Bottas takes surprising pole position in Mexico

Valtteri Bottes will start on pole position as Mercedes upstaged rival Red Bull by taking the front tow for the Mexican Grand Prix. Championship contenders Lewis Hamilton is in P2 with Max Verstappen in P3 followed by home crowd favourite Sergio Perez in P4.

Checo Perez is fourth in front of his home supporters, with the Red Bull duo having their final laps ruined when coming across Yuki Tsunoda off the track in the runoff at Turn 10.

But Red Bull, which had dominated in FP3, was already under pressure as Bottas had grabbed provisional pole on the first run in Q3 with a one minute, 15.875 seconds, with Hamilton slotting in 0.145 seconds behind.

Perez led Verstappen around for the final Q3 fliers – just as he had earlier in the segment, where Verstappen posted a time 0.350 seconds slower than Bottas’s time as the championship leader struggled with loose rear end.

Both Red Bulls posted personal bests in the opening sector on their final laps, but Tsunoda’s off-track moment at the fast Turn 10 right appeared to distract Perez, who went off as well, with Verstappen then coming across the pair and backing off expecting a yellow flag.

He then locked up during the stadium section and did not improve his best time while behind neither Mercedes driver improved, which sealed Valtteri’s nineteenth Formula 1 pole.

Red Bull had come into qualifying – where all the top ten runners traversed Q2 on the mediums bar Tsunoda, which means they will start on that rubber for Sunday’s race – hurriedly working on the rear wings of the RB16Bs, which had picked up small cracks in final practice at Austin and had to be repaired ahead of qualifying there.

Red Bull confirmed that the wings were not cracked this time around, but Verstappen’s car was spotting tape next to the endplate throughout qualifying, with Max saying in his immediate post-qualifying interview that the wings had had to be repaired.

Behind the leaders, Pierre Gasly took fifth, ahead of Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo, with Charles Leclerc eighth.

Tsunoda took ninth ahead of Norris – with the McLaren and AlphaTauri teams using their drivers that will take grid penalties for taking new engines this weekend to tow their teammates down the main straight at the start of the fliers in Q3.

In Q2, a personal best with his final flier just ahead of the chequered flag coming out was not enough to get Sebastian Vettel through and he was knocked out in P11 ahead of former teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

George Russell took P13 for Williams but will drop five places on the grid as a result of his post-FP2 gearbox change, although that will be ahead of all the drivers that have grid penalties for taking new engines.

They are Tsunoda, Norris, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon.

The last two drivers knocked out in Q2 were Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi, who spun off at the Turn 12 90-degree right at the entry to the stadium section on his final flying lap – the Alfa Romeo sliding off sideways at high-speed and knocking into the barriers deep in the runoff square-on.

Giovinazzi was able to drive away from the incident and returned to the pits, ending up P14 ahead of Alpine’s Ocon.

The opening segment was disrupted nearly halfway through – but before most of the field had posted times – by Lance Stroll crashing at the exit of the Peraltada.

The Aston driver was ending his opening Q1 lap when he accelerated out of the famous long right-hander that ends the lap in Mexico, but going slightly too wide put him on a dusty line and his car snapped out of control.

Stroll spun off backwards into the barriers on the outside at the start of the pit straight, which destroyed his rear wing and then the left-front wheel area as the Aston spun around and its front was knocked about as well.

The session was suspended for nearly half an hour as the wreckage was cleared and the barriers replaced, after which Fernando Alonso was the highest profile Q1 casualty as he was knocked out in P16 – the Alpine driver finishing his final lap just before the chequered flag fell, which meat he was shuffled down as others, including Russell, went quicker as the track conditions continued to improve.

The other Q1 fallers were Nicholas Latifi, the Haas pair and the absent Stroll – who went to the medical centre to be checked over after his 12G impact, where it was revealed “his vital signs and x-rays are normal”, per an Aston statement.

Mick Schumacher led Nikita Mazepin in P18 and P19, the latter having a tetchy exchange with his team about running behind his teammate and the Williams cars ahead of the final Q1 fliers.

