What the teams said – Qualifying in Mexico
Well, where did that come from? Trailing their Red Bull rivals in both FP2 and FP3, Mercedes looked assured of only the second row in Mexico City. But their car came alive as the temperatures started to creep ever higher and they looked blisteringly quick on the medium tyre in Q2. Roll on Q3 and they maintained that advantage on the soft, able to extract enough grip on the first flying run and not needing a double warm up lap. There wasn’t much in it, but in the end Bottas grabbed pole thanks to his incredible final sector on his first run.
Valtteri Bottas, 1st, 1:15.875
"It was an awesome lap! Especially my lap in the first run of Q3. I couldn't quite match my sectors in the second one, but I think honestly that first run in Q3 was one of my best laps. It's a good feeling! This morning actually the car was really 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. We also tried to optimise everything with tyres, temps and setup and it was a joy to drive! Looking ahead to the start, it is a long, long straight and for sure, the cars behind with the tow will have good opportunities so we'll need a good start and at least, as a team, it's good that we have two cars ahead and hopefully we can try and keep the positions."
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:16.020
"Valtteri did an amazing job, I'm so proud of him! I think he's been driving so well these last few races so it's great for the team - they've been working hard. We didn't think we had the pace this weekend so to lock out the front row is pretty special and obviously gives us a good fight with the others tomorrow. I'm not sure where we found the performance compared to Red Bull but once we got to qualifying we had good pace. I'm as shocked as everyone but we'll still take it!"
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was a fantastic qualifying session and we managed to put together the puzzle piece by piece as qualifying played out. To lock out the front row here in Mexico is a strong starting point for tomorrow's race, and it also shows the hard work that has gone into adapting our car and power unit to the challenges of running at altitude. It was very enjoyable to see how Valtteri is driving right now - he was unbelievable in Turkey, and he's working so well with the team; Lewis was on a potential pole lap on his second run, but then had a small lock up that cost him, but P2 is a very solid starting position. I'm happy that we have wrestled a bit of momentum our way - but in the end, it's about doing the proper job and session by session trying to understand and learn about the car. You saw in Austin that we had a good direction and lost the performance over the weekend; here, it's been the opposite. But there are no prizes handed out on Saturday and we've still got a big and tough job to do tomorrow."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"A phenomenal pole by Valtteri and great to get Lewis up there for another Mercedes front row. We've been battling with the car a bit all weekend and the drivers haven't found it easy to get the whole lap together. That's made it difficult to know whether to change our approach to stick to plan. That picture didn't really look to have changed particularly through the first two sessions in qualifying. Happily the final session was quite different, it looked like we were finally getting the grip out of the soft tyres and at the same time Red Bull started to struggle a bit. It was very encouraging to see the straightline speed today; the power unit seems to be working well in the thin air thanks to a lot of good work that has taken place in Brixworth over the last few weeks. Today was certainly a nice surprise but the race here is very tough on the car and there's no guarantee our speed today will translate into the long run. We're expecting it to be close and a good run to Turn One will be all important - there's a long way to go but after today the team have put themselves in a position where there is everything to play for."
The Bulls looked quick in final practice and by enough of a margin that pole looked assured, with the only question mark which team mate it would go to. After sailing through Q1, the middle segment of qualifying proved eye opening as Mercedes started to steam ahead, but it was only in Q3 that the pace advantage became apparent. With third and fourth on the grid locked in, it all came down to the final runs to see if Red Bull could nab pole and Perez was the first to blink, running wide after seeing Tsunoda go off. Verstappen then lifted thinking yellow flags were coming, and that was that.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:16.225
“P3 isn’t so bad considering we were really struggling to get the tyres to work today, we were sliding around a lot. My first lap in Q3 wasn’t great, the grip was terrible so when I saw the gap to Mercedes, I thought that was fair enough. We needed to find a better balance in the car so we tried to make a few changes to how our car was running and then I think the second lap of Q3 was looking okay. I don’t know what happened in front of me but I saw Checo and Yuki both go wide and I saw a lot of dust so I thought that a car had crashed. I’ve been caught out by yellow flags here before so I slowed down, as a result I lost a lot of momentum and time. It’s a shame that we both aren’t locking out the front row tomorrow after being so competitive all weekend. Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully the race will be exciting, there’s a long run to the first corner so let’s see what happens.”
