Lewis Hamilton secured Mercedes’ eighteenth pole position of the 2016 Formula One season today when he finished qualifying at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit in Mexico. Hamilton, who currently trails his teammate by 26 points in the drivers’ championship with just three races to go, has been the quicker of the two all weekend and put the car just where it needed to be, despite being baulked by the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel in the second session.
It was his 59th career pole position, his first at this track and his 10th of the 2016 season so far
“It's been a really solid weekend so far. Q3 was actually not great for me. Even though I got pole, it wasn't a great lap. I had a pretty serious delta throughout the session before that but then lost quite a lot of time on my first Q3 lap and then more again on my second lap,” Lewis explained. “I just didn't put three sectors together in either of them. If I'd put them all together, I think there was probably another three or four tenths in there.”
“ In terms of the race, it's a long, long run down to turn one so the start will be important. But our long run pace has looked really strong and we're on the better tyre, so the signs are good. Red Bull might have a slight advantage off the line on the SuperSoft - but it looks like that tyre will grain quite badly.”
“As always, our strategist has done a fantastic job there. Looking after the soft tyre, avoiding lockups and flat spots will give us a challenge. But the car has been great this weekend, so I hope that continues through tomorrow. This is a race I haven't won yet and I'd love to tick it off the list in front of this amazing crowd, who have been really spectacular all weekend.”
Teammate and current points leader, Nico Rosberg, fought back on jis final lap to take P2, after seeming to struggle all session long. Just before the chequered flag fell, Nico looked as if he wasn’t going to make it onto the front row, but suddenly everything fell into place and he took P2 to complete a 12th Silver Arrows front row lockout of the season.
“This weekend it took a bit longer to find my rhythm. At the end of Qualifying I was quite happy with how I felt in the car and managed to pull out a good lap - but Lewis was just a bit quicker,” he said. “I'm not happy to have missed out on the pole position. But, on the other hand, starting from second place here is not that bad.”
“There are a lot of opportunities, as the straight down to turn one on the first lap is very long. We've seen a few times this year that pole is not so important. It will be a challenging race and we need to have an eye on the Red Bull. I think the Mexican fans will have an exciting Sunday. It was so great to see so many of them out there today. They are so full of passion and it feels really great to see that when you're out there on track.”
The Red Bull of young Max Verstappen was third fastest overall and due to the team using a different tyre strategy to their rivals at Mercedes, the Dutchman is confident that he is in the ideal place to put in a strong challenge for the lead off the start…
“I am very pleased with the way qualifying went, we have put ourselves on the second row again which means we are in an ideal position to fight from the start. All weekend we have had a good car. We are still just a little down on top speed which makes it hard to compete with the Mercedes in qualifying, but we are still pretty close so that is a good achievement,” he said. “My Q2 lap was really good and felt quick but I just couldn’t find the same grip levels in Q3 which meant I was slightly slower.”
“I struggled in sector one which is usually my best sector, that shows how the grip can change in a matter of minutes. It’s still a hard lap out there, everyone is in the same position and has to adapt to the slippery conditions. It’s fun, but a different kind of fun. At some tracks you can have a perfect lap but here it is so hard. It is a long run into Turn 1 and we start on the supersoft compound so our chances of making progress straight away is high. Race pace looked strong which means we are looking forward to tomorrow.”
Aussie racer and Max’s Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, will start the race from fourth place after what he described as a ‘terrible lap’ but he is happy to be on the second row of the grid where he too is primed to get a strong stat on the super soft tyres and make a challenge for the lead, just as he did in Austin a week ago….
“I think the fight was there but to be honest, my last lap was terrible. I was fighting it already out of Turn 1 and by Turn 6 I was nearly four tenths slower than my previous lap,” he explained. “We managed to recuperate some of that but looking at the gap to pole it was only four tenths so it could have been a lot better but it also could have been a lot worse. It’s just like that with a new surface, it’s still very slippery here and it’s hard to find that happy medium. In that last run in Q3 we definitely lost some performance, particularly in the first half of the lap but we’re still on the second row so that’s okay and I’ll take that. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I think we can have a good race but to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow after this qualifying is difficult.”
Fifth fastest overall was the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg who put in a brilliant lap to outpace both Ferrari drivers, Kimi Raikkonen in sixth and Sebastian Vettel in seventh. Noe he just needs to keep out of trouble at the start and not end up in yet another first lap collision….
“It’s been a very good qualifying session for me and I am very happy with the result,” Nico said. “ Our car works pretty well on every circuit nowadays, but I felt it just got better and better through qualifying as the track improved. My first lap in Q3 was mega, possibly my best qualifying lap of the season, and I don’t think there was anything more I could extract from it.”
“We need to keep ourselves out of trouble at the start but I won’t let what happened last week influence me: every time you get to turn one, there is a unique dynamic and you just have to play it by ear. We have a good idea of where we are for the race and we’ll get our head down and build on today’s result.”
The two Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished eighth and ninth respectively with the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz rounding out the top ten.