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Leclerc reckons top speed advantage can inspire Mexican GP victory fight

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Ferrari were expected to lock-out the front row for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix, but Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were outgunned by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Not long after, Verstappen was demoted three places for failing to slow for yellow flags, promoting Leclerc to pole. But even before the penalty was handed out, Leclerc was feeling pretty optimistic about the red team’s chances come race day…

The Prancing Horse have the best power unit on the grid and looked strong across the two Friday practice sessions as they made that advantage count in the first sector, which features a long straight.

But both Leclerc and team mate Vettel made mistakes in Q3, as Verstappen excelled on a circuit where he has triumphed in each of the last two years, only to be stripped of the pole position by the stewards.

READ MORE: Verstappen stripped of Mexican GP pole for ignoring yellow flag, Leclerc promoted to P1

Speaking before the penalty, Leclerc said: “The start will be very important, but the top speed that we have is very good, so hopefully we can take advantage of this,” he said.

“The first lap was quite good. The second one, we tried to put a bit more balance in the car to have a bit more front, which helped in the first sector, but then the last sector was too tricky and I lost the rear, so I lost all the time I made up in the first sector.

“But Red Bull were very quick, Max especially was extremely quick, and the race is still long tomorrow.”

Sebastian Vettel: Under yellow flag conditions, rules are 'pretty clear'

READ MORE: Verstappen summoned to stewards over alleged failure to slow for Bottas crash

Vettel made an mistake in the final sector of his first run and was then forced to back out of his final lap after Valtteri Bottas crashed in the final sector. He’ll line up second - one place higher than he qualified courtesy of Leclerc's penalty - and remains hopeful of a strong race.

“Obviously we hope to have a good start and then take it from there,” he said. “It’s a long race. It will be a tough one on brakes, on cooling in general, so let’s see, but also with the tyres, it will be quite an adventure tomorrow.

“All top six cars opted to start on the medium tyre so we’ll see who dares to go the longest. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

“I had a mistake on my first run, so I was quite confident in my second run I could make up for it, but unfortunately there was a double yellow, so I had to slow down, and the lap was lost.

“The car is good. We would have liked to have been further up, I think it was possible, but let’s see tomorrow. We have the speed. The whole weekend has been quite good.”

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