The Mexican Grand Prix represents the nineteenth event of the season, one week after the United States Grand Prix. The race, known locally in Spanish as Gran Premio de la Ciudad de México, marks the forty-ninth different designation used by the Federation for a Grand Prix in the World Championship calendar. As we approach this nineteenth event, there's nothing at stake except for Max Verstappen's personal records, which are consistently being updated from race to race. On this occasion, the Dutch driver has the opportunity to reach 51 victories, tying with Alain Prost, if he secures a win on this circuit. Verstappen is the most successful driver at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez, claiming victories in 2017, 2018, 2021, and 2022. Red Bull Racing, with four wins by Verstappen, is the most successful team in Mexico, surpassing McLaren, Williams, and Mercedes by one triumph. The Anglo-Austrian team is on par with Lotus, including the 1962 edition victory, not valid for the World Championship for the English team. Mercedes' German driver, Lewis Hamilton, is the only other driver to have triumphed on the Mexican circuit, achieving victories in 2016 and 2018. The last seven Mexican Grands Prix have seen seven different drivers securing pole position: Nico Rosberg (2015), Hamilton (2016), Sebastian Vettel (2017), Daniel Ricciardo (2018), Charles Leclerc (2019), Valtteri Bottas (2021), and Verstappen (2022). Verstappen initially claimed pole position in 2019 but was penalized for disregarding yellow flags, leading to a grid penalty. Only Rosberg, Hamilton, and Verstappen have won from pole position. Debutants in this championship, Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant, are racing for the first time at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Sargeant, however, had already driven on the Mexican track during the first free practice session of the previous 2022 edition, with Williams. Before the race, the Federation published a lengthy article on its website analyzing the discussion topics arising from the previous United States Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were excluded from the results due to excessive wear on the underfloor of their cars. Teams attributed this issue to the numerous track surface irregularities at the Circuit of the Americas and the Sprint format used during the race weekend, limiting mechanics' time to adjust the car setup. Both the Brackley and Maranello teams accepted the Federation's verdict, acknowledging the irregularity of the underfloor. After the disqualification of these two drivers, it was revealed that the underfloor of Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen and McLaren's Lando Norris had also been inspected after the race, with no violations found. The fact that two out of four inspected cars had irregularities raised doubts about why race stewards did not conduct more thorough checks on other cars. According to the Federation, the evident problem lies in the technical time required for such in-depth inspections. Conducting these tests involves a significant amount of work in the short time available after a Grand Prix concludes and before the cars need to be returned to their respective teams for disassembly and transportation to the next race. Although a wide range of checks is performed, it is impossible to cover all parameters of each car in the brief time available, especially during back-to-back race weekends. Now, returning to the topic of the Mexico City Grand Prix, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, offers a choice of C3, C4, and C5 compound tires, the softest compounds in the entire range available for the championship. This designation is used for the first time since the inaugural 2021 edition. It is chosen for the ninth time this season and the first time since the Singapore Grand Prix. In the first free practice session, a new C4 compound is tested with the aim of reducing graining and ensuring greater mechanical resistance. Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, states:
"The second stop on Formula 1's American tour takes place in Mexico City on the circuit named after Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez: the brothers who were local motorsport heroes throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The track, located on the west side of the city, is just over four kilometres long with 17 corners and it sits at more than 2000 metres of altitude. This has an important effect on car performance, with the rarefied air reducing drag and also downforce. As a result, the aero settings on the cars are similar to those used on high-downforce circuits - only with a much reduced effect on the tyres. The grip from the asphalt is also much less than average, as surface roughness is among the lowest of the entire calendar. This year we have decided to bring the three softest compounds to Mexico - C3, C4, and C5 - after careful reflection based on last year's information, as well as the simulations that the teams have as always supplied to us. This should lead to a wider variety of strategy choices throughout the race, opening the door to a two-stop strategy as well".
