Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019

Can Ferrari get back to winning ways after sixth pole in a row?

2019 Mexican Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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The winner of the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix may well be decided in a pre-race discussion in the Ferrari motorhome.

Not that they’re necessarily going to choose which of their drivers gets to win. But as we saw in Sochi, their tactics for the start of the race will have a huge effect on its outcome.

Max Verstappen’s qualifying penalty has handed Ferrari a front-row lock-out. But a lot can happen between the starting grid and turn one, some 900 metres away.

Charles Leclerc, who inherited pole position for the race from Verstappen, spelled out the importance of keeping his lead at the start.

“The one who would be first in after turn three will have a huge advantage,” he said. “First of all, because you have got free air, which is the same on every track.

“But here I think there is a big thing which is the cooling and then being behind you need to straight away start to do some lift off and things like this is going to be a big factor.”

The winner could be decided by turn three, Leclerc reckons
At Sochi, where there is also a very long run to the first braking zone and Ferrari qualified first and third, the team made a pre-race arrangement with its drivers as to how it would handle the start. The exact details have never been fully disclosed, but from the team’s post-race quotes and in-race radio communications, it appears to have been as follows.

Leclerc, who was on pole in Russia, would help Sebastian Vettel, who started third, by giving him the benefit of his slipstream. However if by doing that Vettel took the lead off him, Leclerc would be given the lead back, providing the team believed the pair made roughly similar starts. In other words, if Ferrari felt Vettel got ahead by making a better start rather than by using Leclerc’s slipstream, Vettel would be allowed to stay ahead.

As the team’s radio communications showed, after Vettel passed Leclerc at the start both drivers were told their “start performance was the same” and therefore Vettel would have to let Leclerc by again. Of course he didn’t, but that’s another story.

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Will Ferrari attempt similar tactics in Mexico? The crucial difference is, of course, that their drivers do not have another car between them. Their greater concern will surely be avoiding a repeat of their poor starts at Suzuka two weeks ago.

Verstappen is quick but out of position after his penalty
Even if they don’t get away particularly well, the sheer grunt of the Ferraris should help them stay ahead, allowing them to form a kind of ‘rolling roadblock’ to keep their rivals behind.

Any attempt to do much more than that would be fraught with unnecessary complexity, the like of which Sochi surely demonstrated they don’t need. But, as Leclerc admitted on Thursday, whatever the Ferrari engineers cook up, the drivers will go along with. Whatever they choose, the team will be anxious to avoid failing to convert pole position into victory for the third race in a row.

The loss of Verstappen’s Red Bull from pole position will make Ferrari’s life a lot easier. But he could still be a serious threat, especially if he is able to find a way past Lewis Hamilton on lap one. The Red Bull is usually good on its tyres, was very strong at this track last year, and the team is usually aggressive with its strategy – more so than Mercedes, who couldn’t engineer a way to get Hamilton past Vettel last time out, and were outfoxed by Ferrari in Singapore.

If Verstappen and the Ferraris occupy the top three places, Hamilton will have to wait at least another week for his sixth championship. However if he finishes on the podium, Valtteri Bottas’s result will determine whether the title is decided. Mercedes have not yet confirmed whether Bottas will have to take a grid penalty following the repair work to his damaged car, but indicated they are “90%” confident he won’t.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019
Hamilton could be champion again in a few hours
The four slowest drivers in Q3 – the McLaren and Toro Rosso pair – are likely to find themselves at a considerable strategic disadvantage owing to F1’s Q2 tyre rule. They will have to start on old soft tyres and, as last year’s race showed, are likely to be the only cars on the softest rubber at the start of the race. We could see a lot of pace management from them – that was how Leclerc bagged seventh place for Sauber last year, after a monotonous race of near-constant reminders to look after his tyres.

There is a slim chance the weather could play a role in the proceedings. The race starts at 1:10pm local time and some forecasts indicate a rising chance of rain from 3pm, with a strong possibility of storms after 4pm. If that arrives any sooner, we could see a wet end to the race.

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Charles LeclercFerrari1’16.3641’16.219 (-0.145)1’15.024 (-1.195)
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’16.6961’15.914 (-0.782)1’15.170 (-0.744)
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’16.4241’15.721 (-0.703)1’15.262 (-0.459)
4Max VerstappenRed Bull1’15.9491’16.136 (+0.187)1’14.758 (-1.378)
5Alexander AlbonRed Bull1’16.1751’16.574 (+0.399)1’15.336 (-1.238)
6Valtteri BottasMercedes1’17.0621’15.852 (-1.210)1’15.338 (-0.514)
7Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren1’17.0441’16.267 (-0.777)1’16.014 (-0.253)
8Lando NorrisMcLaren1’17.0921’16.447 (-0.645)1’16.322 (-0.125)
9Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’17.0411’16.657 (-0.384)1’16.469 (-0.188)
10Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’17.0651’16.679 (-0.386)1’16.586 (-0.093)
11Sergio PerezRacing Point1’17.4651’16.687 (-0.778)
12Nico HulkenbergRenault1’17.6081’16.885 (-0.723)
13Daniel RicciardoRenault1’17.2701’16.933 (-0.337)
14Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’17.2251’16.967 (-0.258)
15Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’17.7941’17.269 (-0.525)
16Lance StrollRacing Point1’18.065
17Kevin MagnussenHaas1’18.436
18Romain GrosjeanHaas1’18.599
19George RussellWilliams1’18.823
20Robert KubicaWilliams1’20.179

