Formula 1

Verstappen takes rapid pole position in Mexico City as Mercedes falters

5 Mins read
Credit: Pirelli Media

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen took pole position at the Mexican Grand Prix after a divisive battle for the top spot in Saturday Qualifying. Mercedes AMG-Petronas F1 Team’s George Russell and Lewis Hamilton are set to line up second and third after showing particularly competitive pace in Mexico City, while home-town favorite Sergio Pérez slotted into fourth place. 

Q1 – Aston Martin, Williams face early elimination

Haas F1 Team and Williams Racing were first out on the high-elevation track, followed by Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team, to set their initial times. Haas’ Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen led the early pack, with times of 1:21.024 and 1:21.043 respectively. 

The entirety of the grid were setting out to complete their first laps by the ten minute mark, with 2022 World Champion Verstappen quickly rising to the top spot with a 1:19.222. Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was about three tenths behind, while Valtteri Bottas put together an impressive effort to place his Alfa Romeo in third place. 

Pérez saw his first lap complicated as his Drag Reduction System did not open, hindering his performance significantly to place him around tenth position once all drivers had a representative lap on the board. 

With six minutes to go in the first session, both Williams cars and Haas cars were at risk in the bottom five– Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel also found himself in the elimination zone, and team-mate Lance Stroll was just on the edge. 

Schumacher saw his second lap time deleted with three minutes to go after cutting the edge of a chicane, dropping him from sixth back down to seventeenth. 

Both Ferraris and Red Bulls remained in their garages in the final minutes, comfortably through to the next round. The rest of the field made their final laps in an effort to avoid elimination. 

Both Haas cars broke out of the knockout zone briefly after completing their last runs, though Schumacher would be relegated once again soon after. Daniel Ricciardo was also at risk for elimination, but was able to scrape by with a 1:20.279. 

Vettel improved on his final lap, but was only able to jump from nineteenth to sixteenth, while Stroll remained eighteenth– both Aston Martins were out of the running for Q2. Zhou Guanyu jumped to fourteenth and escaped relegation, solidifying Schumacher’s bottom five result. Magnussen, on the other hand, scraped by in fifteenth and continued to the next round despite taking an engine penalty this weekend. 

Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi ended up at the back of the pack in nineteenth and twentieth in a difficult day for Williams. 

Hamilton took first place in Q1, followed by Verstappen and Leclerc– evidence of Mercedes’ incredible potential at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez

Eliminated – Schumacher, Vettel, Stroll, Albon, Latifi

Q2 – AlphaTauri loses out as the pack tightens

Mercedes set the first times of the second round, with Hamilton setting a 1:18.552 and Russell setting a 1:18.565. Scuderia AlphaTauri were up next, with Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly filing in behind in third and fourth as the rest of the field took their out laps at ten minutes to go. 

Verstappen’s first lap saw him place behind both Mercedes in third place, while team-mate Pérez slotted into fifth. McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris and Ricciardo took fourth and fifth as the drivers crossed the line to complete their first laps. Bottas rose all the way up to third soon after, once again showing great pace. 

BWT Alpine F1 Team and Ferrari were last to finish their first runs. Alpine’s Fernando Alonso set a time for eighth, followed by Esteban Ocon who would shoot up the ranks to fifth. Leclerc was sixth and Sainz was eighth by the time all the initial laps were done. 

In the relegation zone at the six minute mark were Tsunoda, Pérez, Zhou, Gasly and Magnussen, while Mercedes continued to lead the field. Pérez took to the near-empty track to make his second attempt, urged on by the thousands of fans chanting his name. He rose all the way up to third place, solidifying his place in the final round and sending Ricciardo into the knock-out zone. 

The last minute saw a tight battle for the top ten spots with nearly all the drivers on the track, as Sainz lifted himself to second place with a 1:18.560. Zhou missed out on the Q3 appearance, only able to improve to twelfth place with his final attempt. Both AlphaTauris, with Gasly noting a lack of grip, found themselves knocked out as well, unable to move up the order with their last runs.