"Last year, when the chosen compounds were C2, C3, and C4, nearly all the drivers stopped only once, mainly using soft and medium. Mexico also gives us the chance to try out a new variant of the C4 with all the teams. During the two hours of free practice on Friday each driver will have two sets of these new prototypes to use as they wish. Once we have analysed all the data, we will then decide whether or not to homologate this version for use in 2024".
The Mexico City Grand Prix represents the home race for Sergio Perez, who can't wait to get started but also sends an important message to the audience that could turn against Max Verstappen:
"Mexico is my most important weekend of the season, and I can't wait for my home race. The support in Austin this weekend was crazy, so I can't even imagine what Mexico will be like; it's going to be very special. We have made some very good steps with the car but didn't get to fully show our progress due to taking some wrong directions with the setup this past weekend. I am optimistic for this week; we know what direction we have to take now, so hopefully, we get to show that. We have a few things to sort out with the car, and we should come back stronger. I want Mexico to come out to support the whole Oracle Red Bull Racing Team, not just me".
Indeed, the World Champion is not at ease this weekend, as he is closely monitored by two bodyguards. However, the Dutch driver is trying not to think about possible external dangers:
"It's great to be heading to Mexico; the Team has a great history there, winning and taking a double podium in the last two years. It is, of course, Checo's home race, so it will be a big one for us. The atmosphere is always amazing driving through Foro Sol. Mexico City is the highest altitude track of the season, which is more stressful on the cars, but the RB19 has been faultless in most conditions, so I'm looking forward to seeing how we will perform. We're also returning to the normal race format this weekend, so that'll be good, as we head into the second race of the triple header. Following Austin, we can expect the race to be more of a fight, but we'll use our strategy to our strength. The aim is to keep on winning".
Ferrari was not particularly fortunate in Texas due to the disqualification of Charles Leclerc's car. For this reason, Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal of Ferrari, hopes for a different result in Mexico:
"We left Austin with a different result from the finishing order past the flag, which promoted Carlos to a place on the podium, actually well-deserved given how he managed his race. It has also allowed us to claw back some points in our pursuit of second place in the Constructors' classification. However, in Mexico, I want to see a more focused team, as we cannot afford to get things wrong in how we assess the race evolution, as was the case in Austin. The altitude in Mexico makes for a unique race, as it influences various aspects of the car's behavior from pure performance to tire management. With this event running to the traditional weekend timetable, we will be able to carry out all the necessary evaluation work over the three free practice sessions, and I believe we will come up with targeted strategies that will allow us to do our best in what, on paper, can be quite a complicated race. All of us, Carlos and Charles included, must be able to grab any opportunities that come our way".
And, of course, Charles Leclerc is also aiming for a quick comeback:
"Unfortunately, the rules are the rules, and now we are fully focused on doing well here. I got here on Tuesday, and like every year, I am happy to rediscover the passion and energy that the Mexican people have for Formula 1. Above all, we must use them to improve for next year when we hope to be more competitive. Of course, we are also having a good fight for second place in the Constructors', and it would be nice if we could obtain that goal. I think if we can put it all together, we can bring home a good points haul from Mexico City. We have seen recently that it's been easier to get all the potential out of our car, and that has allowed us to perform more consistently. In Austin, we got a few things wrong, including on the strategy side, and we suffered as a result of that, but I think we should be able to once again fight with our closest rivals here too".
Meanwhile, the team principal of Mercedes, Toto Wolff, expresses the same feelings after having to endure the disqualification of Lewis Hamilton's car in Texas:
"Austin was a weekend of mixed feelings. The positives are that the upgrade looks to have given us a step forward in terms of performance. Our pace was strong all weekend, and it was encouraging to be in the fight for victory. The negative was, of course, failing to capitalize on our pace with the result. Losing a podium finish hurts and is not a position we want to find ourselves in. The complexities of a sprint weekend and a bumpy circuit caught us out. But rules are rules. We will learn from this and improve. Now we move on to the next race. Mexico is always an exciting weekend. The fans are super passionate and energetic. The venue also presents a unique challenge with the high altitude. It has a major impact on how we operate the car, and it is always a challenge to find the optimum solution. It will also be a good test of our upgrade package; seeing how it performs at a circuit with very different characteristics. That will be useful for our continued learning and development for W15. Finally, FP1 will see Fred Vesti in the car for one of our two mandatory rookie sessions. He has acquitted himself well in Formula 2, and I am sure he will do a good job for the team".
