Leclerc on pole as Ferrari lock out front row in Mexico

Verstappen third


By Franck Drui

29 October 2023 - 00:17
Leclerc on pole as Ferrari lock out (...)

Ferrari scored a surprise front-row lockout in qualifying for the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Mexico City Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc taking pole position ahead of Carlos Sainz as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen could only manage third place.

Both Ferrari drivers improved their Q2 times by almost a second to stun Verstappen with their first flying laps in Q3 and in the final runs the Dutchman could only get to just within a tenth of Leclerc as a strong middle sector gave way to lost time in the final part of his lap. Leclerc, then, took the 22nd pole position of his career, 0.067s ahead of Sainz.

At the start of the session, in Q1, Verstappen took an early P1 with a time of 1:18.099 with Pérez in P2, 0.454 off his team-mate. However, the Mexican home favourite was shuffled back by Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and then by Daniel Ricciardo who took P2. Leclerc then took third.

The final runs might have changed that order but traffic issues and a spin for Fernando Alonso in the middle of his lap brought out yellow flags and there was no chance of improvement.

The issues at the end most disadvantaged McLaren’s Lando Norris, who was ruled out in P19 who, after an initial run on Mediums, failed to make a first run on Softs work. He tried for a second but was prevented from improving by the flags for Alonso. Also ruled out at the end of the session were Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in P16 followed by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, while behind Norris, Logan Sargeant failed to set a time and exited in P20.

At the end of the session Verstappen was placed under investigation for potentially impeding rivals at the pit exit ahead of his final run. Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were also investigated for possible infringements, Russell for blocking at the pit exit and Hamilton for ignoring yellow flags. All three were cleared by stewards after qualifying.

At the start of Q2 Verstappen again set the pace with a lap of 1:17.625, with Pérez again slotting into P2 on 1:18.874, 0.499 off his team-mate. However, Ricciardo, once again, bounced Pérez out of P2 and then Piastri demoted both.

Verstappen elected to stay in the garage for the final runs. However, the Dutchman pipped for top spot in Q2 by Hamilton who went just over half a tenth quicker in the final runs, but with the other Mercedes of George Russell taking P3 ahead of Ricciardo, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Bottas who went through 0.008s ahead of Pérez.

Albon was the driver most disappointed at the end of the session. The Williams driver looked to have done enough to progress in P9 behind Pérez, but soon after the flag his final time was deleted for a track limits infringement at Turn 2. It meant Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took P9 ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu.

Ruled out at the end of Q2 along with Albon were Alpine’s Pierre Gasly in P11 followed by Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, Albon and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

The Red Bull drivers were again first out on track at the start of Q3. Pérez, on used tyres, was first across the line with a lap of 1:17.788, but Verstappen, on a new set of Softs, comfortably beat that by half a second to take P1 on 1:17.286.

Ricciardo then split the Red Bull pair, but it was Ferrari who sprung the biggest surprise, with Leclerc taking provisional pole on 1:17.166, while Sainz crossed the line just over five hundredths ahead of Max who dropped to P3.

Neither Ferrari driver improved on their final flyers, and though Max did make gains, posting a purple middle part of the lap, he lost time in the final sector and crossed the line in 1:17.263, just under a tenth of Leclerc’s pole time and three hundredths behind Sainz. Pérez qualified fifth behind Ricciardo. Behind the Mexican Hamilton finished sixth ahead of Piastri, Russell, Bottas and Zhou.

Pos.DriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 timeQ3 time
01 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1:18.401 1:17.901 1:17.166
02 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF-23 1:18.755 1:18.382 1:17.233
03 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19 1:18.099 1:17.625 1:17.263
04 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:18.341 1:17.706 1:17.382
05 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19 1:18.553 1:18.124 1:17.423
06 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1:18.677 1:17.571 1:17.454
07 Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:18.241 1:17.874 1:17.623
08 George Russell Mercedes W14 1:18.893 1:17.673 1:17.674
09 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:18.429 1:18.016 1:18.032
10 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:19.016 1:18.440 1:18.050
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault A523 1:18.945 1:18.521
12 Nico Hülkenberg Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:18.969 1:18.524
13 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:18.848 1:18.738
14 Alex Albon Williams Mercedes FW45 1:18.828 1:19.147
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:18.890 -:—.---
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A523 1:19.080
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:19.163
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:19.227
19 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:21.554
20 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes FW45 -:—.---

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