Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2021

Bottas on pole in shock Mercedes front row lock-out in Mexico

2021 Mexico City Grand Prix qualifying

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Valtteri Bottas has taken pole position for the Mexico City Grand Prix after Red Bull’s challenge unexpectedly faded in qualifying.

Red Bull set an ominous pace for their rivals in final practice, ahead by six tenths of a second. But Mercedes struck back in qualifying, locking out the front row of the grid.


The track warmed up between final practice and qualifying, reaching 21C ambient temperature, and nearly 45C on the track surface. Several teams opted similar tactics to those seen at Monza, sending their cars out in pairs, allowing them the chance to try and have one slipstream off the other along the long, 1.2 kilometre front stretch.

The session was red flagged with just under 11 minutes left, after a heavy crash for Lance Stroll at the Peraltada (turn 17). Stroll was well off the racing line in the dusty, oily surface. He spun off and impacted the TecPro barriers with the rear of his car.

The Aston Martin driver was able to exit his car uninjured, but would take no further part in qualifying. The damage to his car will raise concern over the state of his brand-new power unit going into tomorrow’s race.

Q1 resumed at 14:33 local time, after over 25 minutes for repairs to the Tecpro barriers at turn 17. On his first attack lap, Max Verstappen set a 1’16.788, the first driver to break the 1’17 second barrier for the weekend. Valtteri Bottas finished as the fastest driver of the session, however, setting a 1’16.727 in his Mercedes.

Fernando Alonso, Nicholas Latifi, and the two Haas-Ferraris of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin joined Stroll in the group of five drivers that missed the cut to advance into Q2.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’18.452
17Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’18.756
18Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’18.858
19Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’19.303
20Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’20.873

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Title contenders Verstappen and Hamilton wasted no time setting high benchmarks on medium compound tyres; Verstappen put in a 1’16.483 on his first attack lap, and Hamilton dropped in just 0.016 seconds behind him. Both opted for medium compound tyres in order to ensure they started the race on the most strategically favourable tyre.

AlphaTauri gave Yuki Tsunoda the initiative to go for glory on a set of soft compound tyres, setting a time that was just two-tenths slower than Verstappen and Hamilton. The strategy raised some eyebrows as Tsunoda is already guaranteed to start from the back due to power unit element changes, and the move ensure he will have to start on old tyres.

However AlphaTauri weren’t the only team to take a penalised driver into Q3. McLaren did the same with Lando Norris, giving them the opportunity to use him to give Daniel Ricciardo a slipstream in Q3.

Hamilton edged back ahead of Verstappen with a 1’16.474, the Mercedes seemingly happier on the medium rubber. Seconds later, Antonio Giovinazzi spun off in turn 12 at the Foro Sol complex, and brought out a yellow flag. Hamilton, Verstappen, and Tsunoda finished in that order in the top three; only Tsunoda advanced to Q3 on soft compound tyres.

Past world champions Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen missed the cut to advance to Q3. George Russell, who along with his team mate is under investigation for cutting the queue at the exit of pit lane after the red flag in Q1, was also eliminated. Giovinazzi joined him, spinning off at the end, as did Esteban Ocon, who will join those starting at the back of the grid due to power unit penalties.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’17.746
12Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’17.958
13George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’18.172
14Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’18.290
15Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’18.405

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Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, and AlphaTauri got each of their two cars into Q3, though Norris and Tsunoda will start from the rear of the field due to power unit element changes.

The first set of flying laps came in a flurry, and in a reversal of the form book from earlier this weekend, Bottas was the first driver to crack the one minute 16 second barrier with a lap of 1’15.875, with Hamilton less than two tenths behind him, and Verstappen in third, another two tenths behind Hamilton and struggling to put heat into his rear tyres.

Having encountered DRS problems during final practice, new strips of tape appeared on the Red Bull’s rear wings during qualifying. It coincided with a deterioration in their performance.

“It’s still not good mate,” Verstappen reported after his first Q3 run. “Just sliding the rear. All the time at low speed just losing the rear, But my tyres are too cold at the start of the lap, the rears.”

