MEXICO CITY -- Sebastian Vettel had to dig deep to record his 50th career pole position.
Approaching the end of Q3 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez it seemed Max Verstappen was on course for a maiden career pole after a brilliant 1:16.574 early in the session. But Vettel turned in a brilliant lap of his own as the clock expired, edging the Dutchman by just 0.08s.
Ferrari's pace had still been something of a mystery coming into the session and Vettel was not convinced Verstappen was beatable in Q3.
When asked about reaching the 50 poles landmark, Vettel said: "I don't know really what to say, it is a big number and I am very very happy with today. Before qualifying, it didn't look that way.
"I surprised myself just now. Every session we tried to get the best. Qualifying has been tough for us, but really rewarding when it worked -- just like today. Really, really happy with the lap I had today. I think at the moment, right now, it probably means more than the raw number but for sure, overall, it's a great achievement."
Vettel was not entirely sure where Verstappen had found the pace he showed in Q2 and Q3.
"He was very quick in Q2. [When] he goes four-tenths quicker than everyone else... it's a bit, how do I do that? But I knew, if I got the first sector together then I would have a better chance. It worked in the end so I was really happy with my first sector and I was able to build onto that.
"Had a moment at [Turn] six, nearly lost the car, but managed to go through without any time loss and from there I felt really comfortable to push until the end and obviously when I saw how much I was up crossing the line I knew that it would be close, it should be enough but I didn't know what the others were doing as I guess the track improved a bit but when I heard it was announced... yeah, just exploded from inside the car."