It was a pleasant, sunny afternoon in Mexico City, with an air temperature of 20°C. However, the track temperature of 35°C that came with it didn’t suit the tyres causing drivers to struggle from lack of grip.
The main casualties of this were Haas who only managed to qualify in 17th and 18th. The team have already given up with 2019 as Kevin Magnussen revealed to Sky Sports’ Rachel Brookes.
“It’s not like we’re surprised to be here,” Magnussen reflected. “We (now) shift the focus to next year and we’re all very excited about that.”
Tyres continued to play a role in Q2 as Toro Rosso decided to put both Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly on the medium compound tyre.
This could have been for two reasons: either to gain an advantage in tomorrow’s race by going on a longer first stint to then switch to the quicker soft tyre later on or simply because they hadn’t got enough sets of soft tyres to go out for two runs in Q2.
No matter what the plan was, it didn’t work. They were plum last and had to switch back to the softs in order to get themselves into Q3, which they did.
As for the frontrunners, they committed themselves to starting on the mediums. Mercedes decided to do so because they were concentrating on the race due to their lack of qualifying pace compared to Ferrari and Red Bull.
The home crowd were cheering on Sergio Perez but it wasn’t enough to power the Mexican into the top-ten shootout, missing out by just eight thousandths of a second.
He does have free tyre choice tomorrow though which can be used to his advantage. Expect to see Checo in the points tomorrow if all goes well.
Renault were disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix in a hearing this week after Racing Point protested against their automatic brake bias driving aid. This automatically changed the brake bias for the driver instead of it having to be changed manually.
Despite this not breaking the technical regulations, it was deemed to have broken the sporting regulations and so both Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg were disqualified.
Their Mexican Grand Prix qualifying session didn’t go much better either. After suffering various problems in free practice, Hulkenberg could only manage to qualify 12th. Ricciardo will line up just behind him in 13th.
There was a dramatic end to qualifying as Valtteri Bottas went wide through the Peraltada, hitting the wall before finally coming to a halt by crashing into the Tecpro barriers. Bottas walked away unscathed; his car didn’t.
Max Verstappen was already on provisional pole at this point so was unaffected. Charles Leclerc didn’t have a good final lap and so was vulnerable to quicker laps from Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, but both were unable to improve due to the yellow flags at the scene of Bottas’ accident at the final corner.
At first, the stewards did not investigate Verstappen for setting a faster lap under yellow flags. A few hours after the conclusion of qualifying though, they did award Verstappen a three-place grid penalty meaning that Ferrari now lock out the front row with Charles Leclerc on pole.
At the start of the race, there will be some jostling for position as the drivers slipstream each other on the long run down to turn 1.
Verstappen had said before his penalty that he believes he has the race pace to make up any positions lost at the start. It will be interesting to see how Max attacks the race now that he has been demoted to fourth.
Set your alarm clocks then to see if Lewis Hamilton clinches his sixth drivers’ title and to see if Max Verstappen can recover to claim his third consecutive victory at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, which would be a record.
It all gets underway from 6:10am (AEDT).
1: Charles Leclerc: 1:15.024
2: Sebastian Vettel: 1:15.170
3: Lewis Hamilton: 1:15.262
4: Max Verstappen: 3-place grid penalty
5: Alexander Albon: 1:15.336
6: Valtteri Bottas: 1:15.338
7: Carlos Sainz: 1:16.014
8: Lando Norris: 1:16.322
9: Daniil Kvyat: 1:16.469
10: Pierre Gasly: 1:16.586
11: Sergio Perez: 1:16.687 (Q2)
12: Nico Hulkenberg: 1:16.885 (Q2)
13: Daniel Ricciardo: 1:16.933 (Q2)
14: Kimi Raikkonen: 1:16.967 (Q2)
15: Antonio Giovinazzi: 1:17.269 (Q2)
16: Lance Stroll: 1:18.065 (Q1)
17: Kevin Magnussen: 1:18.436 (Q1)
18: Romain Grosjean: 1:18.599 (Q1)
19: George Russell: 1:18.823 (Q1)
20: Robert Kubica: 1:20.179 (Q1)
It’s difficult not to feel a little sentimental and sit in reflection over the passing of another decade of Formula One racing. Ten years of on-track action, drama and evolution, as well as the off-track occurrences that encompass the pinnacle of world motorsport.