Leclerc pole, Ferrari 1-2 and Norris shock elimination in astonishing Mexico City GP qualifying

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are all under investigation after qualifying for the 2023 Mexico City GP

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Charles Leclerc led a stunning Ferrari front-row lockout in a tumultuous, helter-skelter qualifying for the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix with Max Verstappen third but facing a potential grid penalty along with both Mercedes.

Ferrari were 1-2 after their first runs despite looking out of the running in the weekend up until Q3, and no one could improve enough to depose them on their final laps to cap one of the most memorable Formula 1 qualifying sessions in recent memory.

The top three were separated by less than a tenth of a second with Carlos Sainz and Verstappen 0.067 and 0.097 seconds behind Leclerc respectively, and Daniel Ricciardo landed fourth in his AlphaTauri to complete a wild Saturday in Mexico.

Lando Norris went out on the medium tyres early in Q1, but couldn’t set a competitive time meaning it all hung on his second run on the soft tyres.

But he made an error in the middle sector and was forced to abort the attempt meaning Norris will start the grand prix ahead of just Yuki Tsunoda, who’s taken a grid penalty, and Logan Sargeant who saw all his laps deleted.

That wasn’t even the biggest story coming out of Q1 though, with five drivers under investigation for events at the end of the session including Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Williams were the other headliners, Alex Albon had looked in the battle for the front row having finished second in both FP1 and FP3 trailing Verstappen by an average of just 0.083 seconds.

But that pace deserted him when it really mattered, Albon was struggling with changes to the FW43‘s aerodynamic setup and had scraped through to Q3, before that laptime was deleted moments before the start of the final session.

Zhou Guanyu had thought his afternoon was over after finishing 11th just half a tenth behind Sainz, but earned a last-minute reprieve that symbolised a dramatically unpredictable qualifying.

Once the dust settled at the chequered flag in Q3 though, it was Ferrari celebrating a stunning second successive pole position.

Ricciardo made Q3 for the first time since the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP and will start at least fourth, which would’ve been a much bigger talking point at almost any other qualifying session of the year, and Sergio Perez is fifth.

Mercedes had looked the most likely challengers to Red Bull for pole position and Hamilton topped Q2, but neither driver could challenge at the death and they’ll start sixth and eighth led by the seven-time champion.

They were split by Oscar Piastri, while the Alfa Romeos completed the top 10.

Chaos reigns in Q1 finale

Lando Norris at the 2023 Mexico City GP | McLaren F1 Team

Aside from the Norris shock, it was a hectic end to Q1 with Hamilton, Sargeant, Zhou, Russell and Verstappen all noted for potential wrongdoing.

The latter two were the most serious as they stopped separately at the end of the pitlane and blocked it to a growing line of frustrated traffic, that investigation remains ongoing by the stewards.

Verstappen did the same thing in Singapore but was only given a reprimand by the stewards, who later admitted they were too lenient on the world champion.

The rest of the chaos ensued from a clumsy Fernando Alonso spin which brought out the yellow flags – and secured his place in Q2 – with three drivers investigated for speed or overtaking violations under those waved yellows.

No penalties had been applied Immediately after the chequered flag in Q3, but that’s almost certain to change before lights out in the grand prix.

Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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