F1 – Mexico GP – Qualifying

Hola, MiniFans! Mexico has welcomed F1 once again under with both warm weather and fans cheering on drivers, especially their home hero. The weekend seemed to point out, for the second race in a row, that Mercedes has closed the gap to the top, after a magnificent free practice in the morning.

As per usual, we continued our tradition of seeing the bottom teams being the first ones on track to try and take advantage of every single second possible in Q1. Albon was the fastest in this group, but the top dogs were soon out to steal the first positions away from them and take the timing tower back to its usual appearance, save for the presence of Bottas, who had slotted himself in third in between Leclerc and Hamilton, almost as if he had swapped places with Pérez, way down in the standings until he managed to propel himself into sixth.

The times improved greatly in the latest stages of the session, as the track gained temperature, and Schumacher was the perfect proof of this. His lap times was deleted due to exceeding track limits, but the evidence was there. Only Red Bull and Ferrari decided not to go out again, confident that their times were fast enough, while Schumacher was bumped out at the very last moment, scoring the exact same time as Vettel. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Schumacher (P16), Vettel (P17), Stroll (P18), Albon (P19) and Latifi (P20).

In Q2, the tables started to turn. Mercedes chose to be the first ones to set a lap time and they kept their top two after Red Bull had scored their initial times as well. However, the image they had painted changed as soon as it was known that Verstappen was that close to Mercedes with used tyres. Meanwhile, slowly but surely, Bottas kept silently working on making it to Q3 with a time that would ensure he’d realise the dream.

The silver arrows seemed as if they’d be the only ones remaining in their garages for the second and last stint of Q2, but they eventually relented and did leave the pit lane with used tyres. A few drivers improved their times, but not enough to modify the standing order and kick someone out of making it to Q3 in the last second. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Ricciardo (P11), Zhou (P12), Tsunoda (P13), Gasly (P14) and Magnussen (P15).

Pérez was the first out in Q3, his lap having a chorus of cheers exclusively aimed at him, which for the first time in the whole qualifying session, finally seemed to boost him. Despite his teammate and Russell overtaking him, as Hamilton’s lap got deleted for exceeding track limits, he seemed closer than he had been since qualifying had kicked off. Bottas, still going strong, split the Ferraris in the first outing.

The last stint followed the exact same recipe as the others had done. Pérez and Sainz didn’t improve their positions, while Leclerc managed to finally overtake Bottas for sixth, but the Finn wasn’t done and reclaimed his high grid position, still sandwiched in between the Ferraris. Neither Mercedes could reach Verstappen’s time and the current world champion snagged one more pole position into his pocket.

Mercedes had looked strong during the weekend, specially after getting a 1-2 in FP3, but this is the season where Verstappen cannot be underestimated, no matter the circumstances. The Dutch driver didn’t let anyone else even smell the position of privilege, but both Mercedes are very close to him, which could mean a vicious fight for victory on Sunday, but only if Red Bull allows it.