Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will start on pole for the Mexican Grand Prix with his team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg lining up alongside him in another Mercedes front row lock out.
While Mercedes haven’t enjoyed the same level of domination in the Free Practice sessions that they have at other tracks, Hamilton deliver the lap when in counted and took pole position by over two tenths of a second from his team mate Rosberg. Despite getting the pole Hamilton may feel a little put out by seeing his team mate line up alongside him on the grid, seeing as he has struggled this weekend to put a lap together around the track in Mexico City. Rosberg can be happy though, considering he was just 4th behind both Red Bulls after the opening Q3 run. He dealt well with the pressure to produced his best lap of the weekend as the chequered flag fell to join his Mercedes team-mate on the front row, taking till the last possible moment to find the sweet spot of his W07 after struggling all weekend with the set up for it.
“He has struggled all weekend, but obviously did the job right at the end,” Hamilton told reporter’s after. “He wasn’t happy with the set-up that he had had, and we have identical set-ups now, and then he was able to pull the car round and get a good job in his last lap in Q3.
It was another great qualifying session for the Red Bull team, who for the fourth time in succession locked out the second row of the grid in their bid to be runner’s up in constructors. Max Verstappen managed to edge out Daniel Ricciardo to 3rd place, with Ricciardo settling for 4th. Interestingly both drivers are starting the race on the supersoft tyres, a strategy that worked in in Ricciardo’s favour and saw him get a podium last weekend in Austin.
The shock of the session was the performance of Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg. While team mate Sergio Perez, driving in front of his home fans, failed to reach the top-10 shoot-out Hulkenberg beat both Ferraris to 5th on the grid for the race. His lap was a just six tenths of a second off the pole time set by Hamilton, suggesting Hulkenberg could be a genuine threat for some good points this weekend, something the team need in their battle for 4th in constructors with Williams.
But one driver’s fortune is another team’s downfall, and in this case, it was Ferrari who suffered at Hulkenberg’s fortune. Neither Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Raikkonen could get their tyres switched on quick enough to give them the optimum lap. Resulting in them being down the grid in 6th and 7th respectively, with Raikkonen outqualifying Vettel for the ninth time in 2016.
“We were just not quick enough,” rued a frustrated Vettel after the session. “We were struggling on the supersofts. On the softs we were very good and we were quicker than on the supersofts, which isn’t right.”
Lining up behind the Ferrari’s are the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, with Bottas outqualifying Massa for 8th on the grid. It might be a bit of a disappointing session for the team, seeing as they were 5th with Bottas in one of the Free Practice sessions, and were regularly higher up in the standings. Critically for them however they are ahead of one Force India, who they will need to keep behind if they want any chance of keeping their fight alive for 4th in constructors.
While Carlos Sainz squeezed into the top 10 in his Toro Rosso, in what looks to be a more positive weekend for the team. The last few races have been difficult for them, seeing as they are using a 2015 spec Ferrari engine, which is down on power to the 2016 engines in other cars. However, that deficit seems to be lessened here slightly, meaning Sainz could maximise the opportunity to get into the top ten.
He wasn’t the only driver to have a great qualifying session, as the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein managed to make it into Q2 in his first ever Mexican Grand Prix. The young Mercedes protégé showed his talent to claw through to the second session, meaning he will start the race in 16th today. He was helped marginally by the fact that Renault driver Jolyon Palmer didn’t even make it out of the garage for Qualifying after damaging his car in final practice.
“Q2 was on the cards and it’s really frustrating,” bemoaned Palmer. “We could have been fighting for one of our best grid slots of the year.”
The team had to change the chassis on the car after they found cracks around his seatbelt area from the incident in Free Practice three. While he will not start from the pit lane, Palmer will start 22nd for the race.
Mexican GP Qualifying
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:18.704
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, + 0.254
3. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, + 0.350
4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 0.429
5. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, + 0.626
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 0.672
7. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari,+ 0.677
8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, + 0.847
9. Felipe Massa, Williams, + 1.328
10. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, + 1.647
Eliminated in Q2
11. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:20.282
12. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:20.287
13. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:20.673
14. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:21.131
15. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:21.536
16. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:21.785
Eliminated in Q1
17. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:21.401
18. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:21.454
19. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:21.692
20. Esteban Ocon, Manor, 1:21.881
21. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:21.916
22. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, No time set
Feature Image Credit: Sahara Force India Press Release