Bottas set a fastest outright first sector on his last lap, but could not improve on his time. But neither could Hamilton, and crucially, neither could the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez, and that lap of 1’15.875 was enough to secure Bottas his 19th pole position, ahead of Hamilton on an all-Mercedes front row.

Verstappen qualified third after being caught behind his team mate Perez, who went off at the Esses after Tsunoda went off and kicked up a cloud of dust behind him. Perez will start fourth.

“Oh for fuck’s sake what the fuck happened there in front of me,” fumed Verstappen on his radio. “Unbelievable,” he added. “Such a dumb idiot.”

Pierre Gasly was able to secure ‘best of the rest’ honours in fifth, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jnr in sixth, Daniel Ricciardo in seventh, and Leclerc in eighth. With Tsunoda and Norris moving to the back of the grid, Vettel will move up to ninth on the grid with a free selection of tyres for the start of the race.

Top ten in Q3

1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’15.875
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’16.020
3Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’16.225
4Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’16.342
5Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’16.456
6Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’16.761
7Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’16.763
8Charles LeclercFerrari1’16.837
9Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’17.158
10Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’36.830

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2021 Mexico City Grand Prix

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    Author information

    RJ O'Connell
    Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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    40 comments on “Bottas on pole in shock Mercedes front row lock-out in Mexico”

    1. With friends like these….

      Seriously impressive driving from Bottas especially, but really poor from the Red Bulls. A reverse Austin weekend incoming.

      1. @hahostolze
        It really seems like something went horribly wrong for the RBs, because they found very little time across the three qualy segments.
        Maybe there was something wrong on the car or they had issues getting enough heat into the tyres at the start of the lap. Who knows?!

        But Mercedes also played their part in this result. It seems like the found a way to extract more power from their PU in Mexico than they managed in the previous years. They were also very fast in S2, which has a mix of slow and high speed corners. They certainly found something over night in the simulator, because their car looked horrible yesterday on the long runs.

      2. I honestly couldn’t be happier with this. As a long suffering Bottas fan this is a real shot in the arm…

    2. Well, that was unexpected. Good for Valtteri. T1 sounds like a recipe for disaster, let’s hope not.

      1. Unexpected yes. A goat should not lose so many qualifying battles versus his team mate.

        Or was Lewis setting up his car for the race again?

        1. @trib4udi quali head to head this season is 14 (LH) to 4 (VB) what in the world are you talking about???

        2. Broadsword to Danny Boy
          7th November 2021, 11:00

          Given that everyone expected RB to dominate at Mexico, if I were Merc I’d crank up Bottas’ engine a bit more than Hams. The reason for this would be that Bottas has more spares so can afford the extra wear, and it is better for Ham if Bottas wins than Verstappen. Of course if B & H are running 1 2 at the end they can be swapped anyway.

    3. That’s great for the championship! Although that was a mess up in the second run I think it wouldn’t matter anyway, Mercedes was too quick. Pole without a tow. We’re used to Mercedes bigging up RBR, but the comments about lacking pace and needing a tow are quite ridiculous now. Surely they know they have pace in hand? All the comments in Austin: “the championship is over”.. and this week again.. I’m quite happy it’s not over. Let’s see if RBR can hunt Mercedes down like Hamilton tried with Verstappen in Austin

    4. Dedicated to the “championship is over” folks after FP3. 🙂

      1. @afonic
        It’s actually over.
        If Hamilton can’t even beat Bottas anymore, how can he think of beating Max?

        1. how can he think of beating Max?

          Err, by being ahead of him, like he was in qualifying?

        2. By having a stronger car (proved by Bottas)

      2. @afonic They’ve been in overdrive since round 4 this year – flipping between Red Bull and Merc every second race! It’s testament to how well they’ve been battling this year.

    5. RandomMallard (@)
      6th November 2021, 21:54

      My thoughts revolve around Jack Nicholls’ question on BBC 5 Live, which was:

      How have Mercedes pulled this out the bag?