Latifi and Russell will be investigated now qualifying has ended for lining up alongside the Haas cars at the pit exit at the end of the red flag period, and then setting off alongside their rivals when the session resumed.

Raikkonen also now has a trip to the stewards to explain why he crossed and the recrossed the pit entry – he had already passed the bollard at the start of the entrance line – just after Stroll’s crash.

The Iceman ended up doing an extra lap during the red flag period as a result of not coming in just as the red flag was activated.

So congratulations to Mercedes with this front row with Valtteri Bottas taking pole position. Sunday’s race is going to be fascinating.

Mexican Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:15.875
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.020
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:16.225
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:16.342
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:16.456
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:16.761
7 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.763
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.837
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:17.746
10 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:17.958
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:18.290
12 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:18.452
13 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:18.756
14 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:18.858
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:18.172
16 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:19.303
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:20.873
18 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:17.158
19 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.830
20 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:18.405

6 thoughts to “Bottas takes surprising pole position in Mexico”

  1. Mexican Grand Prix qualifying result as reviewed by

    Valtteri Bottas soaked up the pressure and ripped up the formbook to take a sensational pole position for the Mexico City Grand Prix, as his Mercedes team upset the odds and outpaced favourites Red Bull.

    The Finn was positioned on track to give championship contender and team mate Lewis Hamilton a tow on both runs in qualifying, but it was the Alfa Romeo-bound driver who was the fastest Silver Arrows car on Saturday.

    Bottas pumped in the quickest time on the first runs, with Hamilton 0.145s adrift and the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez struggling with the rears and unable to mount the challenge their practice pace had suggested.

    On the second runs, home favourite Perez ran wide when he got distracted by AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda running off in front of him, which put him out of pole contention to the dismay of tens of thousands of fans who only have eyes for him.

    His team mate Verstappen wasn’t far behind and had to back off slightly as a result of the Mexican’s off, but the reality is he was unlikely to have had the pace to challenge for pole anyway.

    It meant Mercedes secured an unlikely front row lock out, the first time they have achieved the feat in Mexico since 2016, while Bottas took his third pole of the season and second in three races.

    Verstappen ended up third – in what is only the sixth time this season that he has not been on the front row in 2021 – alongside Perez, with Pierre Gasly continuing his fine run of form in qualifying with a superb fifth, as Carlos Sainz recovered from an engine issue early on to take sixth.

    Daniel Ricciardo was the leading McLaren in seventh, ahead of Charles Leclerc, with Yuki Tsunoda and Lando Norris closing out the top 10, however the latter duo will drop to the back of the grid because of engine penalties.

    Q1 – Stroll crashes out as Bottas sets pace with late flyer

    Williams did an impressive job to complete a power unit change for George Russell – having changed the gearbox, too – and get him out in time for qualifying, though most drivers bided their time before heading out on track.

    Just seven had set a time when Lance Stroll ran wide at the final corner, getting onto the dirt and losing control of his rear, sending him sliding into the barrier with a reasonable significant impact. Fortunately the Canadian – who was set to start at the back anyway after penalties for engine component changes – walked away unaided, but took no further part in the session.

    The session was red-flagged, while repairs were carried out to the barriers, with Red Bull using the extra time to do some work on the rear wings of both Verstappen and Perez. When the green light flickered on, there was a flurry of activity as drivers raced to get a time on the board with just 11 minutes to go.

    The initial runs for Mercedes were not sparkling, the silver cars struggling to get their soft tyres to work on the first attempt. Red Bull had no such problem, with Verstappen topping the times by 0.6s from Perez. Mercedes recharged their respective batteries and went again, with Bottas closing to 0.171s but Hamilton still 0.4s off.

    The track really ramped up as the session approached its closing stages, with Sainz jumping off the bubble to go fifth, before his team mate Leclerc went quickest for Ferrari. Bottas then topped the times as he made use of the best track conditions, with Russell also making it through, thanking his team for their hard work with multiple repairs over the last 24 hours.

    It wasn’t so good for Alpine, with Ocon just scraping through and Alonso just missing out in 16th. He was joined in an early exit by Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin and Stroll.

    Knocked out: Alonso, Latifi, Schumacher, Mazepin, Stroll

    Q2 – Mercedes emerge as potential Red Bull threat

    Medium tyres were the order of the day for the frontrunners, with Mercedes appearing to be much more competitive on this rubber to heap the pressure on Red Bull.

    Verstappen made the most of a slipstream from Ferrari to go half a second quicker than Leclerc, but he was pegged back to just 0.016s by Hamilton, who had a tow from Bottas, with the cleanest lap of this session.

    Yuki Tsunoda, the only driver on the softs, went third, 0.218s off the pace, with the Japanese driver – who will start from the back courtesy of engine penalties – then turning his attention to focusing on towing AlphaTauri team mate Pierre Gasly to ensure he eased through.

    Sebastian Vettel has previously always qualified in the top 10 in Mexico but he couldn’t continue that run, ending up 11th, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Russell.

    Antonio Giovinazzi, who is fighting for his future in F1, had a moment down at Turn 12 when he gently slid into the barriers. He got going again, but was only 14th fastest, forcing him out of the session along with Ocon – another driver who will start towards the back because of an engine change.

    Knocked out: Vettel, Raikkonen, Russell, Giovinazzi, Ocon

    Q3 – Mercedes shock Red Bull with stunning front row lock-out

    Verstappen was working hard early doors in Q3 as he had to push to get ahead of Sainz on his outlap to ensure he was behind Perez and could thus pick-up a tow.

    Behind them, Mercedes were running the same strategy, with Bottas positioned just ahead of Hamilton, while McLaren had Norris doing the same for Ricciardo.

    Bottas set the early pace, ahead of Hamilton, with Verstappen a surprising 0.350s behind, the Dutchman’s Red Bull sliding around and particularly aggressive across the Turn 2 kerbs, while he also was too far behind in the end to get a slipstream.

    All boxed for a fresh set of tyres and while Bottas set a second time that was good enough for pole, none of the main protagonists were able to improve, leading to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff punching the air with delight.

  2. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton admitted he was “as shocked as everyone” by the team’s front row lockout. has the full story.

    Lewis Hamilton felt “as shocked as everyone” by Mercedes’ surge to lock out the front row of the grid in Mexico Formula 1 qualifying on Saturday.

    Mercedes entered the race weekend at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez expecting to trail Red Bull for outright pace, with the high downforce requirements of the track playing to the strengths of the RB16B car.

    Red Bull took a comfortable 1-2 in final practice, but Mercedes hit back when it mattered in qualifying by topping all three stages, completing a front row sweep in Q3.

    Valtteri Bottas scored pole position ahead of teammate Hamilton, who will start Sunday’s race one place ahead of title rival Max Verstappen.

    Hamilton finished over two -tenths of a second clear of Verstappen, while Bottas enjoyed a margin of 0.350s over the lead Red Bull.

    Asked what had changed to result in such a big gap to Red Bull, Hamilton replied: “I really have no idea.

    “They were like six tenths ahead at some stage, and then four tenths ahead. But whatever happened, once we got to qualifying, all of a sudden we had better pace.

    “I’m just as shocked as everyone. But we’ll still take it.”

    The result serves as a boost for Hamilton’s championship hopes after losing ground to Verstappen at the last race in Austin, slipping to 12 points behind the Red Bull driver.

    Hamilton said on Thursday he expected Red Bull to be “rapid” in Mexico, but will now look to capitalise on his qualifying advantage over Verstappen.

    Hamilton was full of praise for outgoing Mercedes teammate Bottas, hailing an “amazing job” by the Finn to take his third pole position of the season.

    “I’m so proud of Valtteri, I think he’s been driving so well in the last few races,” Hamilton said.

    “It’s really great for the team. They’ve been working so hard.

