What the teams said – Qualifying in Mexico
Verstappen was sensational in grabbing his second career pole at a track he tends to go so well at. And then he was handed a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow for yellow flags, which were waved due to Valtteri Bottas's crash. His wait to start first in Mexico continues, 12 months on from the disappointment of being pipped by his team mate in Mexican GP qualifying. As for Albon, he recovered well after the disappointment of yesterday's crash to come home fifth, 0.002s ahead of the Mercedes of Bottas.
Max Verstappen, 1st, 1:14.758
“It’s been a very good weekend so far and we have improved in every session. I enjoy driving here but of course everything needs to be working well together to get a good performance which it was today. I’m very happy to get pole and with the recent form of Ferrari I didn’t expect it to be honest but the car was working really well. I have to say a big thank you to the Team because the last three races have been a little more tricky for us but everyone kept pushing hard and never gave up on trying to understand what we could do better. This weekend we really showed that the hard work paid off and we have a very good car. It is very disappointing to be handed a grid penalty for the race and Ferrari will be very quick tomorrow so tyre life will be important but we have a really good race car so it should be a close fight.”
Alex Albon, 5th, 1:15.336
“Qualifying P5 was not great but not bad either. Considering the crash in FP2 yesterday, I’m quite happy and I think it was a good comeback. We didn’t have many laps in FP3 so I only really had FP1 to learn the track which meant it was going to be difficult coming into qualifying. I’m obviously happy for the Team and Max to get pole but I left a bit on the table on my side. Max proved the car is better than P5 but I’m there fighting with the guys, I would have just liked to be a bit closer, but let’s see what we can do tomorrow. I think it should be a good one and there’s a long run into Turn 1 so anything can happen. Max’s race pace looked very good yesterday and the car is quick so I’ll do some homework tonight and study the data. We saw yesterday that the tyre degradation is really high so let’s see how tomorrow unfolds. I think a lot of tyre management will be needed and hopefully we can make up some positions.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“Max put in a phenomenal performance throughout qualifying. He was quickest in Q1, second quickest in Q2 and quickest in Q3 to achieve his second pole position of the season. It is a great shame that Max has lost pole position and will now start from fourth place on the grid following a penalty for being found to not slow sufficiently following Bottas’ incident. For Alex, after losing it in FP2 yesterday and reducing his track time on his first visit here it was a great recovery from him to qualify P5 and very close to Lewis ahead. We have some strong grid positions for tomorrow’s Grand Prix and track position is important here because it’s very difficult to overtake and follow another car at this circuit. Now let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Ferrari topped the timing sheets in final practice courtesy of Leclerc and looked favourites for pole. They made it through Q2 on the medium tyre and looked quick in Q3, but couldn't match Verstappen through the corners. Vettel lifted off in his final flying lap due to Valtteri Bottas's crash but will start on the front-row, while Leclerc was promoted to pole position – after Max Verstappen's three-place grid penalty. That made it a record 65th front-row lockout for The Scuderia.
Sebastian Vettel, 3rd, 1:15.170
"I am not entirely happy with today, because I could have had a better result if it had not been for the yellow flags for Bottas’ accident. On the first run I was probably a bit too cautious in sector 2 after a very good first sector, then I lost my rhythm a bit and was too aggressive in the final part of the lap and had a big snap in the last corner. I felt quite confident that I could find more time on my second run, but then the yellow flags came out. That can happen some times. The key tomorrow will be to have a car that works well, to look after the tyres and to choose the right strategy. The top three teams all start on the same tyre, but it will be a very close race."
Charles Leclerc, 2nd, 1:15.024
"We knew that our competitors would be strong this weekend. After FP3, we realized that we might have a shot at pole but when they put it all together in qualifying today they were just too quick. Even if I did a lap that I was quite happy with on my first run in Q3, I was still a tenth behind Max so I tried to go out with a different setup for the last lap. Unfortunately, I ended up having some oversteer and lost time, especially in the last sector.