In a never-ending World Championship, Lando Norris always manages to find enthusiasm for every race he faces. His car has also improved significantly since the beginning of the year, so excellent results are expected from the English driver:
"Mexico City up next. I'm looking forward to returning to Mexico this weekend. It's another one where the atmosphere is buzzing, and the fans are always out in full force. It's also unique in the way the circuit goes through the baseball stadium, which makes it fun to drive. Austin was really good for me. Achieving my 4th podium in a row for my 100th race was a nice feeling. We've made a lot of improvement over the last couple of months, and we'll continue to do our best to keep bringing home the points".
Oscar Piastri is instead looking for redemption since he interrupted a positive streak of results that started with the Japanese Grand Prix in Texas:
"After a more difficult race weekend for me in Austin, I'm excited to be heading to Mexico. It's incredibly motivating to know that we were on course to have a good race, had it not been for the lap 1 incident. We have four more races left this season, and I did a lot of preparation work in the sim ahead of this triple header. I'm ready to put it all into practice on track and get back to fighting for good points".
Alex Albon also hopes to continue the positive streak of results for himself and Williams. His championship so far has been exceptional:
"We head to Mexico next on the triple header, and I'm looking forward to returning here as the weekend has a great atmosphere, with very passionate fans. The track is quite unique which can make things challenging and mightn't suit our car necessarily, but I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do with a normal weekend format, which we haven't had for a while".
On Friday, October 27, 2023, during the first free practice session, Max Verstappen set the fastest time. The Dutch driver outpaced Alexander Albon by less than 0.1s, while the home driver, Sergio Pérez, concluded the practice with the third-fastest time. The Mexican seems more comfortable in the race simulation, as he manages to maintain a better pace than his teammate. Williams, on the other hand, confirms its speed on high-downforce circuits, as previously demonstrated in Monaco. Mercedes experiences setup issues, and Théo Pourchaire, standing in for Bottas at Alfa Romeo, only completes four laps due to a brake-by-wire issue. Carlos Sainz Jr. is also penalized by some technical issues related to the hydraulic system. The situation in the second practice session remains the same as the first. Max Verstappen is the fastest, but he doesn't seem particularly competitive in terms of race pace, being surpassed by Sergio Pérez, who finishes with the fifth-fastest time. Lando Norris follows the World Champion, stopping just 0.119s behind. Leclerc records the third-best time, struggling with the degradation of the left front tire. Just 0.003s behind the Monegasque is Valtteri Bottas. Daniel Ricciardo is sixth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver finds a good balance for the race. The session is also characterized by a brief rain shower. During the first two free practice sessions on Friday, Esteban Ocon uses a transmission assembly outside the allocated limit according to the technical regulations. The French Alpine driver will not be penalized on the starting grid as this operation falls within the maximum number allowed by the technical regulations. At the end of the first day of practice, the drivers stop to have a briefing with their engineers. Max Verstappen can only be satisfied with the work done so far:
"I think it was a positive start to the weekend, of course, it wasn’t plain sailing out there today, there are always a few things to improve. You can see that the track is very slippery and the tyres were difficult to manage in the long runs, so there are still a few things that we can work on. We did look competitive out there so that’s good, maybe even better than expected. Tomorrow, it’s going to be incredibly close over one lap and the race pace again will be a different story".
The support of the Mexican fans for Sergio Perez is extraordinary, and has been strongly felt since the beginning of this race weekend. This attention, however, runs the risk of disturbing and losing the attention of the Mexican driver, who very honestly says:
"It is funny, when you are in the car you are so focused you can forget where you are and then as soon as you are out, it’s like wow, it’s a lot of attention, but it is so nice to have a lot of support from the fans. I would say we didn’t have a straightforward day, we didn’t get a good read on the soft over a single lap, I had a yellow flag, so I ended up doing it on my second timed lap. Then my lap wasn’t tidy and I nearly ended up going off in the final corner! So, there are still plenty of things to understand, especially the different compounds to get a good read for Sunday. I think overall we are looking in a good position and I think we have a good direction to take. Things are looking good but as we know, qualifying is going to be tight".
