F1 – Mexican GP – Qualifying

Hola, MiniFans! We’re back in Mexico after a year of absence and Sergio Pérez’s home country has welcomed F1 back with open arms. The track is filled to the brim and ready to party, unlike the four drivers who will be sent straight to the back of the grid due to penalties for changing engine parts (Ocon, Stroll, Tsunoda and Norris), while Russell will probably still try and fight, as his penalty will only take him five places back.

The beginning of Q1 was quite slow, as drivers trickled out of their boxes, giving Alfa Romeo and Haas the top times for a handful of minutes. Almost halfway through, barely any lap times had been registered, and a few of those had already been deleted for exceeding track limits. The session was soon red flagged due to Lance Stroll losing his car in the last corner and crashing into the barriers of the main straight. The halt caught many halfway through their first timed lap in soft tyres, forcing the drivers to abort them. The biggest problem was the Tecpro barrier, which needed repairing and prompted Masi, the race director, to go down and check them himself, as he is responsible for safety in the circuit.

Twenty minutes later, the session got restarted. One small and apparently solved hiccup for Sainz later, everyone was on track, as most had no time to speak of. Verstappen’s first fast lap took him more than seven tenths away from his rivals, who would eventually come closer, but were still behind. Sainz had needed to go into the pits due to his problems but came out with just enough time to get a new lap in, which lifted him from the danger zone. Alonso, however, wasn’t that lucky and saw himself out very soon, ruining Alpine’s plans of having Ocon give him a tow in Q2 to try and get a shot at Q3. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Alonso (P16), Latifi (P17), Schumacher (P18), Mazepin (P19) and Stroll (P20).

Yellow tyres started to be seen among the top teams as soon as the time started ticking down in Q2, including the Ferrari, which had showed great pace in Q1. However, they weren’t the only ones willing to take a risk to get rid of the softs, as everyone on track had mediums on. The slightly harder compound took Hamilton to breath down Verstappen’s neck, while softs were starting to get chosen by those not being quite quick enough. The Brit did eventually beat Verstappen in this session, by a mere nine thousands of a second, but this wasn’t the moment where it would truly matter. A brief yellow flag caused by Giovinazzi marked the end of Q2, disturbing a couple of drivers but not really affecting the finishing places. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Vettel (P11), Raikkonen (P12), Russell (P13), Giovinazzi (P14) and Ocon (P15).

The fight for pole position started as soon as the clock started counting down seconds. The first fight was won by Bottas, who was faster than both Verstappen and Hamilton, but the Red Bull wasn’t looking too balanced, so the second go was needed to see whether this would be the final result or if the championship leader would regain his first place. His own teammate would eventually be his demise, as he would go wide in a corner after being slightly distracted by Tsunoda, making it difficult for Verstappen, as he had to slightly lift the foot from the throttle. Bottas almost repeated his lap, securing first place and a front row lockout for Mercedes.

With just five races to go, coming on top in each assault is worth its weight in gold. The first ones have been won by Verstappen, as he came out on top in the COTA, a circuit traditionally won by Mercedes. This weekend, Mercedes has turned what looked like a couple bad days for them upside down. Bottas cut down his lap time by one second from Q2 into Q3, which allowed him to get a very important pole position. However, we know that Verstappen isn’t one to back down from a fight and will be ready to battle the silver arrows to try and extend his championship lead.