Sergio Perez, 4th, 1:16.342
“The car was not the same as it was in FP3 after we had to change the rear wing, but we did couple of adjustments in the session and once we got on top of it, all of a sudden I found Yuki off his racing line ahead of me at turn 11, which hurt my final lap. He wasn’t a distraction it was that I was too close to him and it forced me to brake. Once I did that I lost my downforce and I think I got a lot of dirty air, lost the car unfortunately and lost my lap. We didn’t have the pace across qualifying, but I think I could have improved a bit going into that final lap, I was up already on my previous lap and think I could have improved by a couple of tenths. We have to analyse as a Team to make sure tomorrow we have a good race car and are able to put pressure on the Mercedes ahead of us. I think the launch we have tomorrow is more important than the grid position, there is a long race ahead and we will try to be there, I am optimistic and I hope all the fans enjoy it. The crowd have been amazing, they are giving me so much love and support. I just look forward to tomorrow now and hope I can celebrate with them on the podium, I will give my maximum.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“Today has been disappointing because we felt we could have finished with both drivers on the front row, but we have both on the second row of the grid and they can have a great race from there. Max starts on the clean side of the grid so that’s a positive. It is going to be very tight in the race tomorrow, we need to nail the start with both the drivers. We are disappointed for today but optimistic for tomorrow and we still think we’ve got a great chance in this race, but it’s certainly looking harder than it was this morning.”
Tsunoda’s grid penalties here are such a shame, as it has been a track that not only the rookie has taken to, but also one where the car looks quick. Both drivers made it all the way to Q3, with the Japanese youngster expertly towing his team mate and helping Gasly to a ‘best of the rest’ P5. But he then unwittingly played a part in proceedings up front when in an attempt to get out of the way, he got it all a bit wrong, ran wide and distracted Perez in the Red Bull behind.
Pierre Gasly, 5th, 1:16.456
“Today was so good and I’m extremely happy to be P5, what a fantastic quali. The team have done a great job with the car, it seems to work well on this track, and we’ve felt really strong this weekend. I tried to put everything together in qualifying and managed to finish three tenths ahead of sixth place. Yuki also did really well and helped in Q3 by giving me a tow. Hopefully we can finish well tomorrow, we’ll continue to focus on ourselves this weekend and try and score as many points as possible here in Mexico.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 9th, 1:17.158
“I’m happy overall with today’s performance. My main goal for qualifying was to help my team mate, due to the penalty I’ll have for tomorrow’s race, and I think as a team we did a really good job as we continue our fight for fifth in the championship. I think we’ve shown that the pace is there this weekend, so I’m aiming to make my way forward tomorrow in the race and looking towards the points.”
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance
“Following a positive Friday, our focus was on tidying up everything to extract the maximum from the car in qualifying. In FP3 it was very difficult to find a good window for traffic, Pierre couldn’t get a clean lap and Yuki also struggled to find clean space on track. Despite these difficulties, we remained competitive, which gave us confidence for the afternoon.
"The qualifying session started with some action, as Stroll caused a red flag, but after this our plan was executed perfectly. Thanks to Yuki helping Pierre with a tow in Q2 and Q3 we have been able to secure fifth place on the grid. This is a fantastic achievement for the team and shows the strength of our package here in Mexico. Yuki will start further back as he has taken a complete, new power unit. He’s beaten some of our direct competitors who were in the same situation, so this is very good. Now we need to convert this great pace into many points tomorrow as the fight with Alpine for fifth place in the constructor championship is tighter than ever. We have it in our hands, so we will carefully review the strategy options tonight and give it our all tomorrow.”
Leclerc struggled for grip yesterday and today didn’t go much better as he squirmed around in practice, with a spin for good measure. Making the top 10 considering he hasn’t always looked comfortable here is a solid result. As for Sainz, he seemed to be loving the conditions but had a heart-stopping moment in Q2 when he lost power. Fortunately the team got him going again and he grabbed a very decent sixth on the grid, although it remains to be seen if those power issues will return to haunt him.
Charles Leclerc, 8th, 1:16.837
"I’m quite disappointed. It has been a difficult weekend all along, but good progress from the practice sessions to qualifying. I put everything together today. I was strong in Q1, Q2 and the first run of Q3. Unfortunately I made a mistake on the second run in Q3 and finished the session without improving my lap. I know that I had the potential to do better, but such is life. Tomorrow is what counts and I will give it everything. Our race pace is looking good, but it will be very difficult to overtake here. Reliability will play an important role, because of the unique conditions at this track, but this will be the same for everyone."