    “We didn’t think we had the pace this weekend. So to lock out the front row is pretty special, and obviously gives us a good fight with the others tomorrow.”

    Hamilton added that while he would “love to be” in Bottas’s position on pole, he acknowledged that his teammate “did a better job today”.

  3. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen says Sergio Perez and Yuki Tsunoda off “destroyed” his pole lap attempt. has the details.

    Max Verstappen rued losing his “destroyed” final lap in Mexico Formula 1 qualifying after being forced to back out due to cars in front of him going off.

    Red Bull went into qualifying at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez as the favourite for pole after sweeping to a 1-2 finish in final practice, led by Sergio Perez.

    But Mercedes upstaged Red Bull by topping all three stages of qualifying, with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton taking first and second after the opening runs in Q3.

    Verstappen hoped to make up the 0.350s gap to Bottas by getting a tow off Perez on his final run, only to be forced to back out of his lap through the esses after Perez went off ahead, narrowly avoiding AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda who had ran off-track further up the road.

    As both drivers came to rejoin the circuit, Verstappen backed out of his lap before locking up in the final sector. He was heard saying over the radio: “Unbelievable, what a dumb idiot.”

    “It seems like through qualifying, the balance went away a little bit,” Verstappen said after the session.

    “But then actually in the last lap, I was on for a good lap, but then I don’t know what happened in front of me.

    “There were two guys going off so I thought there was going to be a yellow flag, so I back out and then the lap is of course destroyed.

    “Even with that, and not having a great balance, I think we could have gone for the pole lap. Of course third is not amazing, but I think it’s still better than starting second.”

    The result came as a surprise to Mercedes, who had expected to trail Red Bull thanks to the high downforce requirements of the track in Mexico due to the high altitude conditions.

    Red Bull mechanics were seen regularly working on Verstappen’s rear wing throughout qualifying, but Verstappen doubted it was “why it was a bit of a struggle for us in qualifying”.

    The Dutchman enters Sunday’s race leading the drivers’ championship by 12 points from Hamilton, who will start second on the grid behind Bottas.

    “It’s just qualifying didn’t go our way, but we’re not using these tyres anyway tomorrow, so still a lot to fight for,” Verstappen said.

  4. The 2021 Mexican Grand Prix pole position goes to Valtteri Bottas and the Mercedes driver admitted it was one of my best Formula 1 laps ever. has the details.

    Valtteri Bottas says the lap that secured him a surprise pole position for Formula 1’s Mexican Grand Prix was one of the best of his career.

    On a weekend when Red Bull had looked to be in a class of its own, Mercedes turned the tables on it main F1 rival in qualifying with Bottas and Lewis Hamilton locking out the front row of the grid.

    Having struggled to extract pace from the Mercedes over a single lap throughout practice, Bottas got it spot on exactly when it mattered to snatch provisional pole position after the first runs in Q3.

    And his top spot was pretty much assured when Max Verstappen’s hopes of snatching the top spot were wrecked when he had to back off on the second run after Sergio Perez and Yuki Tsunoda ran off the track ahead of him.

    “It was an awesome lap,” said Bottas, who ended up 0.145 seconds ahead of Hamilton.

    “Especially the first run in Q3. I couldn’t quite match the same last sector in the second run, but I think honestly that first run in Q3 was one of my best laps. That is a good feeling.”

    While the Mercedes had not looked especially comfortable throughout practice, Bottas reckoned that the higher temperatures of the afternoon had played into his team’s hands.

    “This morning actually I was feeling good,” he explained. “We were lacking a bit on pace on lap one, but I think with higher temperatures this afternoon than in the morning, it came our way I think.

    “I also tried to optimise everything with tyres temps and setup, and it was a joy to drive.”

    With Hamilton lining up alongside Bottas on the front row of the grid, the pair have a good chance to play the tactical game and try to hold off the Red Bull duo behind them on the long run down to Turn 1 after the start.

    Bottas added: “It is a long, long, straight and the cars behind with the tow will have good opportunities.

