Leclerc takes a surprising pole in Mexico

The Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz scored a surprising front row lockout at Mexico beating the pre-qualifying favourite Max Verstappen.

Verstappen ended up in third position after the Scuderia pair had nudged ahead on the first Q3 runs and could not beat them even though neither Leclerc nor Sainz improved on their second efforts.

Since qualifying has concluded, Verstappen faces an investigation for a Q1 impeding incident as does George Russell, while Lewis Hamilton is also under investigation for a yellow flag speeding incident.

On the first runs in Q3, the Ferrari cars appeared to respond well to the track temperature dropping a touch and Leclerc edged Sainz by 0.067 seconds with a time of one minute, 17.166 seconds lap.

Verstappen slotted in 0.120 seconds behind while Sergio Perez and the Mercedes drivers had to run used softs for the start of the final Q3 segment.

Then when the second runs commenced, the Ferrari cars led the pack around but neither driver improved and that gave a chance to Verstappen.

He posted personal bests in the first and second sectors – the latter Q3’s fastest – but it was not enough and he ended up 0.097 seconds adrift.

Daniel Ricciardo edged Perez to take a sensational fourth for AlphaTauri, with Hamilton unable to recreate his Q2-leading form and so he ended up sixth.

Oscar Piastri was seventh while his teammate Lando Norris was the highest-profile Q1 faller, with Russell eighth.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu rounded out the top ten for Alfa Romeo.

In Q2, where Hamilton’s late enough put him top with Verstappen still in the pits and easily through on just one run, Zhou was initially knocked out by Albon’s last-gasp effort.

But Albon’s time was then deleted for track limits at Turn 2 on that final effort – Albon appearing to cut the inside of the tight left-hander.

The Williams driver therefore finished ahead of Pierre Gasly, Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso, who had a last-lap personal best ahead of the chequered flag falling in the middle segment that nevertheless left him P14.

Yuki Tsunoda did not set a time as his job was about providing Ricciardo with a tow to ensure his Q3 progression as the AlphaTauri driver faces a drop to the back of the grid for taking a new power unit ahead of practice.

Tsunoda did feature in one of the session’s more bizarre incidents, as he appeared to clip a Williams jack leaving the pits ahead of the final Q3 runs – an incident that is also under investigation by the race stewards.

In Q1, topped by Verstappen, Alonso spinning at Turn 3 brought out yellow flags as a group of drivers began to start their final laps.

This prevented Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen, Lance Stroll and Norris from beating their personal bests and trapping them in the drop zone – Norris ending up there after a brief look at trying to set a laptime on mediums as did Piastri and the Mercedes cars and the Ferraris with Norris then failing to get higher than P19 on his first efforts on softs.

Logan Sargeant did improve and jumped ahead of Norris, but ended up back in P20 after losing his best time to a track limits infraction at Turn 11, having already lost his previous personal best for going too wide at Turn 12.

Sargeant faces two post-session investigations – one for possibly failing to slow down enough under the Alonso yellows late in Q1, as Hamilton is also suspected of doing, and the other for a possible overtaking incident under yellows with Tsunoda at the same point.

Russell, Norris and Zhou face the now traditional post-qualifying investigation for apparently going too slowly on warm-up laps, which has typically not led to sporting penalties since they became a regular feature from Monza as part of the FIA’s attempt to improve qualifying traffic.

The pitlane impeding incidents involving Verstappen, Russell and Alonso occurred as the pack headed out ahead of the final Q1 runs, with the first named spotted stationary at the end of the pitlane ahead of Russell who then did the same thing.

The Singapore Grand Prix stewards cleared Verstappen of a pitlane impeding incident but later admitted that was incorrect.

So a surprising qualifying result with Ferraris taking the front row. The Red Bulls were the pre-session favourites and yet unable to get the lap times or grid positions. The race could be different story as there’s a long run down to Turn 1 and the RB19 has stronger race pace. Bring on Sunday action.

