29 October 2017Hot off the Press
Sebastian Vettel has positioned himself well to continue challenging for the 2017 Formula One Drivers’ World Championship, putting his Ferrari on pole for the Mexican Grand Prix. Vettel denied Red Bull’s Max Verstappen the title of “youngest-ever polesitter” by just 0.086 seconds at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, and it is Vettel himself who will continue to hold that title. Verstappen will instead start second on the grid, escaping a penalty for allegedly impeding another driver during qualifying.
Mercedes locked out the second row, with current Championship leader Lewis Hamilton ahead of teammate Valterri Bottas, but both drivers being almost half a second off the pace. However, if Hamilton finishes fifth or better in the race he will seal the Championship. Starting behind the Mercedes cars are the second Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen and the Force India of Esteban “Oconsistency” Ocon, who continues to live up to his new nickname with a strong qualifying performance. Ocon has made regular appearances in Q3 this season, and has only finished outside the points on one occasion.
Starting in seventh is the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, in an unusually-poor qualifying performance that left the Australian feeling confused, helpless, and unable to explain the sudden drop in performance from previous practice sessions. According to reports, Red Bull is currently considering a power unit change for Ricciardo which would result in a grid-place penalty for the Grand Prix, but give him an almost-new unit for the Brazilian Grand Prix where the team expects to perform well.
The Renaults of Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr followed in eighth and ninth, the first time Renault have had two cars start in the top-10 since the Bahrain Grand Prix in April this season. Rounding off the top-10 is the second Force India of crowd favourite Sergio Pérez.
Neither Williams cars made it through to Q3 — Felipe Massa will line up 11th on the grid ahead of teammate Lance Stroll. Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso suffered power unit problems and failed to finish Q2, leaving him in 13th, but he may drop down the grid if the problems require him to take on new power unit elements. Earlier this week it was announced that Hartley would be retained by Toro Rosso until the end of the season, the New Zealander having taken over from Sainz who moved to Renault ahead of the last race in Austin.
The McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne did not make an appearance in Q2, wanting to preserve their newly-replaced power units. Both drivers have incurred grid penalties as a result of the power unit changes and despite qualifying 14th and 15th will actually start 18th and 19th (or higher, depending on Hartley’s possible penalties). This promotes the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein to at least 14th and 15th, and Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to at least 16th and 17th. Both Haas drivers expressed disappointment and frustration, with Magnussen saying: “The frustrating and confusing thing is we’ve got a car that at some tracks can be fighting for top-six and then other tracks we’re last.”
Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso didn’t make an outing at all during qualifying, his power unit being replaced after problems during practice, and is expected to start at the back of the grid as a result. The Frenchman has had little running this weekend, and said of his first race at the circuit: “I could have come from Japan only today and go for the race tomorrow, it’s basically the same thing. I’ve never had such a race weekend.” Gasly missed the last Grand Prix to compete in the Super Formula finale in Japan (which was cancelled due to a typhoon), but has returned to replace Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso until the end of the season. Toro Rosso and Red Bull announced this week that Kvyat had been dropped permanently from the team after a disappointing two seasons and has no foreseeable future within the Red Bull family.