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Qualifying analysis - Red Bull exceed expectations

31 Oct 2015

Final practice in Mexico saw a track as slippery as it had been on Friday, after heavy overnight rain had washed most of the rubber away, but it was beginning to get better by qualifying. Further rain threatened, but mercifully moved away, and despite a few spots the track itself remained essentially dry throughout, as Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg took his fourth consecutive pole position. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday’s running at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez…
Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, 1m 19.480s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 19.668s, P2

Neither driver had any real problems. Hamilton said he thought that Rosberg just had the edge on pace over him and admitted that he had been chipping away at that all weekend. He also said they had different set-ups this weekend, and suggested that his might be the one to have for the race. They were separated by 0.188s, so the gap wasn’t huge.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 19.850s, P3
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 22.494s P15, will start P18

Vettel said he did everything he could to go quicker on the second runs in Q3, but admitted that he might have been trying just a little too hard and said that the Mercedes were just a little too quick. After a problem with his car in FP3, Raikkonen had to have a gearbox change, thus dropping him five grid places. He went out on medium tyres after making it through to Q2, to check on a brake problem. That caused him to spin in Turn 1, and thereafter he retired to the garage.

Red Bull

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 20.398s, P4
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 20.399s, P5

Against their own expectations the Red Bulls were still very quick on Saturday, particularly in the second and third sectors. Kvyat thought he got pretty much all his car had to offer and that what he might have missed wouldn’t have changed his grid position, and says he just wants a good, clean race with a finish. Ricciardo said he was happier with his car in FP3 and felt he was chasing the set-up all through qualifying as the track changed, without quite honing the balance.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 20.448s, P6
Felipe Massa, 1m 20.567s, P7

Williams were unhappy with sixth and seventh, believing that they had the pace to have been fourth and fifth.

Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen, 1m 20.710s, P8
Carlos Sainz, 1m 20.942s, P11

Verstappen’s late improvement, plus Massa’s, bumped Sainz from Q3. The Dutchman said he was really happy to get a good lap together, while the Spaniard was happy enough and said his car was better than in FP2, but he thought he ran too soon on the soft tyre in Q2 and paid the price.

Force India

Sergio Perez, 1m 20.716s, P9
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 20.788s, P10

The Force Indias didn’t run when everyone else did in Q3, but on their ‘first’ runs right at the end Perez delighted his countrymen by just out-qualifying Hulkenberg by 0.072s. And he was only six thousandths off Verstappen’s eighth place. Perez was buzzing with the thrill of racing at home and was happy with his performance, but Hulkenberg said he still wasn’t really happy with his VJM08’s set-up.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 21.038s, P12
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 21.261, P13

Lotus never thought that the track would suit the E23 Hybrid, and both drivers had trouble getting their tyres working fully and struggled for grip as a result.

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 21.544s, P14
Felipe Nasr, 1m 21.788s, P17, will start P15

Ericsson was happier with the balance of his C34 and made it through to Q2, but Nasr struggled throughout FP1 with lack of rear-end grip.

McLaren

Fernando Alonso, 1m 21.779s, P16, will start P19
Jenson Button, No time, will start P20

Alonso lost pace relative to Friday and drops to P19 with all his penalties for a change of engine and gearbox. Button did not participate in qualifying because engineers could not ready his car in time for Q1 after it suffered an elusive misfire throughout FP3. He’ll start from P20 with all his penalties, using his engine from FP1.

Marussia

Alexander Rossi, 1m 24.136s, P18, will start P16
Will Stevens, 1m 24.386s, P19, will start P17

Marussia had their best qualifying performance since Monza. But Rossi had a brake problem in FP3 which cost him valuable track time, before qualifying 18th. He’ll start 16th with McLaren’s and Raikkonen’s penalties. Stevens had a problem early in Q1 with a sticking throttle, so did well to get within two-tenths of his team mate. He qualified 19th but will start 17th.