    “We’ll need a good start, but at least as a team it is great that we have two cars ahead and hopefully we can try and keep our positions.”

  5. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen mentioned that the rear wing had cracks ahead of qualifying. provides the story.

    Max Verstappen says Red Bull had to “patch” rear wing cracks ahead of Mexican Grand Prix Formula 1 qualifying but does not think this led to ending up behind Mercedes.

    Red Bull had been in a commanding position ahead of qualifying at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez after topping FP2 – and completing favourable long run pace compared to Mercedes in that session – and leading FP3 by over 0.6-seconds with Sergio Perez.

    But the team appeared to be under pressure going into qualifying, where Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton stunned Red Bull by claiming a front row lockout at the end of Q3, with the rears of both its RB16Bs being worked on by mechanics as the minutes to the session’s start ticked down.

    Television cameras also later picked out tape covering the end of Verstappen’s rear wing following the work, attached right by the left-side endplate and covering a portion of the ‘A’ in the Honda branding at that part of the car.

    Red Bull said during qualifying that the work was “precautionary” and that the wings were not cracked, which happened in final practice for the recent US GP, but when asked about the situation in the post-qualifying press conference by, Verstappen said otherwise.

    “They were cracked after FP3 – so we had to patch them up and basically they were like new to start qualifying,” said the championship leader.

    “So I don’t think that had anything to do with it. But of course we’ll have a look into it again.”

    Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told TV crews that his squad had been “just concerned with a bit of fatigue that we’d seen”, before adding that it was “nothing serious and “we just wanted to take no risk on it”.

    In the middle of qualifying, Verstappen was concerned he had picked up damage to his car underneath his left-side bargeboard after clattering the Turn 2 kerbs on his first run in Q2, but when asked if Red Bull had found anything broken in that incident he replied: “Nope.

    “They checked the car and everything was alright.”

    Verstappen said he was not surprised by Mercedes’ pace in qualifying, but rued his car handling in Q3, which meant he already faced a deficit to the Black Arrows duo before the final runs.

    In these, his final effort was spoiled by Red Bull stable-mates Yuki Tsunoda and Perez going off into the runoff at Turn 10 just in front of him, which meant he had to briefly back off.

    “I think we just were really slow and just [had] terrible grip in Q3,” said Verstappen.

    “So, yeah – I think my last lap we recovered that a bit just [by] getting the tyres into a little bit in a better window.

    “But still not to what we would’ve like and how the car has been behaving in all the practice sessions. So that’s a bit of a mystery.

    “But then tomorrow we mainly race on different tyres anyway, so I expect the balance to be good again.”

  6. Yuki Tsunoda inadvertently found himself the villain in the eyes of many after qualifying for Formula 1’s Mexico City GP.

    The AlphaTauri driver was deemed to have ruined the crucial final qualifying laps of both drivers from the sister Red Bull Racing team, and as such had the massed ranks of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen fans on his case.

    But what actually happened in those final moments of qualifying, and was the Japanese driver really at fault?

    In fact it was an unusual set of circumstances. While it often happens at other stages of qualifying, it’s rare for a driver to be on a slow in-lap right at the end of Q3, when everyone else is going flat out on what is supposed to be their fastest lap of the weekend.

    And that was down to the strategy adopted by the AlphaTauri team. Tsunoda had a back of the grid power unit change penalty, and thus he went into qualifying with two targets – finish ahead of the three other drivers carrying similar penalties and thus claim 17th on the grid, and help his teammate Pierre Gasly with a tow.

    As penalties have mounted up in recent races we’ve seen a few similar situations, but usually the towing only goes as far as Q2, because penalised drivers don’t want to reach Q3 and be committed to starting on the “wrong” tyre from the back of the grid.

    This time around two of the penalised guys did make it out of Q2. Lando Norris managed to do it on the favoured medium tyre and thus didn’t make any compromises, but Tsunoda had to use the soft, thus committing himself to using a tyre at the start that everyone else tried hard to avoid.

