Mercedes duo Bottas, Hamilton stun Red Bull in Mexico GP qualifying

Mercedes duo Bottas, Hamilton stun Red Bull in Mexico GP qualifying

Mercedes stunned rivals Red Bull to claim the front row on the grid for the Mexican Formula One Grand Prix from Valtteri Bottas and world champion Lewis Hamilton on Saturday.

Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen and home race hero Sergio Perez had dominated all three practice sessions far ahead of their rivals but were unable to repeat the feat in qualifying.

“I’m just as shocked as everyone but we’ll still take it,” seven-time champion Hamilton said.

“I really have no idea [what changed]. They were like six tenths ahead at one stage and then four tenths ahead, but whatever happened once we got to qualifying we had better pace.”

Verstappen complained about balance problems and their hopes of getting pole in the final stint ended when they could not maintain pace after Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri rode out in front of them.

Perez also went off while Verstappen‘s lap was also ruined.

Instead, Bottas stormed to his third season pole and 19th overall by clocking 1 minute 15.875 seconds around the 4.304-kilometre Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, .145 of a second ahead of Hamilton.

“It seemed like through qualifying the balance went away a little bit, but actually the last lap I was on for a good lap,” Verstappen said.

“I don’t know what happened in front of me but there were two guys going off and I thought there was going to be a yellow flag, so I back out and the lap of course was destroyed.

The high-atitude track was said to favour Red Bull who will want to bounce back on Sunday as Verstappen takes a 12-point lead over Hamilton into the fifth-last season race each of the rivals has won twice in the past.

“Qualifying didn’t go our way but we’re not using these [soft] tyres tomorrow so there’s still a lot to fight for,” Verstappen said.

Bottas was meanwhile delighted with the unexpected turnaround that helped him to the front of the grid.

“They were awesome laps, especially my first run in Q3,” the Finn said. “With higher temperatures this afternoon came our way and we tried to optimise everything with tyre temps and set-up. It was a joy to drive.”

Hamilton said: “It’s really great for the team. We didn’t think we had the pace this weekend. So to lock out the front row is pretty special.”

Sunday’s grid will see several changes compared to qualifying with five drivers serving grid penalties for full engine changes or components of them.

They include Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll who also crashed into the barriers early in Q1 which halted the session for around half an hour.