Max Verstappen made it three out of three as he finished fastest in the final practice session for the Mexico Grand Prix. The session began with the track wet and it dried out as the session progressed. It wasn’t a Red Bull 1-2 as in both of Friday’s sessions and It was Lewis Hamilton who was second fastest. The British driver was 0.254 seconds behind the Dutchman, a lot closer than Friday’s efforts.
Sebastian Vettel was 0.028 seconds behind Hamilton with the other Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo in fourth. Kimi Raikkonen was fifth, but it was the driver who will replace him at Ferrari next season that caught the eye. Sauber’s Charles Leclerc was sixth fastest and only 0.521 seconds behind Verstappen. Renault couldn’t repeat the success they had yesterday with Carlos Sainz in seventh, 1.052 seconds off the pace. Pierre Gasly. Marcus Ericsson and Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten.
The big worry for Mercedes came with Valtteri Bottas. His Mercedes stopped on the track after suffering hydraulic failure. A new engine had to be fitted, but it’s the one Bottas used in the last race that is the replacement, so no grid penalties. Mercedes still weren’t that happy though with both Hamilton and Bottas still having problems with their cars sliding all over the place.
The dominance of Red Bull continued as they took pole for Sunday’s race, but it was Daniel Ricciardo who finished fastest just 0.026 seconds ahead of his team-mate Max Verstappen. He took a leaf out of Lewis Hamilton’s book by producing a sensational lap to grab pole. It’s only the third pole of his career and the first not at the Monaco Grand Prix. It’s the team’s first 1-2 on the grid since 2014.
Lewis Hamilton will start in third, he was 0.076 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel who must win this race to have any chance of keeping the title race alive. It was a better session for Valtteri Bottas as his car got its new engine and he managed to finish fifth fastest, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Seventh and eighth places went to the Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz respectively. Sauber filled ninth and tenth with Leclerc ahead of Ericsson.
Speaking after qualifying, Daniel Ricciardo was delighted with taking pole, the first time he’d out-qualified his team-mate since April. “I knew the pace was in the car,” he said, “it as just a matter of putting together a clean lap.”
Not so happy was his team-mate who described the qualifying session as “crap.” He put the blame on unsatisfactory engine braking with plenty of rear locking.
Lewis Hamilton said Saturday was a “big improvement” on what happened yesterday. A night spent analysing Friday’s performance seems to have produced positive results.
If Hamilton’s Mercedes avoids technical problems, it’s hard to see him finishing outside the top seven. That world title victory looks more than likely then, especially as Vettel has to get past both the Red Bulls. Of course, there’s always the chance of Ricciardo and Verstappen costing each other the race. Vettel summed it up perfectly when saying: “They (Red Bull) will be hard to beat. Maybe they beat themselves.”
I’ll be back in November with another blog, til then enjoy your racing.