The Saturday in F1 Mexico GP threw in a surprise with Ferrari taking centerstage in a hectic qualifying which saw jumbled up result.
The result at the end of Saturday in F1 Mexico GP wasn’t an expected one where Ferrari ended up 1-2 with Charles Leclerc taking another pole from Carlos Sainz. The duo’s first quick laps were enough for a front-row finish and beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman did improve but it was still not enough as almost everyone struggled to get a quick lap in. But front-row in Mexico is something no one likes considering the long run to Turn 1 and the slipstream that the drivers behind will get to ease past at Turn 1.
Even on race pace side, Ferrari are a bit cautious against Red Bull but they are ahead of the likes of Mercedes and McLaren which is a win. While the former saw both the cars make it in Q3 even though they struggled to get a good lap, the latter had a mixed result.
Lando Norris exited in Q1 after a tyre gamble and a mistake didn’t work for him where his teammate Oscar Piastri made in Q3 but could only manage fifth. The Australian was ahead of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell as the trio of the F1 teams will be in a tight battle.
They will have Red Bull’s Sergio Perez who was surprised by Ferrari’s result as he expected a Top 3 finish. The Mexican got pipped by even AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo, who surprised everyone with a fourth place finish on his own after tow from Yuki Tsunoda in Q1 and Q2.
Leclerc: “It’s again a really big surprise. But we keep saying that every time we do a pole position, so people will stop believing in what we say. But I did not expect it. And this time until really late in the session. I think in most of the other sessions from Q1 we were on it and then we saw that there was a potential for pole position. There, until Q3, we had no idea that it was inside the car. And yeah, for some reason in Q3 I managed to put more or less everything together apart from the last sector. And straight away the lap time came straight away. So that was a good surprise. But I think it still shows us that our car is still a bit peaky. And we need to work in that direction for it to make it better in all conditions. Just having a cleaner lap. In Q2, it was a bit messy with the traffic exiting the pit lane. The warm-up is super important and it’s very, very difficult to put the tyres in the right window here. So everything makes a difference. It was a very bad on the out lap and then I had a bit of traffic also in my lap, and all of that made a huge difference.
“But it made a much bigger difference than what I thought, because even though I knew there was a bit more time coming, I did not expect to gain eight tenths. It’s a very difficult race here. Everything can happen, especially with the cooling. Whichever car is behind will do a bit more management, so that can play in our favour. But for that we need to do a good start. And starting first here, it’s always tricky to keep that position into the first corner, but we’ve had pretty good starts this year. So I’m confident we can keep that first place into Turn 1 and then we’ll try and do our best race. Like in karting! Well, to be honest, we haven’t discussed yet and we’ll discuss about it but at the same time, it’s very difficult to predict what’s going to happen at Turn 1. It’s basically a result of how good a start one will have. And then we’ll adapt. I think, obviously, we won’t take too many risks in between cars. But apart from that, it’s difficult to plan what’s happening at the start. It depends if I have a good start, if I have a bad start, so difficult to plan that.”
Sainz: “Honestly, it’s been a tricky weekend again. Putting laps together has been extremely difficult for me on the Soft tyre. And yeah, up until Q3, run one I hadn’t done a good lap all weekend. And then suddenly that lap, even though it had a snap in Turn 8/9, that I nearly lost the car, it was a pretty good lap. But when I saw 17.2 on the dash, I was like, ‘yeah, I don’t know where this is coming from right now’. But it just shows, like Charles said, that there’s still something that we need to understand, something that we need to look at – why our car suddenly, when it comes to low fuel and Soft tyres and Q3, high grip, it comes alive and then suddenly, in some sessions, or on higher fuel, more worn tyres, then it’s a trickier car. It’s something that we’re working on and something that sometimes gives us some very good surprises and sometimes some other not so good ones, so we’ll work on it. As for the race, I don’t know.
“I think it’s impossible to tell around Mexico. Obviously if we do laps like we do today we can aim for the podium or the win but to do that for 71 laps in our car is a bit trickier. Also, with our tyre management, it’s trickier and 71 laps, I think, normally that is where Red Bull makes a difference but together with Charles, we will try and do everything we can do to keep him behind and try to challenge that win. I think it’s impossible to predict these kind of things. Only thing I can say is I’m starting, maybe, on the dirty side, which here is quite a big difference. I was almost kind of expecting Max to beat me a bit and maybe put me on P3 to have a better launch tomorrow. But even like that, I think it’s impossible to say. I think it will be a fun start, a fun run down to Turn One. I think Max will be on the attack. We will all be trying to get slipstream, so it’s always a good run down to Turn 1 here.”
Verstappen: “I mean, it’s always difficult to tell, you know? I’m not part of their team, so I don’t know what’s going on. But yeah, I personally just expected it to be a little bit better in evolution through Qualifying from our side. And I think that’s what we were lacking a little bit. I think Q1 was okay, Q2 wasn’t too bad but then it just seemed to like, fall away from us, like the improvements were not big enough, coming into Q3. But this track is also extremely difficult in qualifying, to basically almost, let’s say, hit the perfect lap. Because it’s so low grip, if you tried to push a little bit more, you might overheat the tyres, or you have a little slide. And that’s, I think, what happened to me today, where I tried to find a little bit more time, but then the balance wasn’t exactly there. And then you’re sliding, you overheat your tyres, and then in the last sector, you have no tyres left. And that’s basically a bit I think what happened. Yeah, it’s just this track is very, very difficult to put a perfect lap together. My race pace? Good. Yep. I also have two Hard tyres. So, nobody else has them, really around me. So that’s also maybe an advantage for tomorrow. But yeah, again, I mean, a lot can happen into Turn 1 already.”
