In the thin air and high altitude of Mexico City, the second fastest track on the Formula One calendar commenced today in ideal weather conditions. With Mercedes the class of the last two practice sessions, all eyes were on the long-dominant outfit in qualifying for pole position heading into Sunday’s race.
In the first qualifying session (Q1), the two Ferraris quickly set the pace for the field, illustrating how well their car is suited for the challenges of this season on Saturday.
However, after initially complaining about issues with the grip of his tires, reigning two-time champion Max Verstappen finished his first flying lap and leaped to the top of the order.
As Q1 expired, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton turned in the session’s fastest lap, besting Verstappen by just over 0.05 of a second. At the same time, the bottom drivers jockeyed to avoid elimination.
Kevin Magnussen became the first Haas driver of the season to advance out of the first qualifying session when he edged out his teammate Mick Schumacher to secure the final place among drivers moving forward.
Schumacher joined Aston Martin drivers, Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel and Williams’ drivers Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi in the elimination zone.
As the second session (Q2) began, both Mercedes drivers quickly entered the track and set to work on setting better lap times than anyone achieved in Q1. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen followed the two closely, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mclaren’s Lando Norris right behind.
Home crowd favorite Sergio Perez was in danger of being eliminated with five minutes left in the session and the only driver on the track. With clean air and an open track, Perez turned in a blistering lap and put himself into the top three for the time being and safely into the final session.
As Q2 ended, Mclaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was the first man out, followed by Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, AlphaTauri drivers Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly, and Magnussen.
Perez quickly established himself in the third session (Q3), setting the best lap time of the day thus far in the opening minutes. However, it was short-lived, as his Red Bull teammate Verstappen snatched the provisional pole moments later.
Both Mercedes finished their first flying laps and split the two Red Bulls. Hamilton’s lap time was deleted due to exceeding track limits, putting pressure to turn around another quality lap with just a handful of minutes remaining.
As time ticked, the two Ferraris and Bottas followed the top three after Hamilton lost his lap time with Norris and the Alpine drivers, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, bringing up the rear.
As drivers crossed the finish line, the order would not change, except for Hamilton restoring his place in the third spot with a great final lap.
Verstappen takes pole and heads into tomorrow’s race in an amazing position to win his 14th race of the season and break the tie he enjoys with Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher for the most wins in a single season at 13.
However, Mercedes has shown that they are continuing to progress their car and have come to Mexico intending to win their first Grand Prix of the season, gaining momentum as the year ends and they head into 2023.