As Valtteri Bottas took his nineteenth career pole by placing his Mercedes #77 out in the front row for the 2021 Mexican Grand Prix, Mercedes gained ascendancy over rivals Red Bull in the qualifying battle. But Mercedes’ stronghold over the bulls as seen on Saturday was asserted by Sir Lewis Hamilton’s second, a surprise result to some, and yet, a front row start for the mighty multiple world champion.
A P1 and P2 are still amazing results irrespective of which teammate aces the other- right?
In the context of the world championship, a start from second on the grid isn’t a terrible result for Hamilton, who on Sunday, will look to pip archrival Max Verstappen in the race, the Dutchman beginning from third on the grid.
Mathematically speaking, should Lewis and Max finish the Mexican GP from where they start, i.e., second and third on the grid, respectively, we shall see the Briton on 293 points with the Dutchman on 302.5.
That would still mean that Max will have his nose ahead on the Driver Standings by virtue of maintaining a vital- if also scant- 9 and a half point lead over the seven-time world champion (no point for fastest lap counted herewith).
But what was a bit surprising, truth be known, was how Verstappen, who had topped the time sheets in second practice, wasn’t able to convert the fine practice form into a pole position drive during Q3.
Was it not?
His teammate though, competing in his home race, would think of P4 as being not that bad a result in qualifying.
But does that mean Sergio Perez would be allowed to move over his teammate, if hypothetically speaking, he has better speed than Verstappen in the race, but for some reason-can’t get through?
Do you think that Horner’s team would allow that given where the championship stands?
Whilst we have answers to that, what we don’t particularly happen to be the following:
How did one Alpha Tauri finish inside the top ten (Gasly’s P5) whilst the other ended a backmarker (Tsunoda P17)?
Is Yuki Tsunoda to be blamed for Max not getting a pole in the dying moments of quali since the Red Bull management wasted no time whatsoever in complaining to Alpha Tauri leadership about the Japanese driver coming in the way of the Mexican?
Can Hamilton, who was last on pole at Mexico in 2016 and since then, failed to make it to the front row, make most of his P2 on Sunday and convert it into a strong finish?
And finally, who in the packed midfield, Sainz, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Vettel, slated to begin from P6, P7, P8 and P9, respectively, will have the edge over the other?
Having said that, what’s also going to be interesting is to see whether the two Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi can hold on to a point’s finish starting the Mexican GP from 10th and 11th, respectively whilst cars faster on paper as also on race performance, such as Alpine can play a part in the race?
Since Fernando Alonso begins from P12, which means from behind Giovinazzi, i.e., the very driver who made his US GP a tough race, can one expect a similar fight between the two on Sunday?
Moreover, can Kimi Raikkonen, who’s already said that the team hopes to collect a few points from Mexico, actually salvage something interesting from the 71-lap race? That definitely would mean finding a tough fighting duo of Giovinazzi and Alonso in his rearview mirrors, both of whom would like to lunge ahead whilst the troika of Vettel, Leclerc and Ricciardo will be out in the front, none of whom would make things easy for the veteran of the grid.
Having said all of that, there are a lot of interesting things to watch out for at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez come the race day. But from a championship perspective, the key highlight would be and could very well be the battle for supremacy between Verstappen and Hamilton, none of whom seem determined to make life easy for one other.
After all, there’s a massive stake involved and it’s the world title. Something Max hasn’t yet won and yet, something Hamilton is going to go for, having won seven times previously.