Vettel on Pole for Mexican Grand Prix

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Photo by: www.kymilman.com/f1

If you watched any of the Free Practice sessions for the Mexican Grand Prix or listened to Mercedes point-leader Lewis Hamilton, you’ll know that qualifying was predicted to be a bit of a battle between Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. The Red Bull’s looked effective on Friday and Saturday’s practice sessions and this had Lewis Hamilton a little cautious about his chances for pole position.

The Ferrari’s seemed to be slightly off the pace during the practice so all eyes were on the red cars to see if there was any way Sebastian Vettel could mount an effort to take pole.

In the end, Ferrari managed to hold off the charging Red Bull in the hands of the Flying Dutchman, Max Verstappen, and the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. It was a bit of a surprise and I would have had it as a battle between the two Mercs and Verstappen. A testament to Ferrari and especially in the hands of Sebastian Vettel.

Q1

Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly’s return was a bit of a bummer with the STR car having issues and the team chose not to qualify the car and will start from the back on Sunday.

Ferrari and Red Bull started their initial runs on the SuperSoft tires with Sebastian setting the initial fast time with his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, behind him by a tenth. Lewis Hamilton came out on the UltraSoft tire to set the top time on his first run with his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, behind him and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen split the Mercedes and Ferrari’s in third on his initial run.

Both Renault’s and Force India cars were nose-to-tail and in the top 10 on their initial runs on UltraSoft tires. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso jumped up to 5th on his initial run on Ultra’s and got a nice tow from his teammate, Stoffel Vandoorne.

A concerning radio communication from Lewis Hamilton about a cut in power on his Mercedes while STR’s Brendon Hartley jumped up to 13th on his UltraSoft tires. Fernando Alonso went out again and radioed that he had no power and he suspected he had no turbo but as both drivers are facing multiple grid penalties, it may not have mattered. Regardless, Vandoorne did jump up to 13th and into Q2.

Gasley, Grosjean, Magnussen, Ericsson, and Wehrlein were all out in Q1.

Q2

The session started with the Mercs on Ultra’s on and clearly the tire they’ll start the race on. Bottas set the initial time just ahead of Kimi and Lewis. Kimi and Sebastian were on the Ultra’s for their initial runs with Vettel setting the quickest time on initial runs. Lewis stayed out for a second run and took top spot just two hundredths ahead of Vettel.

Brendon Hartley radioed in with a loss of power and stopped on track. Not a good sign given the Gasley was already sitting in the garage. This brought out a yellow in sector 2. That’s a shame because he was on a fast lap and set personal best in first sector and may have had a shot at Q3…we’ll never know.

Max Verstappen set out on Ultras to hammer a half second lead and took the top spot with a stonking lap from the Dutchman. This is what Lewis Hamilton feared. Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t manage better than 6th on his initial run.

Both McLaren cars sat in the garages for Q2. Lance Stroll made a last-ditch effort to get out of Q2 and came up short while his teammate, Felipe Massa, beat him but also failed to get out of Q2. Lewis Hamilton made a last run in Q2 and didn’t improve his time while Kimi and Sebastian took a final run in their Ferrari’s with Seb jumping to 2nd ahead of Hamilton and Raikkonen to 5th. Both Renault’s were nose-to-tail in 7th and 8th Force India’s hung on to 9th and 10th for Ocon and Perez respectively.

Vandoorne, Alonso, Hartley, Stroll, and Massa were out in Q2.

Q3

With the pressure coming from the Flying Dutcham, Max Verstappen, Mercedes and Ferrari were straight out in Q3 on their Ultras. With 11 minutes, the big question was how much, if any, were Mercedes holding back for the final session?

Bottas had a cracking lap going but got caught up behind an aborted lap of Max Verstappen and it spoiled the Finn’s lap. Meanwhile, his teammate Lewis Hamilton went to the top of the time sheet. That didn’t last long as Vettel took the top spot. That didn’t last long as Verstappen collected himself and took the top spot by two tenths over Vettel. The times were tumbling in the first runs and even Esteban Ocon jumped up to 5th.

The Q3 was going to be a cracker and it turned out to be just that. Mercedes was on the back foot sitting third and no time set from Bottas on their first runs. It turned into a bit of chaos as Mercedes and Ferrari had to find an answer to the Flying Dutchman.

The final laps began with just 3;30s left in Q3. Verstappen was first out on track just when the FIA announced they would be reviewing the Bottas/Verstappen incident. Sebastian Vettel was last out for

Verstappen aborted his first run but there was time left to take another poke at it which was the same as he did in the first half of Q3 that caused the Steward review. Valtteri Bottas jumped to 4th while Hamilton stayed in 3rd but it was Vettel’s final run that took the top spot and set a new lap record followed by Max Verstappen in second.

The Flying Dutchman couldn’t manage to improve his time on his final run and both Mercedes cars were relegated to the second row which is not a spot they are used to being in. The first Mexican PG pole for Ferrari since 1970. Ferrari worked very hard, just like Mercedes did last weekend in Austin, to overcome balance issues they were having.

Qualifying Results:

1 Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari1’16.488
2 Max VerstappenRed BullTAG1’16.5740.086
3 Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes1’16.9340.446
4 Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes1’16.9580.470
5 Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari1’17.2380.750
6 Esteban OconForce IndiaMercedes1’17.4370.949
7 Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG1’17.4470.959
8 Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault1’17.4660.978
9 Carlos Sainz Jr.RenaultRenault1’17.7941.306
10 Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes1’17.8071.319
11 Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes1’18.0991.611
12 Lance StrollWilliamsMercedes1’19.1592.671
13 Brendon HartleyToro RossoRenault
14 Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari1’19.1762.688
15 Pascal WehrleinSauberFerrari1’19.3332.845
16 Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari1’19.4432.955
17 Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari1’19.4732.985
18 Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda
19 Pierre Gasly
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Salvu Borg

STR could not qualify Gasly’s car because the car was not ready, the turbo failure rendered the ICE caput, and due to a dire parts situation the spare power unit was incomplete, so it wasn’t a matter of just a power unit change. Hartley is improving by each lap he does. Although Kvyat had a good race at Austin and easily out qualified Hartely, Hartely pace improved throughout the race and his fastest lap was about a second better than Kvyat’s, to me that’s endurance qualities shining through. It was a pity that Hartely was hit with identical turbo problems… Read more »

johnblair7

On the BBC web site when they had a pick the top 3 for qualification, I put Seb, Lewis Max. For the race on the pick the top 3 I’ve put Seb, Max then Lewis.