Vettel predicts tight Mexico qualifying despite Ferrari Friday pace advantage
On the face of it, Ferrari appeared the team to beat after the first day of running for the Mexican Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel heading Free Practice 2 from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. But the team’s sixth pole in as many races was far from a foregone conclusion, according to the German driver…
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton led FP1 in Mexico, but finished just 0.119s ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc despite running the quicker soft rubber compared to Leclerc’s mediums. But then in the qualifying simulations of FP2, Vettel took the advantage, as he headed the session from Verstappen.
But with the Red Bull driver just 0.115s adrift, and Mercedes looking to improve overnight – with Valtteri Bottas having finished a disappointing six-tenths down on Vettel in FP2 – Vettel was still predicting a tight fight for pole at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
It looked very tight today – and I think it will be tomorrow
“It looked very tight today,” he said, “and I think it will be tomorrow between the three teams.
“I think it was okay,” he added, appearing to downplay Ferrari’s apparently indomitable pace. “I think we still have areas we can improve the car, the balance and the feel. I guess it will be tight tomorrow.”
Leclerc finished FP2 less happy than his team mate, 0.465s off and having suffered two major spins in the session, to cap off a day he described as “tricky”.
"FP1 was quite good, FP2 was very tricky," he said. "I struggled overall with the driving and the balance of the car and tomorrow I just need to come back stronger because FP2 was not as good as I wanted.”
So, Ferrari may have been downplaying their chances heading into Friday evening in Mexico – but with Verstappen claiming the Scuderia’s straight-line pace in Mexico was “miles ahead” of anyone else, another fight between Vettel and Leclerc for pole appeared to be what their rivals were predicting at least…