Verstappen thwarts Mercedes challenge to take pole in Mexico

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Verstappen thwarts Mercedes challenge to take pole in Mexico

Formula 1

Verstappen thwarts Mercedes challenge to take pole in Mexico


Max Verstappen will start the Mexico City Grand Prix from pole position alongside George Russell after a strong afternoon for Mercedes.

The German marque had topped the first two qualifying segments, but Verstappen unleashed in Q3 to put 0.132s on the rest of the field led by Russell. Lewis Hamilton slotted into a close third but had his lap deleted for cutting Turn 3, forcing him into a one-run session at the death.

Verstappen was first out among the top three for the second runs and immediately slammed on a faster time, lowering the benchmark by 0.172s to 1m17.947s.

Russell was next on track to respond, but he ran wide and off the circuit at Turn 12, spoiling his lap and leaving him 0.304s off the pace.

Hamilton crossed the line next but fell fractionally short of his teammate, putting him third and 0.309s off the pace.

Verstappen’s way was clear to collect his sixth pole of the season, making him the seventh different pole-getter at this track since its F1 revival in 2015.

“It was a good qualifying,” he said. “It was a close one, but I think after FP3 we made a few adjustments and the car got into a better rhythm. To be on pole here of course is amazing. It’s a very long run to Turn 1, so we need a good start, but we have a quick car, and that’s what’s most important.”

Russell was gutted to have missed his pole chance, believing his car had the pace to take top spot.

“The team deserved more today,” he said. “They’ve produced a really good car this weekend. We saw last week with Lewis what the car was capable of. I felt like it was our pole to have, but a terrible lap from myself.”

Hamilton was pleased for the team’s most competitive Saturday of the year and looked forward to starting directly behind Verstappen ahead of one of the longest runs from the grid to the first turn of the year.

“This is the best qualifying we’ve had all year. It shows perseverance and never giving up is the way forward,” he said. “There’s still more performance in it. I’m pretty happy with that position—it’s a long way down to Turn 1.”

No pole-sitter in Mexico City has finished on the podium since 2016.

Home favorite Sergio Perez qualified fourth, 0.353s slower than his teammate, but he was still comfortably quicker than the struggling Ferrari cars.

Carlos Sainz was the quickest among them, but he was 0.576s off the pace as he struggled with chronic understeer. Charles Leclerc fared considerably worse, qualifying seventh and 0.78s adrift with drivability and power problems.

Splitting the Scuderia teammates was a superb Valtteri Bottas, the Alfa Romeo reveling in the low-grip conditions to start sixth.

Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren ahead of Alpine teammates Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon. Daniel Ricciardo missed Q3 by 0.053s, leaving him 11th ahead of Zhou Guanyu, while AlphaTauri’s Tuki Tsunoda pipped teammate Pierre Gasly by less than a tenth to take 13th.

Kevin Magnussen qualified 15th but will start on the back row after an unscheduled change of internal combustion engine after Friday practice.

Mick Schumacher was knocked out 16th after having his fastest lap, which was comfortably quick enough for progression, deleted for cutting the curb at Turn 2.

Sebastian Vettel was eliminated with an identical lap time set later than Schumacher, leaving him 17th ahead of Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll, who will start last after serving his three-place grid penalty for causing a crash with Alonso at the United States Grand Prix last weekend.

Williams teammates Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi complete the grid, though Albon was baffled by an off-track moment through the esses he was tempted to put down to an errant gust of wind.

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