It is a bit of an odd situation starting from pole now after finishing qualifying in second, but our approach will stay the same. It will be very important to retain the lead after the start. The one who is first after turn 3 will have a huge plus because cooling is a big factor for everyone here, putting the following car at a disadvantage. The straight to turn 1 is very long, so I will have to try to capitalize on our straight line speed there. I will give it my all and hope to have an exciting race tomorrow."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"We are very happy to have secured our sixth consecutive pole position with both cars on the front row. It will be a tough race and, as we saw on Friday, tyre degradation will be a significant factor. All the top teams opted to start the race on the Mediums as a consequence of this degradation, so it could be a one or a two stop race. We will see different strategies come into play. The qualifying time sheet shows that we are all very evenly matched, so it will be a tense and difficult race with everything to play for and strategy will definitely play an important role."
The big question today was could Mercedes find the pace to stay with the Ferraris and Red Bulls when it mattered? Based on the first laps in Q3, the answer was no, with Hamilton fourth and Bottas sixth. But then the Finn crashed heavily on his final run, fortunately able to walk away. Lewis Hamilton was promoted to P3 on the grid after Max Verstappen's three-place grid drop.
Lewis Hamilton, 4th, 1:15.262
"We knew coming to Mexico that this track would be difficult for us. I gave it everything today and I think I managed to extract the maximum from the car, but it simply wasn't enough for pole. I think third place was maybe possible, but not more. P4 still puts us in a good fighting position for Sunday and I hope I get a good start. This race is always a hard one for us and I don't anticipate it to be easy tomorrow. Maybe we'll do the rain dance tonight for a wet track which could spice things up a little bit. But it's going to be a real hard challenge, the Red Bulls were fastest in the long runs, so it will be very hard to keep up with them. There won't be a huge amount of strategic variation, but it will be interesting to see whose tyres last long - that'll be the name of the game. We'll try to hold on to the top players, the Red Bulls and Ferraris, and I'm looking forward to that fight."
Valtteri Bottas, 6th, 1:15.338
"That was obviously not an ideal end to a day that was otherwise going okay. The car felt better today, we made some progress with the set-up. I was happier with the stability of the car today and could push it harder. Qualifying was pretty straightforward, we set the fastest time in Q2 on the Mediums as we planned and the performance on those tyres seemed good. I knew that I had to risk it in the last run of Q3 to gain positions, so I tried to squeeze everything out of the car. The lap was good until the last corner where I went a bit wide on the exit on the dusty part of the track and that's where I lost it and hit the wall. I'm all okay, but I've unfortunately given the boys in the garage some extra work to do tonight. Hopefully we can avoid taking any penalties for tomorrow. It's annoying because looking at the times, I think I had a chance at qualifying third. But it's a new day tomorrow and it'll be a very different story where tyre management will be crucial. Let's see what tomorrow brings, but we will for sure give it everything."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"We always knew that this track would be difficult for us and today confirmed our expectations. We were not in the fight for pole and while we might have improved in the second run of Q3, I don't think we had a shot at a front row place. Both Lewis and Valtteri were on decent laps at the end of Q3 before Valtteri lost it on the exit of the last corner and crashed. Thankfully he's ok, but unfortunately his car took a bit of a beating. We're assessing the damage at the moment and hope that we don't have to change any parts that would result in a grid penalty. Lewis will start from P4 which is not ideal, but tomorrow will be all about tyre life, so this might create some opportunity for us. We know we are usually stronger on Sunday, so we look forward to the challenge."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"Being half a second off pole is not great but nor is it something we can easily explain. There's no particular corner that we are struggling with, it just looks like our tyres are not quite ready at the start of the lap and that they are done by the final sector. There's almost nothing on the straights to Red Bull so we need to be looking at how we are using the tyres, how the chassis is working to understand where we can improve. Valtteri was also suffering with the tyres dropping in the last few corners of the final run, and just ran onto the kerb which dragged him into the wall. It looked pretty bad at first but at least he's ok and we're hoping we can get the car back together without taking penalties. We'd made quite a few changes overnight to improve our race pace and haven't had a chance to check those so tomorrow will be a journey of discovery. However, the tyre degradation here will open up some options on strategy so we're not ready to give up hope just yet. We've shown good race pace at almost every track so we are optimistic we can get ourselves back into the mix tomorrow."
Sainz once again looked the pick of the McLaren drivers, out-qualifying his team mate for the fifth race in a row. The Spaniard did opportunistically try to make it through Q2 on the medium compound tyre but lacked the pace and had to switch to the soft, which Norris also ran. That could leave them vulnerable at the start tomorrow to those with free tyre choice behind.
Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:16.014
“It’s been a good day for us. The fact that I gave it a go on the Medium tyre in Q2 is a sign that we are on the right path and it just shows the confidence that we have in the car. Without the traffic in sector 3, I would have been close to the cut, but risking Q3 with a second run on the Medium was a bit unnecessary given the pace I knew I had on the Soft.
“Anyway, another final good lap means I start behind the top teams tomorrow and that gives us a good fighting position. We will have to manage the tyres carefully but I’m very happy with today’s result. I’m proud of the whole team and of how we keep on pushing. Hopefully tomorrow we can finish it off.”
Lando Norris, 8th, 1:16.322
“I’m pretty happy with the outcome. I struggled this weekend in terms of just not having a great feeling in the car. Finished up P8 and I don’t think it could have been much better than that with Carlos in P7.
“The team here in Mexico and the guys back at the factory have done a great job. Now we focus on tomorrow. My aim is for a good start and to have a clean race and try to grab some points.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“Another very good qualifying session for Carlos and Lando together with the team maximising the potential of our cars. We continued our good form in Free Practice this morning and carried that momentum through into qualifying.
“Starting P7 and P8 puts us in a very good position tomorrow again to score good points. We are looking forward to another exciting Mexican Grand Prix, which might see some different strategies tomorrow potentially mixing up the order we have seen after qualifying.”
Gasly sat out most of FP3, reportedly battling a bug. The Frenchman did manage a few late laps in the session, but was always going to struggle to match his team mate as a result. Both cars lived up to their potential by making it all the way to Q3 in qualifying after looking strong on one-lap pace yesterday, with the Russian finishing ninth to Gasly's P10 in the intra-team battle. But starting on used soft tyres, they will have their hands full to keep those behind at bay.
Daniil Kvyat, 9th, 1:16.469
“I’m pretty happy with today’s performance and all of my laps were quite competitive. I haven’t been super confident in qualifying lately, as we’ve been having some problems, but now it’s good to be back in shape over one lap again. Only McLaren was in front of us today, so it’s been a good result and it’s great when you can put everything together. I think it will be a tricky race for everyone tomorrow, so we will see how things pan out. I hope we can make good use out of our starting position in the race and stay inside the top 10.”
Pierre Gasly, 10th, 1:16.586
“Overall, I’m pretty happy with my performance to make it through to Q3 for the second time in a row after Suzuka and I think we can be quite pleased with that. The car worked well the whole weekend so far and it’s been quite a good day. It’s not been an easy day though as I haven’t been feeling great, but I’ll rest up tonight and feel as good as I can tomorrow. It’s going to be tricky to start on the Softer compound with Sergio right behind us on presumably the Prime, but we still have a chance to score some points tomorrow.”
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance
“After a strong showing on Friday, Free Practice 3 was looking more difficult with a damp track at the start and with Pierre not feeling totally well in the morning. After a run on intermediate tyres to check the cars and perform a couple of practice starts, we elected to do two runs on the Soft tyres on a track that was improving fast. Despite hitting a lot of traffic, both cars were able to put in some good lap times, confirming yesterday’s competitiveness.
“Qualifying has been strong for the team, with both cars in Q3. We tried to qualify on the Medium tyre in Q2, but we were just not fast enough and only the top six cars were actually able to pass through on the yellow tyre. Both drivers kept improving on the Softs, run after run, to finish close to the McLarens on the last attempt.
“The race will be challenging for the PU, tyres and brake management, as is always the case here in Mexico. Some of our direct competitors are close to us on the grid with a free tyre choice, so we will review all the options tonight to defend our positions and bring home some good points.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“This was an excellent qualifying session with Max taking his and our second pole of the season after Hungary and it is particularly satisfying to have got all four of our cars into the top 10 for the first time since Monaco. All our drivers did well, Alex getting his best ever qualifying result while Pierre deserves a special appreciation for doing so well on a day when he was not feeling well and along with Daniil they both got the most out of their package. In the unique conditions that we race in here in Mexico, we produced an excellent package of chassis and PU. But it’s tomorrow that counts and we must be prepared for any situation although the chance of rain seems to be getting smaller. However, it will be a very tricky race, with tyre performance being the most critical factor. Given our grid positions, we must aim for the best possible result tomorrow.”
