Daniel pulled out a superb last-ditch Q3 lap of the Autódromo Hermanos to claim pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix. The Honey Badger’s brilliant final flyer edged Max by just under three hundredths of a second, as the Bulls claimed a first front-row qualifying lockout for team since the 2013 United States Grand Prix.
With the exception of Q1, in which Mercedes Valtteri Bottas pipped him for top spot with an extra run, Max had set the pace in every session in Mexico. It was a similar story in the first runs of Q3, when the Dutchman found good pace to claim provisional pole with a time of 1:14.785.
At that point, Daniel was down in P4 with a first-run time of 1:15.030, but in the final runs, after a slightly tricky first sector, the Aussie found another gear in the final two sectors and crossed the line in a time of 1:14.759. Max was following, but the Dutchman couldn’t find an improvement and thus Daniel took his second pole position of the season after Monaco and the third of his career.
In the opening session, the early running was made by Ferrari with Sebastian Vettel setting the pace with a lap of 1:16.089.Team-mate Kimi Räikkönen slotted into P2 with a lap of 1:16.543, which he improved to 1:16.446. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Vallteri Bottas were behind in third and fourth places respectively.
Daniel and Max were keeping their powder dry in this opening phase, but when they did take to the track they quickly rose to the top of the order. Daniel was first across the line in a time of 1:15.866, but he was quickly edged by Max who posted a time of 1:15.756.
The Bulls and Ferrari opted to remain in the pit lane for the final runs of the session, but Mercedes sent its drivers out and Valtteri Bottas topped the session with a time of 1:15.580, 0.093s ahead of Hamilton.
At the other end of the order there was furious action in the final minutes of the sessions as everyone beyond the top six jockeyed for a Q2 berth. Luckiest among those attempting to make it through were Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Renault’s Carlos Sainz.
Leclerc had a slow middle sector and looking in danger of missing the cut, but he crossed the line in P15, just 0.005s ahead of the first to drop out, Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
Sainz, meanwhile, had a nervous moment on his final lap, running wide and almost hitting the wall in the Foro Sol stadium section. The Spaniard hung on, however, and managed to claim P12 as the final times came in.
Eliminated at the end of the opening segment behind fitrst man out Grosjean were McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Williams’ Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin.
Q2 saw the top six from the opening session take to the track on ultrasoft tyres and it was Max who topped this timesheet in the first runs, the Dutchman posted a time of 1:15.640 to edge Hamilton by just four thousandths of a second. Vettel took third ahead of Daniel, who set a time of 1:15.845, as the top four were separated by just two tenths of a second.
Along with the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers, Max and Daniel switched to hypersoft tyres for the final runs, but none of the top six completed laps on the softest compound and thus all will start the race on ultrasofts.
Eliminated at the end of Q2 were Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon in 11th place, followed by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, the second Force India of Serio Pérez, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and his team-mate Pierre Gasly. The French driver is facing a PU-related grid penalty tomorrow and as such chose not to run in the session.
Max was again in charge in the opening runs of Q3. Vettel initially went quickest with a good time of 1:14.970, three hundredths of a second ahead of Hamilton, but Max blasted past that benchmark with a lap of 1:14.785 to sit 0.185s ahead of Ferrari’s quickest man. Hamilton was in third place, ahead of Daniel who was 0.245s behind Max, in fourth place.
With Max looking firmly in control, it seemed like the 21-year-old was set to claim his maiden pole and break Sebastian Vettel’s 10-year-old record for youngest pole sitter. It wasn’t to be though as Daniel suddenly stepped up a gear and blitzed his final lap, crossing the line in 1:14.759 to claim his third career pole ahead of Max.
Hamilton held on to third place on the grid, but title-chasing Vettel, who was in P2 after the opening runs, dropped to P4 at the end of the session.
Behind the German, Bottas was fifth ahead of Räikkönen, Nico Hulkenber took sixth place for Renault ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz, while Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson were ninth and tenth respectively.