Red Bull’s Max Verstappen continued his excellent form in 2022, claiming his sixth pole of the 2022 Formula 1 season at the Mexican Grand Prix.
Behind him, it was the Mercedes pair of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton who qualified second and third respectively, with Russell making a mistake on his final run at turn 12, leading to his lap time being deleted.
Home hero Sergio Perez will start fourth, though, given Red Bull’s recent dominance, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he ended up on the podium come Sunday’s race.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will start fifth, while his teammate Charles Leclerc could only manage seventh on a disappointing day for Ferrari.
There is still a lot to play for Sunday’s race. Will Verstappen claim a record-breaking 14th win of the season or will Ferrari be able to mount a fight back? Also, don’t discount the Mercedes team, as they seem to have genuine pace this weekend.
As always the pit stop strategy employed by the teams could determine a lot.
What are Pirelli saying?
The Italian tyre company has opted to bring the same set of compounds it used in Austin to Mexico City. The C2 tyre will serve as the hard compound while the C4s are the softest in the range, leaving the C3 as the medium compound.
While a lap around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit is the third shortest on the calendar, the highspeed nature of the circuit combined with the hard braking zones, especially in the last second could result in faster degradation of the tyres.
For this reason, Pirelli believes a two-stop strategy could be the best one to employ with the Italian tyre manufacturers believing a race start on the soft followed by two stints on the medium C3s could be the fastest way to complete the race.
Alternatively, those drivers who don’t have an additional set of fresh medium tyres could use a soft-medium-soft, strategy as their optimal strategy.
A one-stopper could also be on the cards, depending on the degradation rate with Pirelli predicting a medium to hard swap could also yield in similar outcome in terms of overall race time.
“Over the course of a season, our tyres have to cope with a wide variety of conditions depending on the individual characteristics of each venue,” Pirelli’s Motosport Director Mario Isola said.
“If you look back at the last two races, Suzuka was all about lateral forces and Austin was well-balanced aerodynamically, but Mexico this weekend focuses on traction and braking.
“The Hermanos Rodriguez circuit does not offer a lot of grip and the energy demands on the tyres are reasonably low, as the cars do not generate much downforce in the thin air at high altitude, especially in slow corners.
“This year, the circuit might be more front-limited, as the current generation of car tends to understeer through slow corners – which Mexico has plenty of – and this can lead to some sliding on the front tyres. Due to the nature of the venue the circuit tends to feature a dusty surface with plenty of track evolution.
“Understanding this and getting the tyre warm-up exactly right is likely to be the key to success.”