also got caught in traffic, which was a problem for most of the top drivers, per Autosport Live:
The traffic all but rendered the simulations moot, with Hamilton sliding in behind Verstappen and ahead of Ricciardo in the standings. Most of the drivers returned to the pits for some practice starts after that with time winding down.
Rosberg had one last chance and improved his time to fourth-best, but he seemed to struggle with his setup—an ill omen just hours before qualifying.