Toro Rosso Honda find themselves with a chance of points in the Mexican Grand Prix after locking out the fifth row of the grid.
Daniil Kvyat out-qualified his team-mate Pierre Gasly by a tenth of a second in Q3 to start ninth. It was the first time the Russian had made it into the final part of qualifying since the Monaco Grand Prix five months ago.
Kvyat aims to “make good use” of his starting position to take the fight to the McLaren F1 Team cars, who will be on the fourth row.
“I’m pretty happy with today’s performance and all of my laps were quite competitive,” Kvyat said.
“I haven’t been super confident in Qualifying lately, as we’ve been having some problems, but now it’s good to be back in shape over one lap again. Only McLaren was in front of us today, so it’s been a good result and it’s great when you can put everything together.
“I think it will be a tricky race for everyone tomorrow, so we will see how things pan out. I hope we can make good use out of our starting position in the race and stay inside the top 10.”
Pierre Gasly was “pretty happy” with his performance on Saturday despite feeling under the weather, as Q3 was his second appearance in succession in the STR14.
One of his worries though is how the cars behind him, who will have free tyre choices, fare in comparison to him beginning the Grand Prix on his compulsory set of softs.
“Overall, I’m pretty happy with my performance to make it through to Q3 for the second time in a row after Suzuka and I think we can be quite pleased with that,” Gasly added.
“The car worked well the whole weekend so far and it’s been quite a good day. It’s not been an easy day though as I haven’t been feeling great, but I’ll rest up tonight and feel as good as I can tomorrow.
“It’s going to be tricky to start on the Softer compound with Sergio right behind us on presumably the Prime, but we still have a chance to score some points tomorrow.”
Head of Vehicle Performance Guillaume Dezoteux was uncertain on the conditions going into Free Practice 3, with the track damp for most of the session. However, by the time qualifying was underway, Toro Rosso were able to display their genuine single-lap pace to crucially line up ahead of their Constructors’ Championship rivals Renault F1 Team and Racing Point F1 Team.
“After a strong showing on Friday, Free Practice 3 was looking more difficult with a damp track at the start and with Pierre not feeling totally well in the morning,” Dezoteux quoted.
“After a run on intermediate tyres to check the cars and perform a couple of practice starts, we elected to do two runs on the Soft tyres on a track that was improving fast. Despite hitting a lot of traffic, both cars were able to put in some good lap times, confirming yesterday’s competitiveness.
“Qualifying has been strong for the team, with both cars in Q3. We tried to qualify on the Medium tyre in Q2, but we were just not fast enough and only the top six cars were actually able to pass through on the yellow tyre. Both drivers kept improving on the Softs, run after run, to finish close to the McLarens on the last attempt.
“The race will be challenging for the PU, tyres and brake management, as is always the case here in Mexico. Some of our direct competitors are close to us on the grid with a free tyre choice, so we will review all the options tonight to defend our positions and bring home some good points.”
Honda F1 Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe was overjoyed to see all four cars powered by the Japanese manufacturer qualify in the top ten for only the second time this season.
“This was an excellent qualifying session with Max taking his and our second pole of the season after Hungary and it is particularly satisfying to have got all four of our cars into the top ten for the first time since Monaco,” Tanabe shared.
“All our drivers did well, Alex getting his best ever qualifying result while Pierre deserves a special appreciation for doing so well on a day when he was not feeling well and along with Daniil they both got the most out of their package.
“In the unique conditions that we race in here in Mexico, we produced an excellent package of chassis and PU. But it’s tomorrow that counts and we must be prepared for any situation although the chance of rain seems to be getting smaller. However, it will be a very tricky race, with tyre performance being the most critical factor. Given our grid positions, we must aim for the best possible result tomorrow.”