For Alex Albon, the Mexican Grand Prix could not have started in a better way, with the Williams proving to be competitive on this challenging circuit:
"I don't think we were slow in the FP2, but we obviously had a good run in the first session. We were better than expected but I think we just hit the ground running and optimised the window from the first lap, whereas other teams potentially took a bit longer to get up to speed. We were quick on the Test tyre but my lap on the Softs wasn't very good. This is a circuit that doesn't feel great for anyone with the low downforce; you feel like you're sliding around a lot, however comparing year on year, it's a big step, so let's see how we go tomorrow. I don't think we're top 5 or top 10 but I do think we'll be in a position to fight for Q3 tomorrow".
In contrast, the emotions experienced within the Scuderia Ferrari are mixed. While Charles Leclerc can consider himself satisfied:
"It has been a positive day overall as we were able to test everything we wanted. We tried all the tyres available and worked a bit on the setup even if it’s clear that being only Friday there’s still some work to do for tomorrow’s qualifying and the race. We will analyse all the data we collected and will work to make a step forward".
On the other, Carlos Sainz Jr. certainly cannot say the same thing:
"A busy Friday here in Mexico as working with the prototype tyres always mixes things up. Despite a minor setback in FP1 we managed to cover our main items on the run plan throughout the day. There is still some work to do before qualifying so I’m looking forward to digging into our data tonight and jumping back in the car for FP3. The atmosphere today was, as always, amazing! Thanks to all the fans for your support".
It also starts the race weekend well for Lando Norris, but he is always trying to improve himself and the set up of his car:
"A good start to the weekend, it's close. We'll continue to try and improve but it's a good start. I think we generally do start the weekend off well. We always have a good idea where to put the car to begin with, and normally it's not far off from where we end up, so there's not a lot to gain through the weekend. However, there's always little things we can improve and work on, and those things do add up. So, a couple of bits still to improve, but we're off to a good start and can build from here".
A feeling shared with his teammate, Oscar Piastri, who adds:
"It was a good first day here in Mexico City. The track is very low grip and that takes a lot of getting used to, but it seems cool. I feel like I've built up through the day and we had a reasonable FP2 session. There are still a few things to tidy up and find tomorrow but it's looking reasonably good".
At the end of the first day of practice Lewis Hamilton talks about the difficulties he faced, and how he found his car completely different, compared to the one he drove in Austin, only a week earlier:
"It's been a challenging day for me today, the car felt completely different to what it felt like in Austin a week ago and we need to understand why. We didn't show the most competitive long-runs, so we've been focusing on trying out different set-ups. The track here comes with its challenges, but we've done well here in previous years. So, we're not yet fully where we want to be ahead of tomorrow, but we will work hard overnight to improve and make necessary changes. The car showed a promising pace in Austin and I'm confident we can get it to a good place here and there's plenty of room for us to improve".
In George Russell's speeches, Mercedes' difficulty in finding the right pace for the long run emerges:
"It felt good to be back in the car, but I had a challenging session today with mixed weather conditions and a bit of rain towards the end of FP2, which compromised the consecutive laps for everybody. It's a tight grid out there and lots of traffic during the sessions today, so one of the challenges we will need to tackle this weekend. We also need to make some improvements with the pace of our car, if we want to be at the front end of Q3 tomorrow, but I know we will work hard overnight to achieve that".
And Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director, adds:
"We've struggled with the car today and it wasn't the easiest introduction to a free practice session for Fred; Lewis was finding the car quite a handful, but Fred did a good job to get through the test items, he didn't make any mistakes and had some fun driving the track here. The extra sets of tyres that we had to evaluate tend to mean that the programmes up and down the grid diverge a bit, which makes it more difficult to compare, but we've seen enough to know that we have work to do on both single lap and long run. George is still getting up to speed having missed the first session and both lost a bit of time on single lap with traffic, but we need more than that. It's also interesting that most teams have had a driver featuring near the front at some point today, which almost certainly means that getting through to the final part of qualifying will not be comfortable. We've got some good lines of enquiry to follow up overnight so we'll keep working on it, the balance has been pretty poor throughout the day which is normally a good indication there is lap time that can be found".
In conclusion, Simone Berra, Pirelli Chief Engineer, talks about the program that will involve the sole tire supplier this race weekend:
"After two weekends run to the Sprint format, Mexico City marks a return to the usual one, with Friday given over mainly to an evaluation of the various compounds we have chosen for this event. In addition, we also had a test programme for a new version of the C4, with each driver having two sets available to use as they saw fit. We would like to thank all the teams for their support in this important phase of development, because it's not easy squeezing something extra in what is always a very busy programme. I think we have gathered a lot of useful data - with significant results from some of the comparative tests between the current Medium and the prototype - which will see us make a decision in the coming days over its eventual inclusion in the 2024 range. As for the other compounds, two elements have to be taken into consideration. The first is the rapid evolution of the track which rubbered-in gradually with every lap. The second was the weather which, especially in the second session, affected tyre performance, particularly on long runs towards the end when the air and track temperatures dropped significantly, even more so if compared to the first session. As expected, graining was an important consideration, especially on the softest compound and on the front left tyre. Also relevant was the degradation in terms of performance and that could definitely have an impact on strategy. On paper, a one-stop is still the quickest, but a two-stop cannot be ruled out, or at least the teams will need to adopt a flexible approach, possibly starting the race with a clear plan for both options and then making a decision based on tyre behaviour in the first stint. The fact that track conditions will improve has to be taken into consideration, as it could lead to a progressive reduction in the risk of graining".
On Saturday, October 28, 2023, before the start of the third free practice session, the seventh exhaust system unit is installed on the cars of Lando Norris and Valtteri Bottas. Both drivers will not be penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed fall within the maximum number allowed by the technical regulations. During FP3, once again, Max Verstappen sets the fastest time. The World Champion focuses on testing the Soft tires, first on a qualifying lap and then conducting a race simulation with the same set of tires. However, Verstappen tops the timesheets at the end of the session, edging out Alex Albon by just 0.07s. Sergio Pérez records the third-fastest time, followed by George Russell. The Mercedes team manages to find a better setup compared to the difficulties of the first day of practice. Ferrari, on the other hand, is less competitive, facing traffic on track when searching for performance after completing the race setup. Sainz Jr. also spins during the session. Before qualifying, the eighth and seventh exhaust system units are installed on the cars of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, respectively. Both Alfa Romeo drivers will not be penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed fall within the maximum number allowed by the technical regulations. Kevin Magnussen sets the fastest time in Q1 with a lap time of 1'19"730, followed by Pierre Gasly. Fernando Alonso briefly takes the lead, only to be surpassed by Sergio Pérez, followed by Yuki Tsunoda. Max Verstappen then sets the fastest time, followed by Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, and Oscar Piastri, all on Medium tires.