Carlos Sainz, 6th, 1:16.761
"This was one of the most eventful and stressful qualifying sessions of my career. After the engine starting procedure issue, the red flag and the traffic, in the end, the result wasn’t too bad, but I’ve been fast all weekend and wanted more. With so many things going on I wasn’t able to get into the right rhythm and didn’t get a clean lap until the last attempt in Q3. The lap was not even a perfect one, but given how the session unfolded I cannot be too disappointed, although I would have preferred to have the same feeling with the car as in free practice. The race will be challenging as with thin air you have to manage tyres and temperatures, but it will be the same for everybody. The start will be very important. The dirty side is especially tricky here in Mexico but we’ll try our best to maximize our starting position. We’ll go for it and try to score good points!"
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"There’s no point denying we were expecting to do better. We felt we had the potential to be third in the pecking order behind the two title contender teams and from what we could see up to Q2 this afternoon, it seemed achievable. But for various reasons, things did not go our way in the final part of the session, although we must admit Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri was quicker than us, even without the tow he got from his team-mate. This also made the difference with regards to Daniel Ricciardo, our main rival in the fight for third. Despite this, we could have got both our drivers ahead of him, but Charles didn’t get the cleanest of laps on his final run, partly because of traffic and ended up behind him by just a few hundredths. Therefore, we cannot be happy with how today turned out, but it’s Sunday that counts, when the points are given out. We know it will be a very tough race on a track where it’s easy to make a mistake. Another unknown could be reliability given the thin air encountered here in Mexico City. Getting the strategy right will also be important."
McLaren opted to change Norris’ power unit here this weekend, thus relegating him to the back of the field. As such, his role today was to tow his team mate and try and give Ricciardo a few extra tenths. The Aussie wound up splitting the Ferrari boys, but he’ll need to get in front tomorrow if McLaren are to hang onto P3 in the constructors’.
Daniel Ricciardo, 7th, 1:16.763
“It’s a little bittersweet because obviously Carlos [Sainz] is two-milliseconds in front, but to split the Ferraris is not too bad around here. We worked as a team well, with Lando giving me some help. I think the clean side of the grid should be OK tomorrow. I made a little mistake in Turn 13 which I think cost me sixth but the clean side of the grid isn’t a bad offset, so we’ll work with that.
“We did make improvements going into today, yesterday was tricky as we missed a lot of running. We hit the ground running and I think we have to be fairly pleased with P7. We’ll try to get a couple off the start tomorrow.”
Lando Norris, 10th, 1:36.830
“A good enough day, I don’t think there was a lot more we could do. We helped Daniel to get into the best position possible, which we achieved. We struggled a little bit with the car in general, but we’re still hopeful for a positive result. I think we can have a good race, but we’ll need to work hard tonight to give ourselves a good plan going into tomorrow”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
Today was all about teamwork. With Lando taking his fourth power unit of the season and going to the back of the grid, the challenge was to get Daniel as high up as possible, with Lando’s help. The team and the drivers developed a programme to do that and executed it very well this afternoon. We’ve achieved pretty much everything we wanted to achieve today.
“After a tough start into the weekend yesterday, the team stayed focused and worked hard and came back strongly today, with a car that was competitive on pace against our immediate rivals. Starting P7 and from the back of the grid means our drivers face different challenges tomorrow, so tonight we focus on preparing for those scenarios, while looking forward to another exciting race.”
Stroll knew he was starting at the back thanks to taking on a raft of new PU components. But he did try and qualify in order to ensure he started ahead of the other penalised drivers – only to crash heavily at the start of Q1. Losing the rear through the final corner, he hit the barriers pretty heavily and fortunately was okay. As for Vettel, he made Q2 and could go no further, but with free tyre choice and others set to drop back, suddenly his starting berth looks rather attractive.
Sebastian Vettel, 11th, 1:17.746
“It was a decent effort today. We tried to make it to Q3 on the Medium and I had two runs in Q2: my first was not very strong, and I think a tear-off stuck on the rear wing cost us some performance, but the second run was much better. I think we will start from ninth tomorrow, but let’s see how the grid looks when all the penalties are applied. That should give us a good platform to have a strong race. We have shown good pace on the long runs this weekend, so I think we can be up there fighting for good points. We also have free choice on tyres [as a result of qualifying 11th], so we will go away and look over the data to work out the best strategy for tomorrow.”