      Realistically, while Merc have clearly found some pace, they pulled it out the bag because Red Bull didn’t. This was a very poor session across Red Bull. Firstly this whole rear wing issue seems to have cost them quite a bit of pace, and it will be interesting to see if they can fix that by tomorrow. Secondly, they really messed up the slipstream for the first runs in Q3. While the slipstream/following closely may not always be to your advantage (case in point, the end of Q3), it still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Then, Verstappen made what was probably a very costly mistake at T6, considering what happened on his second lap. And then talking of it, finally the last lap for Verstappen was really messed up by Perez/Tsunoda. Not really what the RB family will have been wanting shall we say.

      None of this is trying to bash Merc or deny them this moment, because they appear to have worked very hard to turn this around and have been rewarded with their first front row lockout of the season (a stat that really surprised me, although that doesn’t take into account Turkey and Monza where they were 1-2 in Quali). But I think this is a huge opportunity missed for RB. That said, how much of a disadvantage it will actually be I’m not sure, because Max now has the benefit of the clean side of the grid (on what still seems to be a very dusty track) and a slipstream to T1.

      1. @randommallard there does seem to be this weird assumption that Red Bull always do everything perfectly, even though it’s quite clear that things were not going to plan during that session – see Horner complaining about Tsunoda messing up their laps as one example – and therefore it must have been some extraordinary performance from Mercedes, rather than a case of Red Bull not showing their maximum performance in qualifying.

        Let’s put it this way – either we have to assume that the midfield drivers are all having simultaneously strong performances and that Gasly is vastly out-performing his car by managing to qualify so close to the Red Bull works team, or we have a situation where Red Bull has had problems and been off the pace.

        It was being pointed out during FP3 that Verstappen had to wait multiple laps for his tyres to cool off again after a qualifying attempt, and both drivers were complaining about tyres being overheated or under temperature during their runs. Add to that the issues with their rear wings, and it seems rather more likely to me that it’s a case of Red Bull losing performance as the track temperatures rose over the course of that session – we’ve seen in other races that, where there have been noticeable changes in temperature over the course of a session, Red Bull can be more adversely impacted.

    6. What shock? They literally prepared for these by feeding #Bottas77 power units in the past few races to prepare for the rest of the season to be able to run them above “spec”.
      I’m not complaining, made a few thousand € on the stupid odd makers offering 15/1 and above on Bottas on pole.

      1. I’m not complaining, made a few thousand € on the stupid odd makers offering 15/1 and above on Bottas on pole.

        @uneedafinn2win you put €100s on Bottas getting pole?!

        1. True, that sounds like a good risk before seeing results.

        2. @3dom, yes, not all in one bet or even one place but yes

          Mercedes streak has been exceptionally good over the past few years, the only weekends I’ve come out on a loss have been the ones where they both get knocked out for some reason.

          1. @uneedafinn2win respect. Always great to beat the house 😁

    7. That is the nineteenth pole position of Valtteri Bottas’ career, taking the record for most poles without a championship from Rene Arnoux.

    8. Mercedes sandbagged *surprised pikachu face*

      1. Davethechicken
        7th November 2021, 9:06

        Max and Sergio forgot to take theirs out? AT within a tenth of them. Says it all.

    9. Not take away from the best lap of Bottas career but there was that vulgar display of power from the Mercedes engine once again.

      Congrats Bottas on winning the Fangio trophy you deserve it. Shame Mercedes is dropping you.

      1. bottas has engines galore so he better put those engine to good use now

    10. Kudos to Stroll for binning it when he was already going to start at the back of the row

      1. i have no words for what stroll did ” face palm”

    11. Wow! Who would’ve guessed that Mercedes not only locks out the front row, but by quite some margin over the RBs as well. Congratulations to Bottas, that was a mega lap he pulled out in the most crucial moment!

