Valtteri Bottas scored a surprise pole position as Mercedes locked out the front row for the 2021 FIA Formula 1 Mexico City Grand Prix ahead of the Red Bulls of championship leader Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez.
Through Friday and final practice on Saturday morning Red Bull Racing had been dominant, with local favourite Pérez topping FP3 six tenths of a second clear of the Mercedes drivers. However, in Q3 the tables turned as Mercedes found pace and the Red Bull drivers’ final runs were compromised when AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda went off at Turn 10. The incident caused Pérez to also run wide. Anticipating yellow flags Verstappen reduced speed and his lap was gone. It left the Red Bull team-mates in third and fourth as Bottas first-run time proved good enough to hand him 19th career pole position, with Lewis Hamilton second.
At the start of Q1, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set the early pace with a lap of 1:17.991, half a second ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.
However, seven minutes into the session Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll lost control through the Peraltada and slid into the barriers. The Canadian hit the wall nose first and then was spun round so that the rear of the car slammed into the barriers. The red flags were immediately displayed.
After a 25-minute delay while the TecPro barriers were repaired at the crash site, the session resumed. Bottas vaulted to top spot with a time of 1:17.516 with Hamilton second, but Pérez then took P1 with a lap of 1:17.451. Verstappen was just behind the Mexican on track though and when he crossed the line he moved to P1 with a lap of 1:16.788. Both Mercedes went for another run and Bottas moved to second place with a lap of 1:16.959 while Hamilton took P3 ahead of Pérez. The Mexican was also on another run however, and he climbed to P3.
In the final runs, Bottas put in a good lap to take P1 with a time of 1:16.727. Leclerc took second place meaning that Max progressed in P3. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly jumped to P3 in the final moments of the segment and Pérez went through in P5 ahead of Hamilton.
At the other end of the order, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was eliminated in P16 ahead of Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, the Haas cars of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin and the unfortunate Stroll.
When the green lights were lit for Q2, the bulk of the field emerged on medium tyres. Verstappen quickly found his way to top spot with a lap of 1:16.483 with Pérez in P2 thanks to a lap of 1:17.005. The Mexican was quickly shuffled down to sixth place as other first-run times came in, with one of those ahead being Tsunoda who claimed P3 as one of only two drivers on soft tyres.
At the end of the middle segment Hamilton took top spot with a lap of 1:16.474. Verstappen went through in P2 ahead of Tsunoda, Bottas and Gasly. Leclerc took P6 and Pérez progressed to the top-10 shootout in seventh place ahead of Ricciardo, Sainz and Norris. Eliminated, though, were Sebastian Vettel in P11 ahead of Räikkönen, George Russell, Anotnio Giovinazzi and Esteban Ocon.
In Q3, Bottas claimed provisional pole with a lap of 1:15.875 ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, leaving Verstappen third and Pérez in fourth place.
The Red Bull drivers went out for their final runs with Pérez ahead of Verstappen and it initially looked as though the Mexican’s efforts to provide his team-mate with a tow were working. But ahead of the Mexican, Tsunoda went off and triggered the end of Red Bull’s challenge for pole.
Neither Bottas nor Hamilton could improve on their final runs and the top-four order remained as it had been after the opening runs with Bottas taking pole ahead of Hamilton and with Red Bull locking out row two.
Behind the leading quartet, Gasly qualified fifth ahead of Sainz, the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo and the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. The unfortunate Tsunoda qualified ninth but will start from the grid due to PU penalties and 10th place was taken by McLaren’s Lando Norris who will also take PU penalties.
2021 FIA Formula 1 Mexico City Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:15.875 7 204.209
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.020 0.145 0.191 7 203.820
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:16.225 0.350 0.461 7 203.271
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:16.342 0.467 0.615 5 202.960
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:16.456 0.581 0.766 6 202.657
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:16.761 0.886 1.168 6 201.852
7 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:16.763 0.888 1.170 6 201.847
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.837 0.962 1.268 6 201.652
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 1:17.158 1.283 1.691 6 200.813
10 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:36.830 20.955 27.618 5 160.016
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:17.746 1.272 1.663 7 199.295
12 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:17.958 1.484 1.941 8 198.753
13 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:18.172 1.698 2.220 6 198.209
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:18.290 1.816 2.375 6 197.910
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:18.405 1.931 2.525 6 197.620
16 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:18.452 1.725 2.248 7 197.501
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:18.756 2.029 2.644 8 196.739
18 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:18.858 2.131 2.777 9 196.484
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:19.303 2.576 3.357 9 195.382
20 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:20.873 4.146 5.404 3 191.589