Lance Stroll, 20th, 1:20.873
“I am okay. I was a little bit too wide at the final corner, it was a bit dirty out there, and I lost the car at the exit due to a lack of grip. It is a big job for the team and the mechanics [to repair], so it is a shame. I wanted to see what we could do in qualifying and see how the car felt, even though we were set to start at the back of the grid anyway. We will do our best to work our way up the field in the race and gain some places tomorrow.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Early on in Q1, Lance had an accident at the last corner, and obviously the main thing is that he is OK. He was taken to the medical centre to undergo precautionary checks, and all his vital signs and x-rays were found to be normal. He will be fit to race tomorrow. Sebastian qualified 11th but we expect him to start the race from P9 as a result of grid penalties served on two drivers who qualified ahead of him.”
Alpine didn’t quite execute their strategy out there today. Using Ocon both to tow Alonso and to get the Frenchman ahead of the other cars with penalties, the Spaniard's pace disappeared and the team saw only the Frenchman progress into Q2. Once there Ocon didn’t want to make the top 10 and consign himself to starting on used soft tyres, so trundled around slowly and is likely to start on the back row for the race.
Esteban Ocon, 15th, 1:18.405
“Qualifying today was always going to be a challenge, especially knowing I have a grid penalty for the race with the engine change. We had a plan in place for qualifying, which was to help Fernando as much as possible with a tow to put him into Q3. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. Tomorrow will be a difficult race starting from the back of the grid, but we will fight as hard as we can and try to take advantage of any incidents or safety cars. It can be a tough race here, so I’m confident we can still have a good race. We will do our best as a team to make some progress and we’ll aim to sneak some points.”
Fernando Alonso, 16th, 1:18.452
“It’s not a good result for us today and it’s disappointing to see both cars finish outside of the top ten. We made some changes before qualifying but ultimately, I think my laps today could have been better. Before the red flag was waved, I was looking quite strong and I was happy with my lap, so it’s a shame that we got caught out by that. Then I couldn’t get a clean lap together in our two attempts on the one set of softs and we dropped out of qualifying. We start 12th tomorrow so it’s a bit better than the result showed after Q1 and I think it’ll be an interesting race. Let’s see what we can do as I believe points are still very possible.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It was a very tricky day for us today. We have some investigating to do on Fernando’s side because on his first run in Q1 before the red flag, he had excellent pace and was looking very comfortable. Then, on the next set of tyres, he was six tenths slower after half a lap. We need to understand what happened there and why he felt a lot less grip on that set of tyres. Esteban’s qualifying was always compromised for today with him starting from the back of the grid due to the Power Unit change. The aim for him was to go into Q2 and then give Fernando a tow like we saw with the McLarens and Alpha Tauris. Looking ahead to tomorrow, all is not lost. Fernando will move up to 12th on the grid with the various grid penalties. He will also have a free tyre choice, so it’s certainly not over and it can be a tough race here with plenty of opportunity to move through the field. We’ll still be looking to get him well into the points.”
With so many cars serving penalties here, this was a golden opportunity for Alfa to make Q3 and try and eat into that deficit to Williams in the constructors’. But it was not to be, with Giovinazzi spinning late on in Q2 to wreck his hopes, and Raikkonen aborting his lap as a result. The Finn also had to visit the stewards to explain why he crossed the pit lane entry twice during the red flag period in Q1, and was let off with his second reprimand of the weekend.
Kimi Raikkonen, 12th, 1:17.958
“I think we can be happy with today’s result: it’s my best qualifying of the year, it was very close and it could probably have been a little better or a little worse, a place more or a place less, so overall it’s okay. It’s still only qualifying and we need to do a good job tomorrow as well if we want to bring home some points. We’ll go out and do our best and see where we end up at the flag.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 14th, 1:18.290
“Another battle for the grid in which I feel we were very close to a place in Q3. P11 would have been possible but in the end we didn’t manage it: in my final lap, I locked the rears under braking – up until that moment, the lap wasn’t too bad. We’ll see what we can do from where we start: it will be a long race, especially considering the tyre degradation we are expecting, but if we have a clean race we can have a good shout for the points.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Having both cars in Q2 is a positive result and something that gives us confidence ahead of tomorrow’s race. We will be starting just outside the top ten, with a free choice of tyres, and we are in a good place to mount a big challenge for the points. The long run down the straight to turn one will be crucial, we’ll need to keep our noses clean in the opening stages and make the most of every opportunity we have. We have been knocking on the door of the points in every race lately so let’s give all we have to finish the job here.”
