Max Verstappen has beaten both Ferrari’s to take pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix, however Verstappen will start fourth following an improvement under yellow flags. The Red Bull took pole position on the first runs in Q3 after outpacing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by a quarter of a second, the first runs determined the grid after Mercedes Valtteri Bottas crash at the Peraltada.
However, the Dutchman was found gility of failing to slow down for yellow caution flags after a crash by Hamilton’s team-mate Bottas. He was the only driver to improve, as the session drew to its anti-climax, the incident didn’t allow any driver to improve.
The stewards decided that Verstappen, “attempted to set a meaningful lap time and failed to reduce his speed in the relevant marshalling sector, contrary to the Appendix H, Article 22.214.171.124 b) as well as, the requirements set out in the item 9.2 of the Race Director’s Event Notes (version 3) in breach of Article 12.1.1 I of the FIA International Sporting Code.”
“Driver of Car 33 admitted that he was aware that car 77 (Valtteri Bottas) crashed and did see the car on the left hand side of the track, but was not aware of the waved yellow flag. He also admitted not reducing his speed on the yellow sector.”
Lewis Hamilton could also face the stewards, he was running right behind Bottas and while he improved his overall lap time, he did not go faster in the final sector.
Leclerc once again out-qualified his teammate Sebastian Vettel by almost one and a half tenths, while Hamilton was fourth half a second off the pace.
Red Bull’s pace was surprising given the team’s lack of pace compared to Ferrari in practice three. Ferrari also didn’t seem to top either of Q1 or Q2, Red Bull set the pace in Q1 and Mercedes in Q2, and then couldn’t extract the optimum grip from their tyres in the final stages.
Bottas went straight on and dined the Ferrari’s the chance to challenge Verstappen as well as Hamilton. However, Ferrari could lodge a protest as they believe Verstappen improved under yellow flags, but Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes that the yellow flags had cleared when he reached that section of the track.
The crash also impacted the laps of Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton, who were behind Bottas on track and finished the session third and fourth after backing off. Alex Albon was sixth, the British-Thai driver appeared to struggle throughout the session.
The Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes drivers will all start the race using medium-compound Pirellis after using that tyre to set their Q2 times, with the rest of the top ten set to start on softs.
Verstappen said, “It’s been an interesting day but to come out on top was incredible. The team kept pushing hard, kept bring new parts to the car and today we showed we are very quick.”
Sebastian Vettel added, “We would like to be a bit further up, I think it was possible, but we still have the speed. It will be a long race and a tough one on brakes and cooling in general. On the tyres, it will also be quite an adventure tomorrow.”
McLaren continued their recent run of good form, topping the midfield with Carlos Sainz seventh but nearly six tenths off Bottas. Sainz was three tenths faster than his teammate Lando Norris. The Bristolian moaned that his session was sloppy.
Both Toro Rosso’s made it through to Q3, with Daniil Kvyat going a tenth ahead of teammate Pierre Gasly. The duo knocked Sergio Perez out by eight-thousandths of a second, meaning he starts his home race from eleventh.
It was a difficult session for Renault, the team had issues with their hydraulics going into the session, leaving Nico Hulkenberg twelfth four thousandths ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. The Alfa Romeo’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were fourteenth and fifteenth.
Lance Stroll was sixteenth missing out on Q2 by two tenths, the Racing Point missed out by three tenths. Stroll only improved slightly, but complained of “no grip”.
Haas tried three runs to get out of Q1, Kevin Magnussen out-qualifying teammate Romain Grosjean by a tenth and a half. The Frenchman lost the rear into the first corner and couldn’t avoid a spin.
George Russell maintained his record of out-qualifying teammate Robert Kubica, by over a second at the back of the grid.