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Charles Leclerc26.625 (2)28.787 (4)19.523 (4)
Sebastian Vettel26.528 (1)28.789 (5)19.675 (6)
Lewis Hamilton26.965 (6)28.611 (2)19.486 (3)
Max Verstappen26.732 (3)28.586 (1)19.440 (1)
Alexander Albon26.960 (5)28.820 (6)19.537 (5)
Valtteri Bottas26.923 (4)28.664 (3)19.478 (2)
Carlos Sainz Jnr27.086 (7)29.056 (7)19.872 (7)
Lando Norris27.173 (9)29.212 (8)19.889 (8)
Daniil Kvyat27.284 (16)29.233 (9)19.900 (10)
Pierre Gasly27.120 (8)29.486 (10)19.940 (11)
Sergio Perez27.264 (14)29.529 (11)19.894 (9)
Nico Hulkenberg27.249 (11)29.593 (12)19.959 (12)
Daniel Ricciardo27.235 (10)29.658 (13)19.966 (13)
Kimi Raikkonen27.255 (12)29.723 (14)19.989 (14)
Antonio Giovinazzi27.274 (15)29.791 (15)20.093 (15)
Lance Stroll27.263 (13)30.150 (16)20.343 (16)
Kevin Magnussen27.404 (17)30.508 (19)20.524 (18)
Romain Grosjean27.580 (18)30.491 (18)20.478 (17)
George Russell27.690 (19)30.438 (17)20.621 (19)
Robert Kubica27.811 (20)31.501 (20)20.743 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari357.9 (222.4)
2Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari357.0 (221.8)-0.9
3Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari353.0 (219.3)-4.9
4Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes352.2 (218.8)-5.7
5Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes352.1 (218.8)-5.8
6Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari352.1 (218.8)-5.8
7Robert KubicaWilliamsMercedes351.9 (218.7)-6.0
8Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari351.7 (218.5)-6.2
9George RussellWilliamsMercedes351.6 (218.5)-6.3
10Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault351.6 (218.5)-6.3
11Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes350.7 (217.9)-7.2
12Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari349.5 (217.2)-8.4
13Max VerstappenRed BullHonda347.8 (216.1)-10.1
14Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes347.7 (216.1)-10.2
15Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda347.3 (215.8)-10.6
16Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault346.9 (215.6)-11.0
17Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda346.7 (215.4)-11.2
18Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault346.2 (215.1)-11.7
19Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda345.6 (214.7)-12.3
20Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault344.4 (214.0)-13.5

Drivers’ remaining tyres

Lewis HamiltonMercedes100212
Valtteri BottasMercedes100212
Sebastian VettelFerrari101103
Charles LeclercFerrari101103
Max VerstappenRed Bull101103
Alexander AlbonRed Bull101103
Daniel RiccairdoRenault101014
Nico HulkenbergRenault101014
Kevin MagnussenHaas102013
Romain GrosjeanHaas102013
Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren101103
Lando NorrisMcLaren101004
Sergio PerezRacing Point101014
Lance StrollRacing Point101032
Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo102013
Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo102013
Daniil KvyatToro Rosso101103
Pierre GaslyToro Rosso101103
George RussellWilliams101113
Robert KubicaWilliams102013

Over to you

Will Ferrari claim their first Mexican Grand Prix win since 1990? Can Verstappen reclaim the initiative after losing pole position?

And will Hamilton put a lock on the title today? Share your views on the Mexican Grand Prix in the comments.

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2019 Mexican Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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6 comments on “Can Ferrari get back to winning ways after sixth pole in a row?”

  1. Those first two paragraphs, nicely done, made me grin, and groan, before reading on.

    I believe we can mostly forget about the title being decided here, unless that rain does come after all, but I don’t count on that.

    Ferrari success in blocking off VER, HAM will probably mean a relatively stale stint, unless they then somehow start battling, though I do suppose the novelty of team and drivers cooperating on track might be a sight.

    Not sure what to expect, hope VER can keep that tense, bc I have little idea of what Mercedes is capable off.

    Also, looking forward to how the midfield falls, looks yet again quite close, but overtaking might be hard.

  2. I hope Ferrari just lets them race

  3. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    27th October 2019, 17:31

    Will this go into the record books as Leclerc’s pole – Verstappen set the pole. Is it correct that he due a grid penalty doesn’t start on that pole position, that he does not got credited of setting Pole?

    If that is the case, then anyone going into qualifying with a grid penalty can never get pole which would be strange for me!

    1. Schumacher in Monaco 2012 fits in that description, although he set the fastest lap in qualifying, he had a 3 or 5 place grid drop and this was not accounted for a pole position.

      The definition for the pole position stat is: “the drive who starts the race from the pole position”, so in fact, it’s possible to have a race without a pole position, if somehow the drive who would start on pole fails to do so and the place becomes empty at the start.

    2. Also, in a situation like this, do you really want to commemorate a driver who in his pursuit of said pole disregarded the safety of the people at the venue?

  4. Verstappen- Vettel- Hamilton

Comments are closed.