Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix in Mexico om Saturday afternoon, the British champion’s pole lap being the fastest ever seen on the current circuit.
Track temperatures were much warmer than they had been in every session held so far, approaching 37 degrees centigrade at the start of qualifying, with 18 degrees ambient. This helped to swing performance back towards the supersoft tyre, although the correct tyre warm-up still held a key to unlocking optimal performance.
Nico Rosberg will join Hamilton on the front row with the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo on row two. Nico Hulkenberg was fifth for Force India with the two Ferrari’s sixth and seventh, Raikkonen out-qualifying Vettel and the two Williams, Bottas than Massa, in eighth and ninth. Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso rounded out the top ten.
All the drivers completed Q1 using the supersoft tyre, with three different teams in the top three. Many drivers then went onto the soft for the first run in Q2, with a view to seeing whether or not this was the best option to get through the session and start the race.
Both Mercedes and Ferraris will start the grand prix on the soft tyre, whereas Red Bull has committed to starting on the supersoft.
Two pit stops look set to be the most likely scenario for most competitors, but with times closely matched there are a number of different strategy permutations on the table: which will depend also on the weather conditions for the race. Some drivers could aim for a single stop strategy.
Rapid track evolution continued to be a hallmark of the Mexico City track today, and this will remain a factor for the rest of the weekend, again affecting strategies.