'F1IESTA': Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton will start on pole position for the Mexico Grand Prix at the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack . Image: AP / Rebecca Blackwell
Mexico City - Lewis Hamilton continued his fighting late-season defence of his world title by grabbing pole position ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in Saturday's tense qualifying session for Sunday's Mexican Grand Prix.
The defending three-time world champion dominated the session and delivered a best lap in one minute and 18.704 seconds, two-tenths of a second clear of championship leader Rosberg who salvaged a front row starting spot with the last lap of the top-ten shootout action.
Tyre strategy could be key
Hamilton's success brought him his 10th pole position of the season and the 59th of his career.
Dutchman Max Verstappen looked sure to take second until Rosberg's final fastest effort and he wound up third for Red Bull ahead of his team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
The Red Bull pair will start Sunday's race on super-soft tyres while the Mercedes men will be on ordinary softs, a strategic decision that may create a dramatic opening lap at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Nico Hulkenberg also delivered a spectacular late lap to take fifth place for Force India ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.
More: Mexico GP Qualifying - As it happened
Valtteri Bottas was eighth ahead of his Williams team-mate Felipe Massa and Carlos Sainz who was 10th for Toro Rosso.
Rosberg leads the title race by 26 points with three races remaining and knows that if he can win on Sunday and Hamilton scores only one point or less he will take his maiden championship.
Starting grid for Sunday's Mexican GP:
Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes)
Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes)
Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-TAG Heuer)
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull-TAG Heuer)
Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Force India-Mercedes)
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari)
Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari)
Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Williams-Mercedes)
Felipe Massa (BRA/Williams-Mercedes)
Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Toro Rosso-Ferrari)
Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren-Honda)
Sergio Perez (MEX/Force India-Mercedes)
Jenson Button (GBR/McLaren-Honda)
Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Renault)
Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber-Ferrari)
Pascal Wehrlein (GER/Manor-Mercedes)
Esteban Gutierrez (MEX/Haas-Ferrari)
Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Toro Rosso-Ferrari)
Felipe Nasr (BRA/Sauber-Ferrari)
Estban Ocon (FRA/Manor-Mercedes)
Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas-Ferrari)
Jolyon Palmer (GBR/Renault)