Renault had a disastrous final practice. A hydraulic leak kept Ricciardo in the pits for the whole session and after one exploratory lap, Hulkenberg likewise was pulled in with the same issue - which turned out to be a pollution of one of the cooling systems. With no track time, both drivers did well to make it to Q2 before aborting their final laps in what looked like a tactical manoeuvre to enable them to have free tyre choice for the race.
Nico Hulkenberg, 12th, 1:16.885
“Given the circumstances, we’ll take twelfth on the grid. It was difficult to prepare for qualifying without the morning run, so it was a bit of a cold start for us. The mechanics did a great job to prepare the car in time so credit to them for their effort. I think we have a race on our hands tomorrow, especially as we have a free choice of tyres and some flexibility on strategy. It might work in our favour as our race pace has looked good recently.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 13th, 1:16.933
“It’s frustrating not to have finished higher up, but I just couldn’t execute it today. Firstly, the team did an awesome job to get ourselves out of a difficult situation. It wasn’t easy out there, but we made a good start in Q1, which was relatively smooth, but Q2 was just a bit messy. We’ll try and bounce back tomorrow. I’m sure to be feeling fired up.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“We were only missing a very small amount of time to go through to Q3 and not having any running this morning certainly hurt us. But, credit to the team and mechanics from both sides of the Channel, who had a very challenging day. To get the cars ready for qualifying was excellent and the drivers did an incredible job to go into qualifying with minimal preparation. We’re looking to do our best from where we are tomorrow; we’ve had good race pace in previous races so there’s everything to play for.”
Stroll exited in Q1 for the 13th time in 18 races - not a qualifying record he would want, but he does at least tend to make up for it in the races. Perez did much better, finishing 11th after missing out on Q3 by just 0.008s. But with free tyre choice at a race that is notoriously tough on these Pirelli tyres, he might find himself much better placed than those ahead that are forced to start on the soft compound.
Sergio Perez, 11th, 1:16.687
“I think that P11 is a great place to start my home race. Considering the pace that we’ve had this weekend, it’s a result that gives us a good chance for tomorrow. We will have a free choice of tyres at the start so we can look at all the strategy options and choose the one that works best. Hopefully, that will give us the opportunity to score some important points. I want a good result tomorrow for the fans because they have given me a tremendous amount of support this week. They always make this event so special and the atmosphere is amazing around the whole circuit. I’m really looking forward to putting together a strong race.”
Lance Stroll, 16th, 1:18.065
“I am very disappointed. We had looked competitive, but we were quicker in final practice on a damp track than in qualifying, so we need to look into what happened and understand where we missed out. We made some changes to the set-up ahead of qualifying, but we didn’t achieve the balance we wanted, which is why we were so far off the pace. I just didn’t get the car switched on: I had no grip, no balance, so it was very frustrating. We have plenty of work to do now to recover tomorrow, but there is a long race ahead of us. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“A very closely fought qualifying session today. Sergio will start from P11, which means he will be the first driver with a free choice of starting tyre. We need to make that count when we evaluate the strategy options this evening. Lance just missed out on progressing to Q2 and he will start from P16, also with a free tyre choice. He had a lock-up on his first run and wasn’t as happy with the car compared to yesterday. Lance needs a good start tomorrow, which will give him a chance to score points. The indications from yesterday’s long runs are that we have competitive race pace – certainly comparable to the teams we are fighting in the championship. I remain confident we can come away with points.”
After yesterday's off-track antics, Alfa will be relieved that their drivers managed to keep all four wheels off the grass today, but unfortunately they couldn't find the speed to make it to Q3. Nonetheless, both cars into Q2 is a decent result at a track where they haven't looked particularly strong. Raikkonen did at least manage to beat Giovinazzi for the first time since Italy though.