Russell has had an eventful weekend. A gearbox issue in FP2 curtailed his running yesterday and the resultant change means a five-place grid drop. His team then had a frantic couple of hours after a PU issue was detected, swapping out the unit between sessions for another in his ‘pool’. But despite all the bluster back stage, out on track Russell nailed his final lap in Q1 to move forward, while his team mate had to make do with P17.
George Russell, 13th, 1:18.172
"The engineers and the mechanics did a great job as they have worked very hard over the last 24 hours changing two gearboxes, and a power unit between FP3 and Qualifying. At one point, it looked unlikely we would make it out for the session and here we are having qualified 13th so a big thank you to them.
"My lap in Q1 was really strong. I couldn’t really improve in Q2 so I was a little bit disappointed, but all things considered it was a good session. It’s going to be a difficult race tomorrow and everyone is going to have to be managing their engines because of the high altitude. Whoever manages this best will come out on top so there are opportunities to be had."
Nicholas Latifi, 17th, 1:18.756
"The weekend in general has been tough as it's not the best track for our car. For the grip that I had, it felt like a decent lap, but I just couldn’t get the tyres in the right window so we've got some things to look at. I'm expecting a difficult afternoon tomorrow but, with the number of penalties across the grid, we will gain some positions and start further up. We will focus on our own race and try to keep the cars behind."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"Following a post-session inspection, we opted to change George’s power unit after FP3 as a precaution. The mechanics did an outstanding job to get the car ready for the start of Qualifying, and as we fitted a power unit from the existing race pool, there will be no penalty for this change.
"After the red flag in Q1, we completed two runs with each car, with George able to progress to Q2, but Nicholas, struggling a bit more to get the most out of the tyres, was unable to progress. He will however benefit from several back-of-grid penalties for cars that qualified ahead of him. George will also benefit but will serve his own five-place penalty for fitting a new gearbox overnight.
"The tough conditions here in Mexico will make the race tomorrow difficult for everyone and we believe that, despite losing track time in the afternoon, we prepared the car well yesterday for the Grand Prix. We will find out tomorrow if we did a good enough job, but we are hopeful of making progress.
"We have been unlucky to suffer with several unrelated issues in a short period of time, and this has put the mechanics under a lot of pressure. However, their fortitude, skill and outright quality has been evident throughout and they have tackled everything thrown their way to deliver two good cars for qualifying. It was a tremendous team effort today and typical of what we have seen throughout the last few years."
There was some angst down at Haas, with Schumacher in front on track and his team mate not happy with the German’s pace. But the team ordered them to stay as they were, much to Mazepin’s frustration. Schumacher did pip his team mate in the end, and both should gain a handful of places when penalties are applied too.
Mick Schumacher, 18th, 1:18.858
“Overall, not the best of performances from my side but I hope to make it up in the race. I was trying to do my best, but it was a bit of scrappy run and it’s a track that is unforgiving. Hopefully tomorrow the track temperatures aren’t too high, as that will make things a bit more difficult but we’ll just try to do our best job to try and stay in the position we start tomorrow.”
Nikita Mazepin, 19th, 1:19.303
“It was an okay qualifying session – I was happy with the gradual improvement I made. We knew we were missing pace compared to the others at the beginning of the weekend. I ran out wide on the last corner of my final lap which cost me a bit of time but apart from that, the lap was fine. I’ve had a very difficult FP1, FP2 and FP3 so I think we’ve recovered quite well to end up with a car that I’m more or less comfortable with – I tried to maximise what I had today.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“I’m happy with what we did today. We were very close to a Williams, and both drivers did a good job. Normally at this altitude, we thought we would be worse off than we are. I think that’s mainly down to the drivers who adapted pretty quickly – they did simulator sessions before they came here so they were well prepared. Up until qualifying we’ve had a pretty event-less race weekend. Now, we just look forward to the race tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll get into slightly better starting positions with all the penalties that are coming along and you never know what you can do, but we’re pretty happy up to now.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"Practically all the drivers tried to get through Q2 with the medium tyre in order to run the fastest strategy tomorrow, which is definitely a medium-hard one stopper, as there's quite a significant time loss in the pit-lane and it's difficult to overtake. This option also gives a lot of flexibility around the strategy. As expected with more rubber laid down, the soft tyre showed a very solid performance in qualifying and so it could play a role in the final stint of the race tomorrow."