Mexico Grand Prix qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:17.166
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:17.233
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:17.263
4 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:17.382
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:17.423
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.454
7 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:17.623
8 George Russell Mercedes 1:17.674
9 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:18.032
10 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:18.050
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:18.521
12 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:18.524
13 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:18.738
14 Alexander Albon Williams 1:19.147
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri No time
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:19.080
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:19.163
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:19.227
19 Lando Norris McLaren 1:21.554
20 Logan Sargeant Williams No time

4 thoughts to “Leclerc takes a surprising pole in Mexico”

  1. Charles Leclerc took a shock pole position for the Mexico City Grand Prix, with Carlos Sainz in second to give Ferrari a remarkable front row lockout as reigning world champion Max Verstappen could only manage third.

    Verstappen had been the class of the field throughout practice, topping all three sessions with Leclerc outside the top 10 in FP3 as Ferrari looked like fourth fastest at best.

    But Ferrari came out of the bushes in Q3, Leclerc pumping in a sensational 1m 17.166, just 0.067s ahead of Sainz on the first runs with Verstappen a tenth back in third.

    The trio headed back to the pits for fresh soft tyres but unusually, neither Ferrari could improve on their second runs. Verstappen did go quicker, but it still wasn’t enough to snatch pole, meaning Leclerc takes back-to-back poles.

  2. Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were left struggling for answers as to how they managed to lock out the front row for Formula 1’s Mexico Grand Prix.

    After a difficult time through the practice sessions in Mexico City, where their SF-23 car appeared to be no match for the pace-setting Red Bull, the duo sprung a major surprise at the start of the Q3 qualifying segment.

    Their cars suddenly came alive and it helped Leclerc and Sainz take the provisional top two slots on the grid – which were then secured as their main challengers were unable to find improvements in the final runs.

    Sainz, who ended up 0.067 seconds behind Leclerc, said it was difficult to understand why their car was suddenly so good on one lap and then could not match that pace again.

    “It was a very strange one,” admitted Sainz. “Honestly, the whole weekend I’ve struggled to put a lap together, and the first lap that I put together was Q3 run one.

    “Suddenly it was P1 at the time, and then Charles pipped me by half a tenth. But I just struggle to understand where suddenly we can find half a second and then go half a second slower in the next lap.

    “It’s very tricky with the tyres, and the feeling with the car is very strange around the circuit. But we managed to put a good lap when it counted. And it puts us in a good position for tomorrow.”

  3. Daniel Ricciardo says he feels “a lot like my old self” after stunning the Formula 1 paddock by qualifying his AlphaTauri fourth for Sunday’s Mexico Grand Prix.

    In only his second weekend back from a hand injury that ruled him out of five grands prix rounds, Ricciardo had already showed good pace on Friday when he was sixth in FP2.

    He slipped back to ninth in Saturday’s FP3 session, however in qualifying Ricciardo was on form as he took fourth in Q1 and fifth in Q2.

    “I know I haven’t done much this year race-wise, but I feel a lot like my old self,” remarked Ricciardo.

    “And I feel like yeah, I can do well. A lot of things that were there, and it kind of brought out a lot of confidence.

    “Even FP3 this morning, I was P9, and I wasn’t happy at all with my lap. But as opposed to kind of being frustrated with that, it gave me confidence coming into quali that I can clean it up and we’re going to be well inside the top 10.”

  4. Max Verstappen, George Russell and Fernando Alonso have escaped sanctions for impeding others in Mexico Grand Prix qualifying, while Lewis Hamilton was also cleared for a potential rules breach.

    Ahead of the final runs in Q1, Verstappen, Alonso and Russell all backed up other cars while leaving the pitlane in a bid to create a gap and find clear air.

    All three drivers were summoned by the FIA’s stewards for “unnecessarily impeding” at pit exit, but they decided not to take any further action.

    In their verdict the stewards wrote: “The stewards consider that the entire set of incidents occurred as a direct result of the implementation of the minimum lap time between SC2 and SC1, which is designed (correctly so, in our view) to avoid dangerous backing-up of cars on the circuit during qualification.

    “We note that there are contrary requirements on drivers in that they must respect the minimum time, they are attempting to create manageable gaps to cars in front, yet they are also required to avoid unnecessarily stopping at the pit exit or driving unnecessarily slowly.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *