"We have it in our hands in that having a good result with Lewis, that could be the decisive result for his championship".
Indeed Renault-powered engines thrived on Friday, with Carlos Sainz Jr and Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top four in the first session, while Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel - who hopes to once again prolong Hamilton's seemingly inevitable wait for glory - was down in seventh. "This is why I don't want to think too much - none of us want to think too much - about the championship, but just really concentrate on the task at hand".
"I knew putting the lap together would be crucial as always, and Max showed the pace was in the auto all weekend".
Verstappen lost out by 0.026, with Ricciardo setting a track record time of one minute 14.759 seconds, and he did not try and hide his disappointment.
"The whole qualifying was crap", said the Red Bull driver.
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"The behaviour was not correct", he continued, "we couldn't do anything in qualifying so I had to go forward on the brake balance to try to stabilise the whole vehicle".
Behind the Red Bulls all eyes will be on the title contenders, with Hamilton in the stronger position after a hard few days for Mercedes. I'm happy with what we have achieved (in qualifying), and now it's about carrying it through.
What the German won't want to do is repeat the start he made here past year - see video below - when P1 on the grid became eighth by the end of Lap 1 thanks to tangles with Verstappen and Hamilton through the opening turns. "You get a nice tow from the guys up ahead so naturally I'm going to be fighting to at least gain a position but of course I'm aware of the Bulls ahead".
A seventh-place finish will secure the Briton's fifth career title, matching the late Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina for second behind only the seven of Germany's Michael Schumacher.