Stunning Ricciardo denies Verstappen in Red Bull lock-out
- November 19, 2019
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Daniel Ricciardo pulled out a very special lap indeed in qualifying for the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix, to thwart his Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen’s hopes of becoming Formula 1’s youngest ever pole winner.
The Australian’s final Q3 run clocked in at 1:14.759s which meant that 0.026s ahead of Verstappen. The Red Bull lockout meant Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was forced back onto the second row where he will start alongside his title rival Sebastian Vettel.
Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen made an all-Finn third row with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz proving to be the best of the rest.
2018 Mexican Grand Prix – Qualifying
Q1: Mercedes back on top, but Haas and Williams make early exit
With no further rain having fallen since the morning, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez was effectively dry as cars headed out at the start of the first 18-minute round of qualifying. First out was Pierre Gasly, a new Honda engine in back of his Toro Rosso meaning he already knew he will be starting the race from the back of the grid regardless of qualifying.
Valtteri Bottas was also at work early after Mercedes managed to change his engine in the two-hour lunch break. The Finn avoided a penalty by reverting to a previously used power unit after his FP3 break-down. He was abel to go fourth fastest on his first run on ultras behind team mate Lewis Hamilton, while the top two spots were claimed by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen who were sporting the hypersoft compound.
The top four were all within a second of Vettel’s initial 1:16.089s; he went wide in turn 1 on his next flying lap attempt meaning he was unable to improve further. Meanwhile local hero Sergio Perez thrilled the grandstands by going best of the rest for Force India in fifth place. But everyone was holding their breath for the first runs by the Red Bull drivers who had been the class of the field in practice. Sure enough, Daniel Ricciardo shot to the top with a lap of 1:15.866s, and Max Verstappen then went 0.110s faster still.
Languishing in the drop zone of the bottom five were McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and the two Williams of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin, along with Fernando Alonso whose first time was deleted for running wide during the lap. It left the two-time champion under pressure to deliver with his next run, but he delivered by going seventh fastest.
While Red Bull and Ferrari felt they had done quite enough to make it through to Q2, Mercedes returned to the fray having switching to the hypers. Bottas duly went fastest with a time of 1:15.580s which put him a tenth ahead of his team mate’s latest. Perez also found extra speed to go sixth fastest with his team mate Esteban Ocon slotting in behind him as Raikkonen was squeezed down to eighth ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley.
A flurry of fastest laps saw Alonso tumble down the order, but when the dust settled he had managed to cling on to 14th place meaning he was safely through to the second round. His team mate Vandoorne was not so fortunate and joined the two Williams and both Haas drivers – the first time that Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have both been eliminated at the end of Q1 since this race 12 months ago.
Q2: Verstappen back on top as frontrunners stick to ultras
The overcast conditions briefly threatened to bring more rain as the second round of qualifying got underway, so almost everyone was quick to get out on track and get a banker lap in just in case. First blood went to Bottas with a time of 1:15.923s but Hamilton exceeded this by 0.279s. Vettel was able to slot in between the two Silver Arrows for second place while Raikkonen took up residence in fourth.
When the Red Bulls rolled out, Ricciardo was only able to manage third place but Verstappen once again showed his pace in Mexico by going top by four thousandths of a second. Race strategy was clearly at the front of everyone’s minds, so the top six had all set their times on ultrasofts meaning they would start the Grand Prix on that compound on Sunday unless unforeseen circumstances forced them to make a second run on hypers to make it through to the final round pole shoot-out.
The rest of the top ten packed out with Renault and Sauber drivers, leaving Hartley on the outside looking in along with the two Force Indias and Fernando Alonso. Gasly briefly made an appearance but didn’t bother to go on and set a time, all too aware that his grid fate was sealed anyway.
With the track conditions still fluctuating, no one was willing to stay in the garage and risk being bumped out by significant improvements elsewhere. All 14 cars (with the exception of Gasly) were back out for a final run on hypers, but the front runners all carefully avoided improving their times. Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz, Clarles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson also made it through, but they would be starting on the pink walled compound tomorrow.
Outside the top ten, Ocon and Alonso both improved their times to finish the session 11th and 12th respectively, but it meant they would have a free choice of tyre to start the race on. They were followed by Perez and Hartley, whose team mate Gasly was officially classified as 15th in the session before his engine change grid penalty is applied.
Q3: Ricciardo leaves it late to leap to pole in Red Bull 1-2
With tyre strategies taken care of, and rain looking less of a potential threat, it was time to get down to simple, straightforward high speed runs to decide who would be on pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix.
Raikkonen briefly went top but was quickly beaten by Vettel’s 1:14.970s which proved to be half a tenth faster than Hamilton’s response. Ricciardo was only able to go third-fastest, but then Verstappen pulled out a mighty effort to claim provisional pole, confirming that Red Bull’s practice domination had been no red herring.
All ten drivers had time to make one final flying lap attempt. Raikkonen, Vettel and Bottas were all unable to improve their times, but Ricciardo pulled out something special to jump to the top. Verstappen was unable to match his team mate’s pace and was denied what would have been the record for becoming youngest ever polesitter.
Hamilton couldn’t find the pace to break up the all-Red Bull front row but did move ahead of Vettel, with Bottas and Raikkonen lining up on row three. Renault demonstrated that their Friday pace had been very real by finishing seventh and eight, leaving Sauber’s Leclerc and Ericsson rounding out the top ten.
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