Norris: “I locked up, I went off on my one lap. We had one problem on the first run, and then the yellow flag from Fernando’s spin on the final runs, so it was a shame, but my one opportunity that I needed to put a lap in I locked up and I went off. I mean, it’s difficult to go backwards, I’ll be worried if I go backwards tomorrow. The pace is good, Oscar’s doing a good job. I probably should have gone P1 if I put my lap in before, but there’s a lot of ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ for me at the minute. Yeah, a shame, but points will be our target so we’ll see what we can do.”
Ricciardo: “There’s lots of good energy right now. I just want to rip my shirt off! Look, I’m very happy with P4, it’s an amazing result for us as a team. So on the one hand, I think the result is crazy – but already from yesterday, even from the first lap, I just had a lot of good feeling in the car. A few things that didn’t go our way last weekend – I certainly carried a little bit of a chip on my shoulder this week coming into the weekend; I couldn’t wait, couldn’t wait to get back in the car, I was as excited and hungry as I’ve felt in a very long time. Obviously today is half the job. We’ll focus on tomorrow in an hour or so, but in the next hour, we’ll enjoy this and it feels very, very nice.
“On one hand, I say that would be awesome and crazy, but I don’t know if I should use the word ‘crazy’, because I think today wasn’t a fluke. I think Q1 and Q2, Yuki was great and gave us a slipstream, so that definitely gave us that extra little tenth or two to get in. But Q3, we were out there on our own and we had raw pace, so I think from that point of view: no fluke, we’ve got the pace to do it. You would expect the top teams to maybe show a little bit more on long runs. But personally, I feel great in the car, I feel confident, so I’ll put up a fight and if we’re here, P4 or somewhere around there tomorrow, I think we’ll be pretty happy. As I said, half the job’s done. I’m still keeping that fire in the belly for tomorrow.”
Hamilton: “I had been struggling all weekend with this car. The car has been a bit of a nightmare to drive, and to be able to piece it all. It just doesn’t like this track. We made some good changes going into qualifying, was much happier with the car. I wish we had done it in the morning, but then Q1 and Q2 weren’t looking too bad. Q2 second lap was great but the car is just really peaky, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and I just wasn’t able to extract much more from it in the end. In a perfect world, maybe I could have been fifth but that’s about it. It’s going to be a real challenge with that car tomorrow. We are overheating, brakes are overheating, it’s going to be very hard for us to battle. So, I don’t know what kind of race we are going to have but it’s going to be on the knife edge.”
The Top 10 also had the Alfa Romeo pair of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, where the former made it in after lap deletion for Williams’ Alexander Albon. The Thai had a disappointing qualifying after showing solid pace all-through practice.
As the team were baffled to see the strong pace, they were equally confused to see the dip in pace in qualifying. His teammate Logan Sargeant not only had his laps deleted but was handed a penalty for overtaking under yellow flags.
It wasn’t a good run for Aston Martin either as Fernando Alonso admitted of struggle to be knocked out in Q2, with teammate Lance Stroll unable to make it out Q1 which was the case for Haas and also Alpine pairs in a mixed situation.
Bottas: “It’s great to have both cars in Q3, especially considering where we were just a week ago. I am really proud of the team for the work done: everything ran smoothly today. The track definitely suits our car quite well, so it’s been good fun out there: I think I got the most out of our car today, despite a lock-up in the last sector on my final lap. Looking ahead to tomorrow, with the pace we’ve shown so far, as well as what we have learnt in practice, I reckon we have a concrete chance to bring home some good points, so I am looking forward to getting in the mix.”
Albon: “I don’t think it was track limits, however, I might be wrong. Based on the external view of the shot, it looked to me that my rear tyres were still on the white line, however, it is what it is. It’s really frustrating but what’s more frustrating is the lack of pace in Qualifying; I was four or five-tenths slower than I was in FP3, losing a lot of grip, so I almost had to do tyre management to keep the tyres alive into sector 3. It was the same from FP1 to FP2 and now FP3 to Quali, so we really need to look into it. We’ll look to tomorrow and see what we can do.”
Alonso: “It was a very tricky Qualifying session today and we’ve not been performing at our best so far this weekend. We’ve tried a few different things with the set-up, but we seem to be losing pace everywhere over the lap. The race will be tough for everyone with the high temperatures and usually there is a lot of traffic around this circuit. However, we remain hopeful of scoring points tomorrow. After all, we were running in the top 10 in Austin despite having started from the pitlane. It’s a long race tomorrow and we will keep pushing.”
Hulkenberg: “You’re always hoping for more. With the weekend that we’ve had, it’s been a real struggle and we’ve played a lot with the set up, but I’m happy with the changes made going into qualifying again. It felt good, positive, and to be honest, if you told me P12 before the session, I would’ve definitely taken that. It’s tough, we’re not quick enough on merit so we’ll need outside circumstances to help us get a result, but we’ll hang in there and hopefully get something from it.”
Ocon: “It’s been a tough Saturday and an unfortunate day for us. After a positive Friday, and with the target of reaching Q3, it’s certainly a tough one to take to exit in Q1. We tried to be aggressive in Q1 on two sets of tyres and, in the end, it did not pay off with some traffic and incidents on my second push lap. It’s certainly frustrating as we were not able to show our true potential and I know there was more on the table today, especially given the close margins throughout the field. Points are scored on Sundays and I remain optimistic for tomorrow’s race. I have had some good starts this year and another one tomorrow will be important. We have to put ourselves in a position to take any opportunities and scoring points remains my goal.”
Here’s how F1 Mexico GP qualifying panned out
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