Lewis Hamilton enhanced his hopes of taking the title fight down to the wire when he outpaced Mercedes team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg to grab pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The defending world champion Hamilton, who was suffering with a cold, must stop the German from winning on Sunday to take the title race to the final grand prix of the season, at Abu Dhabi in two weeks.
It was the perfect moment for the Briton to become only the third driver ever to secure 60 Formula One pole positions, behind Hamilton’s hero Ayrton Senna (65 poles) and Michael Schumacher (68).
The three-time world champion clocked a best lap in one minute and 10.736 seconds to pip Rosberg by 0.102 seconds as the pair duelled in the final seconds of a tense session.
“Honestly, I felt quite comfortable all through qualifying as I have all weekend,” said a cool and calm Hamilton, despite suffering from a cold.
“Nico’s been going quicker and quicker, but I’ve generally had it covered. This is the best I could have hoped for coming to Brazil. It’s always been a track I’ve struggled at so I’m glad to be up there at the front.”
Hamilton, who has never won in Brazil, said he was not worried by the forecasts of rain for Sunday at Interlagos.
“I don’t mind at all, I’m ready for whatever,” he said.
Rosberg has one hand on his first F1 title.
He took pole and won in Brazil in 2014 and 2015 and will secure the championship at last if he completes a hat-trick of wins.
“It was exciting and it was very close,” said Rosberg.
“Lewis was marginally quicker than me in the end. But that’s ok, pole isn’t always the guy who wins the race so I’m still optimistic for tomorrow.”