Mexico City pole-sitter Verstappen expects ‘good fight’ for victory as home hero Perez rues costly qualifying issue
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen is readying himself for a scrap with Mercedes pair George Russell and Lewis Hamilton during the Mexico City Grand Prix, after beating them to pole position in qualifying.
Verstappen and the Mercedes drivers were closely matched after the first Q3 runs at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, but the reigning world champion pulled three-tenths clear with an impressive final lap of 1m 17.775s.
Admitting that he found it difficult to get into a rhythm ahead of his pole-setting effort, Verstappen reflected: “I think every session it got a little bit better and, in Q3, we finally could push a little bit more with the car and [deliver] two decent laps.
“I’m very happy, as around here, for me at least, it’s very hard to nail a lap – it’s always very low grip. There are a few kerbs you have to perfectly hit to actually gain time, so it’s definitely not the easiest of qualifying [sessions] – it’s the same with the tyre warm-up. But it seems like in Q3 we had it under control.”
Verstappen will be looking to make it four wins from five races in Mexico on Sunday, having claimed victory there in 2017, 2018 and 2021 – the 2020 event cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Assessing his chances of keeping Russell and Hamilton at bay, Verstappen said: “I’ve started everywhere except pole here, and we won the races! It’s always important to have a good start here. I think our top speed is not too bad to defend at least with people who are in the draft, so we just need to focus on that.
“I think if we have good race pace, it will be a good fight [for the victory]. Of course, we’ll try to stay ahead [of Russell and Hamilton] into Turn 1.”
Verstappen’s team mate, home favourite Sergio Perez, was unable to join in the fight for pole position after encountering technical problems in the grid-deciding session, with the Mexican having to settle for P4, and left to ponder what might have been.
“It was a big shame. We had an electrical issue throughout quali, and with DRS we were struggling and so on. It was important to make sure we got everything right, but I was pretty much blind through quali – I had no reference lap time, I had no information on my brake balance or times, so it was just a mess,” he explained.
“When I look back at my quali, I nearly got knocked out in Q1, and in Q2, so to be P4 is not the end of the world, but I really believe we could have fought for pole position.”