Nico Rosberg on pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix ahead of three-time World Champ, Lewis Hamilton.
Qualifying fell in favour of the title-less Rosberg as Nico dominated his team-mate to take the top spot. When things heated up, Hamilton found himself off Rosberg’s pace throughout the lap while home favourite Sergio Perez missed the moment for his flying lap.
Bottas kicked off the Q1 flyers by taking the top spot with a 1:22.622. But his initial lap came as others prepared their cars by warming the tyres before attacking the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez next time round. And with their second flying laps, Hamilton initially took P1 from Valtteri but his time was bettered by Rosberg by two tenths of a second moments later.
As the midfield teams of Force India, Toro Rosso and Sauber joined the time sheet, their early times sat over a second off of Hamilton’s improved time while Lewis remained on the medium tyres. Ricciardo was also 1.360 seconds off Hamilton’s benchmark time before he moved to within four tenths after a switch of compounds. The Red Bull also set the fastest sector time in the final sector as the team continued to be the best in the tight and twisty middle and last parts of the reconfigured track.
Another driver who took the soft tyres for their second run was Felipe Massa as he sat 1.6 seconds off the pace after catching traffic on his best lap with the mediums. His gap to the top also extended to nearly two seconds before he could post a new flying lap as Vettel ventured out of the pits with the soft tyres to go three tenths up on Hamilton’s time.
Felipe however moved up to 10th when he posted his time, leaving local hero Sergio Perez in the drop zone along with Fernando Alonso and the Manors as Jenson Button sat out of qualifying after McLaren were unable to fix his broken engine. Like Massa however, Perez stormed up the board for fifth before loosing a few places at the flag.
When the chequered flag for Q1 began to wave, Grosjean sat just on the right side of the drop zone with Alonso still pushing out on track. Luckily for Grosjean, his time on the board was enough to see him through by two tenths of a second after a tank slapper on his final flyer saw the Frenchman end the session without being able to improve.
But importantly for him, Grosjean made it into the second stage of qualifying where his initial time saw him linger towards the bottom of the board. Compared to Hamilton who created a half a second margin at the top to Ricciardo with his first flying lap, before improving further to keep the top step from Rosberg and put Ricciardo a second off the pace.
When the first runs came to an end in Q2 and the drivers returned to their garages, Grosjean sat down in ninth place with his team-mate two tenths back. Yet while Romain sat 1.2 seconds off the leading pace, Raikkonen was returning to his garage without setting a flying lap after a brake issue caused him to spin at the first corner and retire from the session. Kimi is also set to take a five-place grid penalty for tomorrow due to a gearbox change but will start ahead of the McLaren’s due to their excessive engine change penalties.
When the final runs kicked in, Vettel moved himself into second and split the Silver Arrows for the top spots as he edged Rosberg by one hundredth of a second. Massa meanwhile was also once again searching for a better time as he sat in the drop zone alongside Verstappen as spots of rain began to fall over an already slippery surface.
The limited grip however was not enough to hold Massa and Verstappen off though as the pair survived at the death as they fought for control around the final corner. Felipe and Max’s survival and top-10 place however came at the cost of Grosjean and Carlos Sainz after the pair were bumped down the order. Sainz in 11th place actually missed a Q3 slot by just one hundredth of a second to Hulkenberg with both Force India’s making it through.
For Q3, the slight rain that had begun to fall halted as Mercedes sent both drivers out immediately in case conditions worsened. As the clock slowly rolled on, six of the other eight drivers still competing in qualifying joined them on track with just Force India sitting in the pits.
As the eight drivers on track set about posting a provisional Q3 lap time it became apparent that the last man to cross the line would get the best of the track as grip levels continued to rise. Unfortunately for Hamilton, he was leading Rosberg out of the pits and found his time beaten in every sector on both lap times the Silver Arrows posted.
When they returned to their garage, Hamilton sat 0.188 seconds back from Rosberg after Nico went purple in every sector with the gap between the pair varying in each sector but always falling in favour of the German rather than the three-time world champ.
For the other six, Bottas and Massa found themselves initially as the closest challengers to Mercedes despite being nearly a second back. Vettel however moved to third, 0.370 off of Rosberg with slow first runs for both Red Bulls and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen. Kvyat however went faster on his next flyer to go five hundredths up on Bottas as the others returned to pits.
Come the final runs of qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix, Hulkenberg was only able to go ninth fastest and be the slowest man out of the ones to complete flying laps. Sergio Perez was also only able to go ninth fastest when he posted his qualifying time as the track conditions dropped off and none of the other eight were able to massively improve.
With improvements unable to be found as the track dropped two degrees, Nico Rosberg celebrated his fourth consecutive pole position in 2015. Lewis Hamilton will also start in second place for the fourth consecutive race as Mercedes locked out the front row once more.
Vettel ended the session in third place ahead of the two Red Bulls while Raikkonen will have a fight on his hands to secure strong points at tomorrows Mexican GP.
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