MEXICO CITY • Daniel Ricciardo thwarted Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen's hopes of becoming Formula One's youngest pole-sitter at the Mexican Grand Prix.
The Dutchman, who turned 21 on Sept 30 and is the youngest winner, may not get a better chance to beat Sebastian Vettel's 2008 pole mark of 21 years and 73 days in a Toro Rosso in Italy.
The altitude of the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, the highest race on the calendar at 2,200m above sea level, helps to even up the playing field dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, with the engine producing less power in thinner air and putting more emphasis on aerodynamics.
The Red Bulls did exactly that. But Verstappen lost out by 0.026, with the Australian Ricciardo setting a track record of 1min 14.759sec, and he did not hide his disappointment.
"The whole qualifying was crap," he told the global television audience. "We tried to make the best of it - I thought we had enough but it's still good to be second."
Still, the front row lockout on Saturday was Red Bull's first since the 2013 United States GP.
Behind them, Lewis Hamilton emerged in a stronger position after a difficult few days for Mercedes.
The championship leader, who needs only seventh place in the race this morning (Singapore time) to secure his fifth title, will line up in third place with Ferrari rival Vettel qualifying fourth.
Ricciardo, who is leaving for Renault at the end of the year, whooped in delight following his third career pole, with the first two in Monaco.
He said: "I knew it was there somewhere. We hadn't had the cleanest run through practice and I just knew putting the lap together would be crucial as always.
"I knew the pace was in the car, Max showed that all weekend from start to finish. I still wasn't convinced, it wasn't the cleanest (lap) but, once I heard I got pole, I got to relax a little.