Mexico GP | Hamilton storms qualifying for 10th pole of the year

Pole for the Mexico GP secured by Lewis Hamilton.

Vamos Hamilton as Lewis storms qualifying to secure pole at the Mexican Grand Prix. Storming Q3 to edge Rosberg in Mercedes’ 13th front row lock-out of the year. While Ferrari faltered in qualifying and Verstappen set the Q2 pace.

Q1

As the green light came on and the 18 minutes of Q1 began, Romain Grosjean was straight out onto the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez. Leading Kevin Magnussen out onto the long pit straight, with Romain’s Mexican team-mate not far behind.

Esteban, though, saw his first flying lap at his first home Grand Prix end early. Spinning up the rear tyres out of turn three, leading the car to slide elegantly onto the kerb and Gutierrez abandon the lap. With drivers still requiring an extra lap in order to warm up the tyres.

An extra warm up lap later, and Gutierrez completed his flying lap to set a 1:22.620. His time, though, was already a second off the pace being set by Carlos Sainz. With Romain returning to the pits, pleading “the car is ******* difficult to drive, ****! Argh!”

While Sainz saw his time leave him leading his team-mate by three-tenths of a second, the Friday pace-setting Vettel soon smashed the Spaniard’s time by close to two seconds.

Vettel’s time atop the leaderboard, however, was short-lived as his team-mate demoted him by three-tenths of a second. Despite Sebastian’s time strong enough to fend off Hamilton, Verstappen and Rosberg.

The one-tenth window between Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton saw the Briton demoted to fourth when Raikkonen completed his lap. But Lewis still remained ahead of his championship rival, with Rosberg down in seventh place, behind Ricciardo and Perez.

Rosberg then found himself further behind Ricciardo and Hamilton as both improved on their previous best times. With Ricciardo nestling a tenth down on Raikkonen, while Hamilton improved to go top.

At the end that matters in Q1, Marcus Ericsson was improving as well. Setting personal best times in every sector, to move himself up from 18th and well into the midfield. While also demoting a garage-bound Kvyat into the drop zone, as the Russian developed a late technical issue.

Like Ericsson, Felipe Nasr in the sister Sauber car improved late on. However, the Brazilian could not improve enough to replicate his team-mate’s gains. Only moving up from 21st to 19th, and out of qualifying with Kvyat.

Both Haas drivers also found themselves low on the leaderboard with little time remaining to improve. And when Gutierrez spun in the middle sector to end his run, he eliminated his team-mate with him as Romain was forced to take avoiding action.

With Romain unable to improve thanks to his team-mate spinning, he ended the day slowest overall. Pascal Wehrlein, meanwhile, progressed to Q2 as the German improved under the flag to take 16th place away from Gutierrez. Beating the Mexican at his first home Grand Prix by just 0.038s.

Before qualifying was even underway, Renault knew one of their drivers would have to start the race from the pit lane with Jolyon Palmer unable to participate in Q1 as a result of a chassis change.

The team noticed that there was a crack in Jolyon’s chassis at the seat belts between final free practice and qualifying. With the split opening after the Briton mounted the exit kerb of the final corner.

The other Renault, however, proved Renault had pace in Mexico. Getting into Q2 with ease as Magnussen secured 14th place – ahead of Jenson Button, but down on Marcus Ericsson.

Q2

At the start of Q2, race strategy played a key role in deciding what tyres the drivers initially came out on. With Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams and Force India all coming out on the soft tyres. While McLaren, Toro Rosso and Manor were straight out on the supersoft tyres.

Soft tyres, and being blocked by Vettel out of the stadium, did not prevent Lewis from flying straight away, though. Posting a 1:19.137 to lead the early standings while his team-mate lapped six-tenths slower.

Vettel’s blocking of Hamilton came as the German excessively weaved through the stadium as he sought to generate more heat in his tyres, unaware Lewis was approaching. An issue Seb raised with his Ferrari team, as he asked to be warned while managing the gap to cars ahead.

After blocking Lewis, Vettel also benefited from the Mercedes’ slipstream down the long pit straight. Dragging by on route to second place, two-tenths down on Hamilton while Raikkonen sat two-tenths down on Rosberg.

While Mercedes and Ferrari’s initial laps were carried out on soft tyres as they looked ahead to the race, Red Bull chose not to follow the trend and chose the supersoft tyres for their first and only runs in Q2.

For Verstappen, this saw the Dutchman move atop the leaderboard as the first man inside the 1:18s. But for Ricciardo, the softer compound tyres did not mean he would end his run ahead of Hamilton and Vettel.

Supersoft tyres were also only enough for Fernando Alonso to take 10th place, lapping slower than the soft tyre running Force India’s. But when Button improved on his next flying lap, Alonso had to respond just to retain tenth.

Unfortunately, though, even Fernando’s response could not ensure a McLaren would progress to Q3. As Carlos Sainz improved on his personal best and Hulkenberg surged up to sixth. Eliminating the 2005 and 2006 F1 champion.

Perez would also see his qualifying end here. With the home favourite unable to beat the drop as he locked up into the first corner, ending the day in 12th – just over a tenth of a second off Carlos Sainz.

Q3

After topping Q2 on the supersoft tyres, Verstappen set the initial Q3 pace with a 1:19.092 – slower than his Q2 best. His time, though, more than enough to keep him atop the timesheet from Ricciardo and Rosberg.

Hamilton, however, pushed hard and fast. Setting the fastest lap of the weekend to clinch provisional pole – while Nico sat down in fourth place.

Like Rosberg, Ferrari’s threat to Hamilton was not coming through in the provisional shoot-out. With Vettel over a second off Lewis’ pace and only able to split the Williams’ for eight place.

Even when Vettel improved on his final run, he could only claim seventh place – ahead of the Williams duo. While Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen set new fastest final sectors but neither moved places in second and third.

Rosberg, though, was on a late charge. Finding the best track conditions right at the end as his supersofts found the grip needed to move up to second. Still a quarter of a second down on Hamilton’s benchmark.

With Rosberg taking second, Hamilton failing to improve on his final lap still meant the Briton had secured his 10th pole of the year. While also completing Mercedes’ 13th front row lock-out of 2016.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’18.704  POLE
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’18.958 0.254
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’19.054 0.35
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’19.133 0.429
5 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’19.330 0.626
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’19.376 0.672
7 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’19.381 0.677
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’19.551 0.847
9 Felipe Massa Williams 1’20.032 1.328
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1’20.378 1.674
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1’20.282 1.578
12 Sergio Perez Force India 1’20.287 1.583
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1’20.673 1.969
14 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1’21.131 2.427
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’21.536 2.832
16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1’21.785 3.081
17 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1’21.401 2.697
18 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’21.454 2.75
19 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1’21.692 2.988
20 Esteban Ocon Manor 1’21.881 3.177
21 Romain Grosjean Haas 1’21.916 3.212
22 Jolyon Palmer Renault  DNC  DNC