Kimi Raikkonen, 14th, 1:16.967
“P14 is not what we wanted but that’s how it is. The margin to finishing in a higher position wasn’t big: it’s disappointing as the car has been pretty ok all weekend and we looked more competitive in the earlier sessions. We’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow: we have the chance to start with a different tyre to some of the cars in front of us, so hopefully we can make it work in our favour.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 15th, 1:17.269
“It was a difficult qualifying for us. I did a mistake in the final sector and that cost me a few tenths, but I don’t think it would have changed much in the end. Tomorrow will not be an easy race, but we have to look at the opportunities we can get. Degradation will be high, especially for those starting on softs, so choosing our own starting compound is the one positive of our qualifying position. Finding the right strategy and managing the tyres will be important if we are to make up some ground.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“After our promising start of the weekend, it’s disappointing to qualify in P14 and P15. These are not the starting positions we were expecting, but we must not forget that this race has seen plenty of drivers making their way through the field thanks to the strategy. Our focus is fully on anticipating tomorrow’s conditions, especially when it comes to the tyres, and finding a plan that allows us to climb some places.”
Haas don't tend to go well here, losing both cars in Q1 for the preceding three seasons. History repeated itself today, with Magnussen at least managing to beat his team mate to 17th. Grosjean had a day to forget, a spin at the start of Q1 wrecking his opening flying lap to boot. It looks like it could be a long day for the team tomorrow.
Romain Grosjean, 18th, 1:18.599
“Last night we made a fair bit of change to the car, and in FP3 the car felt really good in terms of rear-end, so we were lacking front-end. I thought if we could balance the front-end and keep that rear-end, we’re going to make it to Q2. I was confident of one lap pace, I thought we can do this. We rebalanced everything, we got into qualifying, and I got into Turn 1 and I spun – just on braking. The changes we’ve got to do from one session to another is huge, it’s not something you normally do. We have to try to understand everything, we haven’t quite got on top of it. Hopefully we can find something.”
Kevin Magnussen, 17th, 1:18.436
“We had kind of predicted this, which doesn’t make it good, but it’s what we expected. We had oversteer, understeer, a bit of everything. We’re competitive people, you always go into each session to try your best, but it wasn’t to be today. We’ll just try and get out of it what we can tomorrow. We’ll try and be in the best position to take whatever comes our way.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“No big surprise to me about this qualifying performance, I saw it coming, but that still doesn’t make it right. At this level of altitude, we just don’t carry enough downforce to let us do a decent run – nothing new. We need to work on our aerodynamics and just try to limit the damage this year, and not carry this performance into next year. Everybody’s working hard on getting it better for next year. That’s the only thing we can and have to do.”
Kubica and Russell were well off the pace today, but the rookie at least kept his impressive streak of beating his team mate at every qualifying this season going. With Haas likewise struggling, those four cars could have an entertaining battle towards the back of the field tomorrow.
Robert Kubica, 20th, 1:20.179
"It was a difficult qualifying session in Mexico. Unfortunately, I felt no grip in the car today and the laptime reflected that. We will have to see what we can do tomorrow in the race."
George Russell, 19th, 1:18.823
"It was really tricky out there for everybody, but I was pleased with the lap. There was still a bit more in there, but we are definitely going in the right direction. I think our long run pace is better than our single lap pace, especially versus the Haas cars and the Alfa Romeos, so we will have to see what we can do tomorrow."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"As forecast, the track was damp and cold for FP3 and there was little opportunity to learn anything useful ahead of qualifying. Therefore, we opted to check our race setup and so both cars completed longer runs.
"Qualifying was warmer and again the tyre behaviour changed. We took the opportunity to complete three runs with each driver as we looked for the best way to prepare the tyres for a lap. The team did an excellent job to give both drivers good opportunities to prepare their tyres and complete clean laps. George did a good job, finding time with each run to finish frustratingly close to Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean. Robert struggled a little more and made a mistake on his second run, which lost him some momentum.
"Tomorrow will be a difficult day for the field, with PU, brake and tyre management all potentially tricky. On Friday we were more competitive on high fuel than we were on low fuel and so we will look to race the cars ahead, with the Haas and Alfa Romeos in particular being realistic opponents."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"Track conditions have been very difficult all weekend, with cool temperatures and the cars sliding quite a lot. We had more overnight rain, which reset the track for FP3, which was run mostly on intermediate tyres. As a result, we saw a lot of track evolution during qualifying, with the fastest times coming at the very end of each session. Under these circumstances, it was no real surprise to see the top three teams opt to start the race on the medium tyre, which should allow for a longer and more consistent opening stint. But despite the complex driving conditions and a tyre nomination that was a step harder than last year, Verstappen's lap time on his final Q3 run was actually faster than the overall track record set last year by the smallest possible fraction: a sign of just how close the margins are around this circuit".