    The upside for his team was that Gasly would have a tow for the crucial final run in Q3, and that’s what it worked towards.

    The strategy meant that once he’d done his job and pulled Gasly down the straight Tsunoda would have to tour round knowing that a lot of fast cars would be coming up behind him on their final hot laps. In the event those he would have to let by were both Ferraris, both Red Bulls and both Mercedes.

    Here’s a timeline of the radio traffic between Tsunoda and his engineer Mattia Spini at the end of Q3 as he approached the end of the preparation lap, and tried to make a gap between himself and Daniel Ricciardo up ahead.

    Team: “Keep the position, it’s good, stay there.”

    TSU: “I’m giving the pressure to Ricciardo.”

    Team: “You’re doing very well, so it’s all fine.”

    Tsunoda then dropped back slightly from Ricciardo as he reached the stadium section, while Gasly got into position behind, ready to get the tow.

    Team: “OK, nobody pushing behind, so a nice time to open that gap. We have two seconds now. Six seconds now, we are good. Charge on and push.”

    Tsunoda then blasted down the straight with Gasly behind. At the end of it he jinked to the right and let the Frenchman through. He’d done what was asked, and moved aside like a pacemaker in a 1500m race.

    Having slowed right down, Tsunoda then negotiated the Turn 1/2/3 complex, and headed down the straight to Turn 4. They key now was not to risk any penalty by impeding another driver.

    Team: “OK, good job, Sainz is 12 behind.”

    He then crawled around Turns 4, 5 and 6.

    Team: “Sainz seven behind, pushing. Stay negative.”

    He almost came a complete stop on the short straight that followed, so keen was he to stay well out of the way of the Ferrari driver.

    That negative message was an important one – in effect it was a hurry up, Spini reminding him that he couldn’t go too slowly, and had to keep up the required minimum speed for an in-lap.

    Team: “And then we have Perez four behind, pushing. Pushing.”

    Tsunoda was now in the fast esses section, where it’s all too easy to get in the way. To stay clear of Perez he briefly sped up and then drove straight onto the run-off area at Turn 10, in order to leave a clear track for the Red Bull driver. It’s a standard move in such circumstances – but it threw up a massive cloud of dust.

    Team: “Perez behind you. And Verstappen three behind. F***!”

    It was at this point that Spini realised that Perez had gone off the road, joining Tsunoda in the run-off, and that both cars had then potentially interfered with the closely following Verstappen’s lap.

    After a pause Tsunoda said: “I mean I let him past really… I didn’t do anything there.”

    Spini carried on monitoring approaching cars as his driver headed down the back straight towards the stadium.

    Leclerc and Bottas swept by on the straight, and then after entering the stadium Tsunoda turned sharp left and cut across the tarmac infield, allowing Hamilton a clear run through the twisty bits. He then headed into the pits and came to a stop in the pitlane, where the radio chat continued.

    “I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “Understand, you gave him space,” said Spini. “You couldn’t do anything more. Understood.”

    Then Spini added: “So Yuki, we are in front of Norris, and Gasly P5. So very nice job.”

    Spini may have tried hard to maintain a positive vibe, but the proverbial had already hit the fan as replays of the incident were shown, and a fruity radio message from Verstappen was played.

    Having aborted his final lap and realised that his dream of starting from pole at his home race was gone Perez said nothing until he got back to the pitlane and stopped in parc ferme. His message was short but not sweet: “Ahhhh, f***’s sake.”

    On seeing the two cars off the road Verstappen had lifted briefly, expecting a yellow that never came.

    In fact the marshals on the corner did a great job. They understood the significance of calling for a yellow with cars on their final laps, and instead they acted like a referee waving play on, and not whistling for a foul.

    Verstappen soon realised that there was no yellow, but the damage to his lap was done even before he locked up at Turn 13 in the stadium. He then had a wobble onto the pit straight. After crossing the line he said, “Ah for f*** sake, what happened there in front of me?”

    “Not quite sure,” replied his engineer. “Slow button on, please Max. Tsunoda just, I dunno, parked it, so Checo had to back out.”

