RACE DEBRIEF

    Mercedes pulled off a shock result in qualifying for the Mexico City Grand Prix, claiming a front-row lock-out to overturn Red Bull’s early weekend momentum. But it was the team’s outgoing driver Valtteri Bottas, rather than title protagonist Lewis Hamilton, who took pole, with a lap the Finn claimed was one of his best ever.

    Red Bull’s Sergio Perez had led the final practice session of the Mexico City Grand Prix weekend, the local hero a full 0.651s faster than Lewis Hamilton could manage for Mercedes.

    WATCH: Lance Stroll brings out the red flags with Q1 crash in Mexico City GP qualifying

    But Bottas then led the opening segment of qualifying – while a stunning first effort in Q3 was enough to give the Finn provisional pole, with a time of 1m 15.875s. And with none of his frontrunning rivals able to improve on their final efforts in Q3 – Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both getting caught out after Yuki Tsunoda went off track in the sister AlphaTauri – Bottas was left to claim his 19th pole position.

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    Bottas received a special Juan Manuel Fangio trophy

    “It was an awesome lap,” said a delighted Bottas afterwards, before being presented with a special Juan Manuel Fangio tribute trophy by three-time champion Sir Jackie Stewart.

    “Especially my lap in the first run in Q3. I couldn’t quite match the same last sector in the second one, but I think honestly that first run in Q3 was one of my best laps, and it’s a good feeling.”

    AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from qualifying for the Mexico City Grand Prix

    Asked where Mercedes’ step in performance had come from compared to FP3 – where Bottas had finished P4 behind Hamilton – the Finn replied: “This morning actually the car was feeling good. We were lacking a bit of pace on Lap 1. But I think with higher temperatures this afternoon than in the morning, it came our way I think, and also I tried to optimise everything with tyre temps and set-up, and it was a joy to drive.”

    So that was job one done for Bottas – with Hamilton backing up his team mate by taking P2 on the grid, 0.145s off the Finn’s pace.

    2021 Mexico City GP Qualifying: Bottas snatches surprise pole in Mexico

    But with a long run down to Turn 1, and the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez set to start P3 and P4 just behind the Mercedes, Bottas was wary of how the opening laps could play out at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

    “It is a long straight [down to Turn 1],” said Bottas. “And for sure the cars behind with a tow will have good opportunities, so we’ll need a good start.

    “At least as a team it’s great that we have two cars ahead,” he added, “and hopefully we can try and keep our positions somehow.”

    Although Bottas might be on pole, meanwhile, Mercedes team orders could come into play, with Hamilton currently 12 points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ standings, with five Grands Prix to run this season, including Sunday’s Mexico City Grand Prix.