Vettel takes 50th F1 pole in Mexico qualifying, denies Verstappen record

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Sebastian Vettel left it late to charge to the 50th pole position of his Formula 1 career in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix on Saturday, edging out Red Bull rival Max Verstappen.

Verstappen had looked poised to become the youngest pole-sitter in F1 history and break Vettel’s own record from the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, having laid down the pace in Q2 before taking provisional pole with his first Q3 run.

However, a slow final effort opened the door to Vettel, who nailed his final qualifying lap to nick pole away for Ferrari, with his time of 1:16.488 being just 0.086 seconds faster than Verstappen’s best time.

Verstappen was left “super annoyed” in second, knowing the pole record had been in his grasp, while the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were left to lock out the second row in P3 and P4 respectively.

While Hamilton could only finish four-tenths slower than his sole remaining title rival, the Briton only needs a top-five finish to wrap up his fourth drivers’ championship on Sunday in Mexico.

Kimi Raikkonen took fifth for Ferrari ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who sprung a surprise by breaking into the top six ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who was seventh for Red Bull.

Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. both reached Q3 for Renault, taking eighth and ninth, while Sergio Perez struggled to P10 in his home qualifying session.

Williams failed to get either of its drivers through to Q3 as Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll took P11 and P12 respectively. Massa finished two-tenths of a second back from Perez in P10, while Stroll was over 1.3 seconds adrift after a slow effort in Q2 on his sole fast run.

Brendon Hartley made his way through to Q2 for the first time in F1, easing through the first stage of qualifying, but was unable to get a shot at making it into the top 10 after suffering an engine issue before he could post a lap time.

As a result, the New Zealander finished 13th, ahead of McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as they sat the session out due to pending grid penalties.

Toro Rosso teammate Pierre Gasly’s tough Mexican Grand Prix weekend continued as the engine issue that forced him to park up in FP3 meant he could not feature in qualifying, leaving the Frenchman P20 and with grid penalties to take.

Sauber picked up where it left off in Austin by nearly making it through to Q2 once again, with Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein qualifying 16th and 17th respectively. The pair finished clear of Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean as the team’s Mexico problems from 2016 reared their head once again, leaving them 18th and 19th respectively ahead of Gasly in P20.

The Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET on Sunday.

Get your motor running: American Flat Track’s new season premieres Sunday on NBCSN

Photos courtesy American Flat Track
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If you like racing two-wheel style, make sure you catch the debut of a new multi-year TV broadcast deal featuring the American Flat Track motorcycle racing series on NBCSN.

The 18-round series debuts this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN with the season-opening race that was held at Daytona International Speedway on March 15.

Going forward, all 18 rounds of the series will be televised on NBCSN in highly-coveted weekend afternoon programming slots without two weeks of each event.

Last season, AFT drew nearly two million viewers on NBCSN with regular primetime coverage on Thursday nights.

This season, the one-hour, tape-delayed telecasts will be part of NBCSN’s regular weekend programing, following or preceding coverage of NASCAR, INDYCAR and Pro Motocross.

AFT is now in its 65th season, with two distinct classes: powerful, twin-cylinder rides in the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines division, and the competition in the 450cc AFT Singles division.

“We are very excited to kick-off our second season of AFT on NBCSN,” NBC Sports Group Senior Director of Programming Jeff Macaluso. “The 2017 season provided us with some incredible racing and showed us how passionate the riders and fans are of this historic sport.

“The move to weekends this year, around other marquis motorsports properties, is sure to raise the level even higher.”

Here’s the 2018 AFT schedule on NBCSN:

Round Track, Location Track Type Premiere Time (ET) Time (PT)
1 Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL TT Sun, 3/25 2:00 PM 11:00 AM
2 Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, GA Short Track Sat, 4/14 5:30 PM 2:30 PM
3 Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX Half-Mile Sun, 5/06 4:00 PM 1:00 PM
4 Calistoga Speedway, Calistoga, CA Half-Mile Sun, 5/20 12:00 PM 9:00 AM
5 Turf Paradise, Phoenix, AZ Mile Sat, 5/26 3:00 PM 12:00 PM
6 Cal Expo, Sacramento, CA Mile Sun, 6/03 2:00 PM 11:00 AM
7 Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL Mile Sat, 6/09 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
8 Red Mile, Lexington, KY Mile Sat, 6/16 12:00 PM 9:00 AM
9 Remington Park, Oklahoma City, OK Mile Sat, 6/23 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
10 Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, OH Half-Mile Sat, 7/07 2:30 PM 11:30 AM
11 Weedsport Speedway, Weedsport, NY Short Track Sun, 7/15 6:00 PM 3:00 PM
12 Buffalo Chip Campgrounds, Sturgis, SD TT Sat, 8/11 12:30 PM 9:30 AM
13 Black Hills Speedway, Rapid City, SD Half-Mile Sat, 8/18 2:00 PM 11:00 AM
14 Peoria Motorcycle Club, Peoria, IL TT Sat, 9/01 3:00 PM 12:00 PM
15 Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL Mile Sat, 9/22 2:30 PM 11:30 AM
16 Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, PA Half-Mile Sun, 9/23 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
17 Canterbury Park, Shakopee, MN Mile Sun, 10/14 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
18 Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, NJ Mile Sun, 10/21 2:00 PM 11:00 AM


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