Valtteri Bottas soaked up the pressure and ripped up the formbook to take a sensational pole position for the Mexico City Grand Prix, as his Mercedes team upset the odds and outpaced favourites Red Bull.
The Finn was positioned on track to give championship contender and team mate Lewis Hamilton a tow on both runs in qualifying, but it was the Alfa Romeo-bound driver who was the fastest Silver Arrows car on Saturday.
Bottas pumped in the quickest time on the first runs, with Hamilton 0.145s adrift and the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez struggling with the rears and unable to mount the challenge their practice pace had suggested.
On the second runs, home favourite Perez ran wide when he got distracted by AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda running off in front of him, which put him out of pole contention to the dismay of tens of thousands of fans who only have eyes for him.
FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE LA CIUDAD DE MÉXICO 2021
|1 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||1:15.875|
|2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||1:16.020|
|3 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:16.225|
|4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing||1:16.342|
|5 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri||1:16.456|
His team mate Verstappen wasn’t far behind and had to back off slightly as a result of the Mexican’s off, but the reality is he was unlikely to have had the pace to challenge for pole anyway.
It meant Mercedes secured an unlikely front row lock out, the first time they have achieved the feat in Mexico since 2016, while Bottas took his third pole of the season and second in three races.
Verstappen ended up third – in what is only the sixth time this season that he has not been on the front row in 2021 – alongside Perez, with Pierre Gasly continuing his fine run of form in qualifying with a superb fifth, as Carlos Sainz recovered from an engine issue early on to take sixth.
Daniel Ricciardo was the leading McLaren in seventh, ahead of Charles Leclerc, with Yuki Tsunoda and Lando Norris closing out the top 10, however the latter duo will drop to the back of the grid because of engine penalties.