      It seems like RB went the wrong direction on their setup or something like that, because Max was constantly complaining about a poor rear end (no grip) and just improved by about 0.5 from his lap in Q1 to his first run in Q3 (also less than a second compared to his first run in FP3). The fact that Gasly was just 0.2 behind Max should be an indicator that RB didn’t max out (:D) their potential.

      Great effort by Gasly to put his car in P5 and be ‘best of the rest’, ahead of both Ferraris and Ricciardo. Good lap by Sainz to beat Leclerc in the end, especially considering he looked slower than his teammate throughout Q1+2 and the first run in the final session.
      Great teamwork at McLaren with the slipstream. That was crucial to get ahead of at least one Ferrari.

      I’m just a little confused with Tsunoda’s tyre strategy. I get that Alpha Tauri wanted him to get safely through to Q3 to help Gasly, but doesn’t that mean he has to start on those softs, because the parc ferme rules apply (because he qualified inside the top10)?! Or am I missing something?!

      1. @srga91 I thought the same thing re tyre strategy. Maybe they’ll opt to start him from pit lane and start on bards?

    12. The start tomorrow is going to be exciting. Two RBs chasing two Mercs down a long draggy straight. Turn 1 will probably decide the race.

    13. Nice to see the merc getting into the groove. The pace was weak, cars visibly struggled out there.

    14. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
      7th November 2021, 6:39

      Bottas’ turn in form has come a tad too late, not that it may have made any difference to his future. Motivated Finns are a different breed altogether! Here’s hoping he can chalk up a few more poles and a victory in what is likely to be his last field-leading car.

    15. Wow, so shocking (obviously not!!!) we ended up with another Mercedes 1-2 on what was supposed to be a RBR track. I guess it’s not…..

      1. Davethechicken
        7th November 2021, 9:10

        AT a tenth behind RBR in qualy? Did red bulls drivers stuffed up badly or do Redbull need to fire a lot of staff as AT are that close with vastly less resources and weaker drivers? I am guessing the former was the problem.

    16. Very long run to T1, don’t for a second think this was in RB’s mind when they started Q3, but for sure it will be an opportunity at the start of the GP.

      1. They are quite a long way down in the speed traps. 2nd row is not a good place for RB to be. If they have the race pace, they need to make it count off the line or with an undercut, passing on track won’t happen for them today.

        1. Yes David , more down to reaction times off the grid and which team has the best battery deployment will be more important here due to the long straight exaggerating the benefits of a good launch.

          I don’t think 2nd row is a good place to be here because RB are down on the speed trap plus the thinner air at altitude makes the slipstream less extreme than sea level like at Sochi, also to add its easy to block into turn 1 as seen in 2019 when max and Lewis started on the 2nd row had a better start but had nowhere to go.
          Only chance max will have if he has perfect reaction and the mercs are 0.1 slower off the line with inferior battery deployment and force the issue with Lewis, a stupid risky strategy but I can see Max doing this because he has less to lose than Lewis and RB know that the race will be virtually over if the mercs are 1-2 going into the second lap

    17. Mazepin starts 15th… Will it take him one or two laps to go to his favourite spot I wonder. In any case, this penalty system is a bit crazy and pointless at this point. Also, there’s something wrong about having unavoidable penalties, since penalty’s supposed to be given to someone who’s done something wrong or against the rules, but if no one can comply with the rules; then rules aren’t based on reality. I hope for much better balance in coming seasons, although I don’t understand why are going for “endurance” style championship, where the main goal is to preserve the tires and engines, not to find the pace.

      1. Mazespin is a joke, I try to tune out drivers like him, Latifi and Srtoll because they are all talentless drivers out of their depth with no place in F1. They only have a seat because their rich megalomaniac billionaire daddies with ‘pushy parent’ syndrome pay 100s million for them to race, heck stroll snr brought a team for his son to race in.
        Also Notice that Maz is not allowed to compete under russian flag due to state sponsored doping punishment by all sporting bodies but because daddy funds the haas teams existence the car can have a huge Russian paintjob on the cars and that’s somehow ok with the FIA..
        tldr. Money talks in F1

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