F1 Mexican GP: Bottas takes pole as Mercedes stuns Red Bull in qualifying

Mercedes stunned Red Bull in qualifying for Formula 1’s 2021 Mexican Grand Prix, with Valtteri Bottas leading Lewis Hamilton to lock out the front row ahead of Max Verstappen.

F1 Mexican GP: Bottas takes pole as Mercedes stuns Red Bull in qualifying

Sergio Perez took fourth in front of his home crowd, with the Red Bull duo having their final laps ruined when coming across stablemate Yuki Tsunoda off the track in the runoff at Turn 10.

But Red Bull, which had dominated in FP3, was already under pressure as Bottas had grabbed provisional pole on the first run in Q3 with a 1m5.875s, with Hamilton slotting in 0.145s behind.

Perez led Verstappen around for the final Q3 fliers – just as he had earlier in the segment, where Verstappen posted a time 0.350s slower than Bottas’s time as the championship leader struggled with a loose rear end.

Both Red Bulls posted personal bests in the opening sector on their final laps, but Tsunoda’s off-track moment at the fast Turn 10 right appeared to distract Perez, who went off as well, with Verstappen then coming across the pair and backing off expecting a yellow flag.

He then locked up during the stadium section and did not improve his best time while behind neither Mercedes driver improved, which sealed Bottas’s 19th F1 pole.

Red Bull had come into qualifying – where all the top 10 runners traversed Q2 on the mediums bar Tsunoda, which means they will start on that rubber for tomorrow’s race – hurriedly working on the rear wings of the RB16Bs, which had picked up small cracks in final practice at Austin and had to be repaired ahead of qualifying there.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The team confirmed to Autosport that the wings were not cracked this time around, but Verstappen’s car was sporting tape next to the endplate throughout qualifying, with the Dutchman saying in his immediate post-qualifying interview that the wings had had to be repaired.

Behind the leaders, Pierre Gasly took fifth, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniel Ricciardo, with Charles Leclerc eighth.

Tsunoda took ninth ahead of Norris – with the McLaren and AlphaTauri teams using their drivers that will take grid penalties for taking new engines this weekend to tow their team-mates down the main straight at the start of the fliers in Q3.

In Q2, a personal best with his final flier just ahead of the chequered flag coming out was not enough to get Sebastian Vettel through and he was knocked out in 11th ahead of former team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

George Russell took 13th for Williams but will drop five places on the grid as a result of his post-FP2 gearbox change – although that will be ahead of all the drivers that have grid penalties for taking new engines.

They are Tsunoda, Norris, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon.

The last two drivers knocked out in Q2 were Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi, who spun off at the Turn 12 90-degree right at the entry to the stadium section on his final flying lap – the Alfa Romeo sliding off sideways at high-speed and knocking into the barriers deep in the runoff square-on.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Giovinazzi was able to drive away from the incident and returned to the pits, ending up 14th ahead of Alpine’s Ocon.

The opening segment was disrupted nearly halfway through – but before most of the field had posted times – by Lance Stroll crashing at the exit of the Peraltada.

The Aston driver was ending his opening Q1 lap when he accelerated out of the famous long right hander that ends the lap in Mexico, but going slightly too wide put him on a dusty line and his car snapped out of control.

Stroll spun off backwards into the barriers on the outside at the start of the pitstraight, which destroyed his rear wing and then the left-front wheel area as the Aston spun around and its front was knocked about as well.

The session was suspended for nearly half an hour as the wreckage was cleared and the barriers replaced, after which Fernando Alonso was the highest profile Q1 casualty as he was knocked out in 16th – the Alpine driver finishing his final lap just before the chequered flag fell, which meant he was shuffled down as others, including Russell, went quicker as the track conditions continued to improve.

The other Q1 fallers were Nicholas Latifi, the Haas pair and the absent Stroll – who went to the medical centre to be checked over after his 12G impact, where it was revealed “his vital signs and x-rays are normal”, per an Aston statement.

Mick Schumacher led Nikita Mazepin in 18th and 19th – the latter having a tetchy exchange with his team about running behind his team-mate and the Williams cars ahead of the final Q1 fliers.

Latifi and Russell will be investigated now qualifying has ended for lining up alongside the Haas cars at the pit exit at the end of the red flag period, and then setting off alongside their rivals when the session resumed.

Raikkonen also now has a trip to the stewards to explain why he crossed and the recrossed the pit entry – he had already passed the bollard at the start of the entrance line – just after Stroll’s crash.

The Finn ended up doing an extra lap during the red flag period as a result of not coming in just as the red flag was activated.

Cla Driver Time Gap
1 Finland Valtteri Bottas 1'15.875  
2 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton 1'16.020 0.145
3 Netherlands Max Verstappen 1'16.225 0.350
4 Mexico Sergio Perez 1'16.342 0.467
5 France Pierre Gasly 1'16.456 0.581
6 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. 1'16.761 0.886
7 Australia Daniel Ricciardo 1'16.763 0.888
8 Monaco Charles Leclerc 1'16.837 0.962
9 Germany Sebastian Vettel 1'17.746 1.871
10 Finland Kimi Raikkonen 1'17.958 2.083
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