Alonso was at risk, crossing the checkered flag in tenth, as Ricciardo came around for his last lap. Ricciardo wasn’t, however, able to break the top ten, and Alonso was safe to move on. Hamilton led the field once again at the session’s end, with Sainz and Russell taking second and third respectively. With the top four within just two hundredths of a second, it was clear that the battle for pole would be a close one. 

Eliminated – Ricciardo, Zhou, Tsunoda, Gasly, Magnussen

Q3 – Verstappen bests Mercedes to take pole position

Pole position was heavily contested, with not only the usual frontrunners of Ferrari and Red Bull in contention– Mercedes had proved their potential to lead the field throughout the weekend. 

Pérez set the benchmark with his first time of 1:18.153, which would not be beaten by the likes of Sainz and Leclerc, who crossed the line next. Norris slides into fourth as Verstappen takes the fastest first sector, with the quick Mercedes pair on his tail. 

Ocon completed his first lap for sixth place just before Verstappen took provisional pole with a 1:17.947– the Red Bulls were one-two for the time being. Bottas split the Ferraris with his first attempt, capturing fourth place. 

Hamilton completed his first lap with just under eight minutes to go and took second place, a tenth and a half off of Verstappen’s leading time. Hamilton would, however, have that time taken away due to track limits– the pressure was on for Hamilton to compete for pole. 

Team-mate Russell took second place just after Hamilton completed his, not quite able to reach Verstappen’s impressive lap. Alonso made his first attempt far later than the rest, slotting into seventh place with under six minutes to go. 

Drivers began filing out of the pits at the four minute mark, ready to put in their final attempts. Both Pérez and Sainz were unable to move up the timing sheet and stayed third and fourth, respectively. Leclerc was able to gain a position on his last lap, up to fifth. 

Verstappen was improving, as were Hamilton and Russell– all of which were vying for that pole position. Verstappen bested his time and achieved a 1:17.775. Hamilton put in a 1:18.084 and was unable to take the top spot, settling in third. 

Russell, with a green first sector and purple second, looked poised to contend for pole, but ended up with a shaky third sector that saw him miss his shot. He would remain in second place, unable to achieve the top spot for Mercedes. 

Verstappen’s consistency earned him yet another pole position for Red Bull, finishing three tenths ahead of both Mercedes drivers. Pérez finished in fourth, followed by Sainz, Bottas and Leclerc. Norris took eighth ahead of Alpine’s Alonso and Ocon, McLaren’s championship rivals.

11Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing1:19.2221:18.5661:17.77516
263George RussellGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:19.5831:18.5651:18.07918
344Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:19.1691:18.5521:18.08419
411Sergio PérezMEXOracle Red Bull Racing1:19.7061:18.6151:18.12818
555Carlos SainzESPScuderia Ferrari1:19.5661:18.5601:18.35117
677Valtteri BottasFINAlfa Romeo Racing1:19.5231:18.7621:18.40118
716Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1:19.5051:19.1091:18.55518
84Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1:19.8571:19.1191:18.72119
914Fernando AlonsoESPBWT Alpine F1 Team1:20.0061:19.2721:18.93915
1031Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1:19.9451:19.0811:19.01018
113Daniel RicciardoAUSMcLaren F1 Team1:20.2791:19.32514
1224Zhou GuanyuCHNAlfa Romeo Racing1:20.2831:19.47612
1322Yuki TsunodaJAPScuderia AlphaTauri1:19.9071:19.58913
1410Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauri1:20.2561:19.67215
1520Kevin MagnussenDENHaas F1 Team1:20.2931:19.83317
1647Mick SchumacherGERHaas F1 Team1:20.41911
175Sebastian VettelGERAston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team1:20.41910
1818Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team1:20.52010
1923Alex AlbonTHAWilliams Racing1:20.85910
206Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing1:21.167
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Formula 1 Writer and Student Journalist based in Florida, U.S.A.
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