Who else but him? Max Verstappen (Red Bull), already assured of the 2022 world championship title, took pole position in the Mexican Grand Prix and will start ahead of the Mercedes for this 20th out of 22 rounds of the Formula 1 season. the career of the Dutchman is not a surprise, the 2nd and 3rd places of the Mercedes is one: Verstappen will have on his heels the British George Russell and Lewis Hamilton on the circuit of the Rodríguez brothers in Mexico City on Sunday.
Pole does not mean victory
In front of a crowd won over to his cause, the local of the stage, Sergio Pérez, set the 4th time for him. Carried by the “Checo! Checo!” of his unleashed supporters, especially in the bubbling Foro Sol stadium, the second Red Bull driver will have to work hard if he wants, as he has announced, to win his national Grand Prix.
The big loser this Saturday is Ferrari. The Scuderia, however dominant in the qualifying exercise (12 pole positions against now seven at Red Bull), placed its drivers in 5th place with Carlos Sainz and 7th with Charles Leclerc – whose DRS was faulty. Once again, it is Verstappen who will therefore be the favourite. Even if he will have to be wary of Mercedes and in particular of his former rival last year, Hamilton, who will leave in his exhausts.
Especially in Mexico, pole is not synonymous with victory: in the last four editions, no one has converted the best time into Sunday success. The fault in particular with the long starting straight line, at the end of which the poleman can be surprised from the first corner by pursuers doped by suction. “It’s always important here to get a good start,” confirmed Verstappen, who relies on “the good speed” of his single-seater to “stay ahead at the first corner”.
Under these conditions, being third is “not a bad position to start”, relativized Hamilton.
Verstappen and Hamilton chasing records
In 2019, the Briton won from 3rd place, but he did not make the difference at the start. Last year, on the other hand, it was Verstappen who took the turn N.1 by overtaking… the two Mercedes. The one who became double world champion in Japan does not intend to stop in such a good way: as soon as he runs, he wants to win. And on this circuit where he has already won three times, a record, “Super Max” made lightning talk on Saturday.
Twice, the Dutchman fell under the minute and 18 seconds. He is the only one to have crossed this threshold. In the first two parts of qualifying, Hamilton had taken the best time. But in the third, the one that counts, Verstappen pulled out the heavy artillery and the seven-time champion couldn’t reply. Still empty-handed this season, there are only three chances left for Hamilton to save the honor, to win his 104th victory and to glean a famous record: to win at least once during a 16th season in a row. Can he do it in Mexico City?
For that he will have to beat Verstappen who, too, is aiming for another record, yet another: 14 wins in one season, which no other driver has achieved before him.
Some 350,000 spectators
Even if the world titles are already in play, some 350,000 fans will have attended the Mexican GP from Friday to Sunday, which has ensured its presence on the calendar until 2025. Beyond the athlete, the sanction imposed on Red Bull for having exceeded the 2021 budget cap, announced on Friday, continued to stir the microcosm of the paddock.
For exceeding the cap by 1.6%, which came into force in 2021 and was then set at $145 million, Red Bull got away with a seven million dollar fine and a 10% reduction in development time. in a wind tunnel for a year. “The sanctions must be much stronger in the future”, reacted the CEO of McLaren, the American Zak Brown, while Ferrari, through the voice of its sporting director Laurent Mekies, spoke of a “weak” sanction, which “does not compensate for overspending” by Red Bull.