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Verstappen: "Very hard to nail" pole lap at low-grip Mexico F1 track

Max Verstappen says he struggled to “nail” a lap in Mexican Grand Prix qualifying, and attributed his pole to Red Bull improving his car's handling just in time for Q3.

George Russell, Mercedes W13, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Verstappen trailed Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in both Q1 and Q2 in qualifying at the low-grip Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track, but then led from the off in the final segment before sealing pole with a fastest time at the death in Q3.

That put him clear of George Russell and Hamilton by 0.304s and 0.309s, taking his sixth pole of the 2022 campaign.

Speaking in the post-qualifying press conference, Verstappen was delighted with his result after coming back against the Mercedes pair in qualifying. 

He was also pleased his team produced a smooth effort to seal pole at a track where the high altitude reduces the available downforce and leaves cars sliding on a surface some drivers have described as ‘like ice’.

“It was a bit of a tricky start to qualifying because the track was a bit warmer than FP3 – so I think everyone was sliding around a bit more and it was a bit more difficult to find your rhythm,” Verstappen explained.

“So, it was really about [learning changes from] Q1-to-Q2-to-Q3 – trying to find the balance in the car again.

“At the end of the session it got a little better and in Q3 we finally could push a little bit more with the car and [I did] two decent laps, I think.

“Of course, I’m very happy with them because around here it’s very hard to – for me at least – to nail the lap.

“It’s just very low grip and there are a few kerbs you have to perfectly hit to actually gain time.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

“So, it’s definitely not the easiest of qualifyings or races. And the same for the tyre warm-up. But it seems like in Q3 we had the right picture.”

Verstappen also said that he and Red Bull were “just fine-tuning a few things on the [steering] wheel [that] everyone is allowed [to do]” to find “a good balance” in time for the critical Q3 runs.

After setting a 1m17.947s on his opening Q3 effort, Verstappen improved to a 1m17.775s on the lap that secured pole – his first at the Mexican track after he lost the accolade in 2019 for a yellow-flag infringement.

When asked by Autosport where he had improved between the two runs, Verstappen replied: “Honestly, I think everywhere I just gained a little bit – it was not like I made a mistake on my first lap.

“It was just a couple of corners where [there] was maybe tiny track evolution as well. Just trying to nail it the whole time.”

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