For the second time Max Verstappen has topped the qualifying times in Mexico City, but for the first time the World Champion will start from pole position in his Red Bull for Sunday’s FORMULA 1 MEXICO CITY GRAND PRIX Presented by Heineken.
Back in 2019, Verstappen was quickest in Qualifying but had to drop three grid places for a yellow flag infringement promoting Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to pole. No such problem this time. With a best lap of 1:17.775 and an average lap speed of 199.220km/h the 25-year-old double champion secured his sixth pole of 2022 and the19th of his F1 career.
“Very lovely that!” the Dutchman told his team after holding off the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. “It was a close one! We made a few adjustments and the car got into a better rhythm.”
The hopes of hundreds of thousands of Mexican fans were dashed when Sergio Pérez could not join his team-mate on the front row, after finishing fourth fastest.
“It was a big shame,” said Pérez. “We had an electrical issue throughout qualifying. I was pretty much blind, I had no indication of my lap times. To be P4 is not the end of the world, but today I believe we could have fought for pole.”
But Verstappen lifted the Mexican mood: “Checo will be there tomorrow,” he said, “I’m sure we’ve got a fast race car.”
Russell complained of brake problems throughout the hour but apologised to his Mercedes team after his final run when he ran wide on entry to the Foro Sol and lost any chance of catching the Red Bull. “The team deserved more today,” said the 24-year-old Englishman. “They’ve produced a really great car for this weekend – it was just a terrible lap from me.”
Ferrari could do no better than fifth for Carlos Sainz and seventh for Charles Leclerc, as Sainz complained: “we were fighting the car too much”, but the surprise package was Valtteri Bottas sandwiched between them.
Bottas, now 33, was on pole at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez last season for Mercedes, but to be in the top six in his Alfa Romeo is in some ways an even more outstanding effort. “It’s really uplifting for the whole team,” said the Finn. “It’s been an easy car to drive and since FP1 I’ve had confidence.”
The last three positions in the top 10 are shared by the McLaren of Lando Norris and the two Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon – another mouth-watering prospect for Sunday — as those two teams battle for fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Right behind them is Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren, who was eliminated in Q2 along with Chinese newcomer Zhou Guanyu in the other Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri pair Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly, in addition to Kevin Magnussen’s Haas.
There had been a landmark moment for the Haas team as Magnussen made it into the second stage of qualifying – the first time the American team has got one of their drivers out of Q1 in Mexico. However, Magnussen carries a grid penalty and will drop back, while team-mate Mick Schumacher was sixth at one point, until his best lap time was deleted for exceeding track limits in Turn 2 and the German was also eliminated.
No joy for 2017 Mexican pole-winner Sebastian Vettel: in his final appearance at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez the Aston Martin driver could manage only 17th in Q1.
Mercedes, winless and with just one pole position in 2022 so far, threw down the gauntlet to the field in the third practice session as Russell and Hamilton made it a 1-2 for the Silver Arrows.
The track also welcomed an array of legendary drivers for the Freightliner Legends Cup by Fibra UNO - the support race of the FORMULA 1 MEXICO CITY GRAND PRIX Presented by Heineken – and Mexican driver Michel Jourdain Jr. looked unbeatable during the second session setting a fastest lap of 1:51.435.
Driving GTM car #1, Jordain dominated the Saturday session of the race that has brought together some of the biggest stars that delighted IndyCar fans during the first decade of the century and made CART one of the favourite championships in Mexico.
Behind Jordain was Luis “Chapulín” Díaz, another Mexican who won the Daytona Prototypes race at this track in 2006, with a time of 1:51.932.
Alex Tagliani from Canada, was the fastest among the international drivers with 1:52.235, ahead of Mexican Mario Dominguez, who managed a best lap time of 1:52.239 before making contact with Bruno Junqueira halfway through the session, as the Brazilian was attempting an overtake on the outside in the “esses” section of the track. Mario stood his ground on the inside and they touched, apparently without consequence.
Bruno Junqueira rounded out the top five, followed by the Canadian and fan favourite Paul Tracy. Casey Mears, Max Papis, Mark Blundell and local legend Adrián Fernández completed the top ten.
“The track is a little slick, but we were already expecting it would be like this,” said Jourdain. “It's the same for everyone, so we need to focus on the sections where we manage a minimal advantage over the others,” he added.
On Sunday, the race that has reunited these legends will be part of the celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first Grand Prix in Mexico City.