    “Unbelievable, such a dumb idiot,” replied Verstappen.

    Shortly afterwards in the press conference the Dutchman expanded on how things had unfolded.

    “I don’t know what happened in front of me, but it must have been Yuki holding up first Checo and then both of them, of course, had to go wide,” he said.

    “You arrive so quick it’s difficult to pinpoint what’s happening. I just saw a lot of dust, so I thought a car crashed and now with the yellow flag rules, I’ve been caught with that already here in Mexico, I backed out of it a bit.

    “And then no yellow flag came so I continued pushing, but of course that’s already like two-and-a-half tenths gone. So, my lap was basically finished.”

    His RBR team boss Christian Horner was quick to add his view.

    “I think we got Tsunoda’d,” he said. “Both drivers were up on their last lap. Max was up two-and-a-half tenths, I think Checo was just under two-tenths up.

    “I don’t understand why he was just cruising around at that part of the circuit. It’s disappointing, because it affected both of the drivers because they’re both pretty annoyed.”

    By now the momentum was building, and Tsunoda was widely seen to be at fault, although not all of those who rushed to judgement understood that he had driven off the road to get out of the way.

    When he met the media immediately after qualifying, he still wasn’t sure precisely what happened. However as the potential ramifications of having upset the Red Bull management became clear he looked like a deer caught in headlights.

    “I didn’t mess up the Red Bulls,” he said. “Just a mistake by themselves. I don’t know about Max? Did I hold up Max as well?”

    Shown a video clip by a team member he said: “I went outside and I couldn’t do anything more than that one. I mean, I don’t know, where should I go there?

    “If I had another chance I’d do the same thing. I don’t know what should I do? Do you think I did wrong thing?”

    Perez suggested that he’d gone off because he’d lost downforce due to Tsunoda being in front.

    “Yuki was just ahead,” he said. “I think I was a bit too close, and I lost a bit too much already, because we go through the high speed and it’s pretty difficult through there when you have a close car ahead of you. And unfortunately I lost it there.”

    Given that Tsunoda was running slowly would the aero impact really have been that great? Or was it more a case that he was simply distracted momentarily by the huge cloud of dust thrown up by the AlphaTauri when it motored onto the run-off, something that the Japanese driver – trying to do the right thing – could not have foreseen?

    Perez was right on the ragged edge, gunning for pole at his home race, with a car that frustratingly wasn’t as good as it had been a few hours earlier when he topped FP3.

    He was also forced to dig even deeper to try to match the surprising pace of Mercedes in qualifying. It wouldn’t have taken very much to tip him over that edge, and send him off the road.

    And don’t forget how unusual it is for a driver to be running slowly at the end of Q3. Perez would not have been expecting to come across a slow moving car that was actively trying to stay out of his way, and he wasn’t told by his team to watch out for a slow car. Like Verstappen, he saw the dust and assumed that there had been an incident.

    In the end it was moot. While Horner noted that both drivers were up on their previous times before they came across Tsunoda, they were not going fast enough to have knocked Bottas and Hamilton off the front row, as Toto Wolff pointed out.

    “I think at that stage, sector one and sector two, they were behind,” he said. “I think it was something like two-tenths or two-and-a-half tenths.”

    The bottom line was it was just one of those things, and it was significant too that there wasn’t even a hint of an FIA impeding investigation. A few seconds either way and Tsunoda would have been trundling down a straight when Perez and Verstappen passed by, and it wouldn’t have been an issue.

    It was an unfortunate co-incidence that the cars affected were the two Red Bulls. The incident made for some tension between the AlphaTauri and RBR camps, and it was clear that Franz Tost wasn’t happy that his man had taken such a verbal beating from all sides.

    “I absolutely don’t understand why Perez went also off the track there,” he said. “Yuki went to the side as all the drivers do in qualifying to make a place for the cars that are coming behind which are on a qualifying lap, he was not on a qualifying lap. It is as easy as that. Therefore I don’t understand anything about this.”


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