Formula 1

Ferrari celebrate front-row​ lockout in Mexico despite yellow flag frustration for Vettel

3 Mins read
Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

It will be an all-red front row for the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix after Max Verstappen was relegated three places for not slowing down after Valtteri Bottas’ accident. Following the penalty for the Red Bull Racing driver, this promoted Charles Leclerc to pole position with teammate Vettel alongside.

After making it through the first two parts of qualifying comfortably the battle for pole position commenced.

There was frustration for both drivers on their first run as they failed to pull together a perfect lap, Vettel recording a time of 1:15.170 before Leclerc went slightly faster with a time of 1:15.024.

After pitting for fresh tyres the pair emerged again to challenge Verstappen for pole position; Leclerc secured a time good enough for second place, despite a mistake in the final sector and Vettel was forced to abandon his fastest lap which looked set to beat Verstappen due to Bottas’ accident, leaving him third on the grid.

The result of the penalty promoted the two Ferrari’s to the front row, marking their seventh pole position of the season, and sixth in a row, something that has only been achieved twice before by the team in 1961 and 1974.

We knew that our competitors would be strong this weekend. After free practice 3, we realized that we might have a shot at pole but when they put it all together in qualifying today they were just too quick,” explained Leclerc following the session.

“Even if I did a lap that I was quite happy with on my first run in Q3, I was still a tenth behind Max so I tried to go out with a different setup for the last lap. Unfortunately, I ended up having some oversteer and lost time, especially in the last sector.”

Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

While Leclerc is happy to be on pole for the race, he admits that is is a strange feeling and their preperation for the race would remain the same.

“It is a bit of an odd situation starting from pole now after finishing qualifying in second, but our approach will stay the same. It will be very important to retain the lead after the start.

“The one who is first after turn 3 will have a huge plus because cooling is a big factor for everyone here, putting the following car at a disadvantage. The straight to turn 1 is very long, so I will have to try to capitalize on our straight-line speed there. I will give it my all and hope to have an exciting race.”

Teammate Vettel was frustrated that he could improve on his final run, knowing that he had the pace in the SF90 to secure pole positon outright.

“I am not entirely happy with today, because I could have had a better result if it had not been for the yellow flags for Bottas’ accident,” said the German following qualifying.

“On the first run I was probably a bit too cautious in sector 2 after a very good first sector, then I lost my rhythm a bit and was too aggressive in the final part of the lap and had a big snap in the last corner.

I felt quite confident that I could find more time on my second run, but then the yellow flags came out. That can happen some times.

Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Vettel is expecting a battle at the front in Mexico, and knows the team will need to achieve a fine balance to take victory.

“The key will be to have a car that works well, to look after the tyres and to choose the right strategy. The top three teams all start on the same tyre, but it will be a very close race.”

Team principal Mattia Binotto was happy to see both of his cars at the head of the field, “We are very happy to have secured our sixth consecutive pole position with both cars on the front row.”

While the team start from the best possible place, BInotto knows that its not going to be an easy race.

“It will be a tough race and, as we saw on Friday, tyre degradation will be a significant factor. All the top teams opted to start the race on the Mediums as a consequence of this degradation, so it could be a one or a two stop race.

“We will see different strategies come into play. The qualifying time sheet shows that we are all very evenly matched, so it will be a tense and difficult race with everything to play for and strategy will definitely play an important role.

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