Valtteri Bottas blisters to Mexican GP pole as Mercedes keep Red Bull at bay

  • Lewis Hamilton will start second behind teammate
  • Championship leader Max Verstappen down in third

Valtteri Bottas proved that he and Mercedes can never be written off after claiming a remarkable pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix. The Finn was immaculate at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, beating Lewis Hamilton into second and securing a Mercedes one-two that had seemed unfeasible earlier in the weekend.

Hamilton’s title rival Max Verstappen could manage only third with his teammate Sergio Pérez in fourth as Red Bull were left licking their wounds. Verstappen and Red Bull had expected to be on top in Mexico, a feeling that had been reinforced by their strong form all weekend. Yet it was Bottas and Hamilton who delivered with calm assurance, Bottas claiming he could not have done any better. “It was an awesome lap,” he said. “I think the first run in Q3 was one of my best laps.”

Hamilton confirmed that the result was beyond their expectations. “To lockout the front row is pretty special,” he said. “Once we got to qualifying, all of a sudden we had better pace. I’m as shocked as everyone.”

Bottas was clinical in delivering the perfect lap at the sharp end of qualifying, to which Red Bull had no answer. The margins were small but enough to once more illustrate that the world champions remain on top of their game even when seemingly outgunned. To put the achievement in perspective, Hamilton and Bottas had been over half a second behind a Red Bull one-two in final practice.

Bottas will, however, almost certainly face team orders in Hamilton’s favour in Sunday’s race should it benefit the world champion in the title fight. Verstappen has a 12-point advantage over Hamilton with five races remaining.

On the decisive runs it was Bottas who set the benchmark on the first hot laps with a time of 1min 15.875sec. Hamilton was second, just over one-tenth in arrears, but Verstappen was a full three-tenths back. Verstappen’s Red Bull had a crack in its rear wing, such that the team had to apply tape to it, but nonetheless he was no match for the Finn.

As the track reached its peak grip for the final laps Verstappen had to back off when Pérez and Yuki Tsunoda both went off in front of him but he was already more than three-tenths slower than the time set by Bottas. Neither Bottas or Hamilton went quicker but the pair had already secured a most unlikely one-two. Bottas’s lap had been inch-perfect through turn seven to the line, Mercedes crucially finding pace through the sweeping quicker corners and then twisting stadium section where they had previously been unable to match Red Bull on Saturday.

Pierre Gasly was in fifth for AlphaTauri and Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in sixth and eighth for Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo was in seventh for McLaren, Lando Norris was in 10th for McLaren but will start from 18th after the team opted to fit a new power unit for the race, beyond the three the regulations stipulate. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon also did so and qualified in 15th but will start in 19th.

George Russell was in 13th for Williams but will take a penalty for having to fit a new gearbox, beyond the team’s allocation, due to a fault and he will start in 16th.

Sebastian Vettel was in 11th for Aston Martin and Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi were in 12th and 14th for Alfa Romeo.

Lance Stroll crashed out in Q1 for Aston Martin and will start in 20th. Tsunoda was in ninth for AlphaTauri and will start from 17th with penalties for having exceeded his allocation of power unit parts.

Fernando Alonso was in 16th for Alpine and Nicholas Latifi in 17th for Williams. Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were in 18th and 19th for Haas.


Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

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