Valtteri Bottas climbs to second place, 0.3s behind Max Verstappen. However, Daniel Ricciardo overtakes the Finnish driver. Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc, both on Medium tires, also set competitive times. McLaren drivers switch to Soft tires after using Mediums, and Oscar Piastri records the second-fastest time, trailing Max Verstappen by 0.142s. Max Verstappen, George Russell, and Fernando Alonso are investigated for stopping at the pit lane exit. Alonso spins in the first sector, leading to yellow flags that penalize all drivers who entered the track in the final moments of the session. Eliminated drivers include Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen, Lance Stroll, Logan Sargeant, and Lando Norris. In Q2, Sergio Pérez sets the benchmark time with a lap of 1'18"124, immediately beaten by Max Verstappen with a time of 1'17"625. Several drivers are under investigation for slow out laps, but no sanctions are imposed. George Russell moves up to third place, closely followed by Lewis Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo slots in between the two Red Bull Racing cars, less than 0.4s behind Max Verstappen. Carlos Sainz Jr. finishes his first attempt in seventh place. Charles Leclerc, also on Medium tires, sets the third-fastest time. McLaren drivers switch back to Soft tires after using Mediums, and Oscar Piastri records the second-fastest time, just 0.081s behind Max Verstappen. Max Verstappen, George Russell, and Fernando Alonso are investigated for blocking other cars at the pit lane exit during Q1 but receive no penalties. In Q3, Sergio Pérez closes his first performance with a time of 1'17"788. However, his time is immediately beaten by his teammate Max Verstappen, who sets a time of 1'17"286. Daniel Ricciardo also surpasses the Mexican's time before Carlos Sainz Jr. lowers the benchmark to 1'17"233. Charles Leclerc betters that, closing his lap in 1'17"166. George Russell is fifth, and Oscar Piastri is eighth. Guanyu Zhou only attempts a single quick lap and sets the ninth-fastest time.
In the second attempts, Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo do not improve, while Sergio Pérez moves up to fifth place. Max Verstappen improves his time but remains 0.1s behind Charles Leclerc. Oscar Piastri does not complete his last attempt, while George Russell finishes seventh and Lewis Hamilton sixth. Charles Leclerc secures his 22nd career pole position, the second consecutive and the fourth of the season, equaling Fernando Alonso's total in the all-time pole positions list, ranking fourteenth. After qualifying, George Russell, Max Verstappen, and Fernando Alonso are summoned by the stewards for obstructing other cars at the pit lane exit and not following the instructions set by the race director during Q1. The three drivers receive no penalties. Logan Sargeant is summoned for overtaking Yuki Tsunoda under yellow flag conditions after Turn 3 during Q1. The American driver is penalized with a ten-place grid penalty and two points on his super license. Lewis Hamilton is summoned for not slowing down under yellow flag conditions at Turn 3 during Q1 but receives no penalties. Williams and Tsunoda are summoned for equipment from the British constructor being hit by the Japanese driver's car in the pit lane during Q2. Williams is fined 20.000 euros by the Federation, with 10.000 euros suspended for twelve months unless there are further violations of Article 5 of the sporting regulations. Alfa Romeo is fined 500 euros as Guanyu Zhou exceeded the pit lane speed limit. George Russell, Lando Norris, and Zhou Guanyu receive no penalties from the stewards for not following the instructions set by the race director. All drivers exceeded the time limit of one minute and 36 seconds valid between the second line of the safety car and the first safety car. The three drivers exceeded the time limit during the seventh, sixth, and fifth laps, respectively, in Q1. Concluding the qualifying without penalties, Charles Leclerc can express his joy for another pole position in his career:
"I did not expect to take pole position today. After FP3, it seemed as though we were on the back foot but once we put it all together in Q3, it went well. I'm already focusing on the race though, because we want to convert this pole into a win. Our pace has been good so far here this weekend, so let's see what we can do tomorrow".
It was a very strange qualifying session, and Carlos Sainz Jr. confirms this feeling:
"It was quite a strange qualifying session today, but a mega result for the team! It hasn’t been the cleanest of weekends for us but in Q3 we managed to put everything together and consolidate a front row lockout for the race".
"Traffic nearly put me out in Q2, but the lap in Q3 felt good and this is a fantastic boost for everyone in the team, especially during this long triple-header. We need to stay focused, as tomorrow won’t be an easy race. Temperatures and tyre management will be key for us. However, we are in the best possible position to try to keep everybody behind. Let’s race".
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal of Ferrari, can only be pleased with the unexpected result obtained during the qualifying session:
"After FP3 I was convinced we could do well, but maybe not this well. Performance this afternoon was mainly driven by the tyres because there was the risk that if you pushed too hard at the start of the lap, you would have killed the tyres at the front or the rear towards the end of the lap. We managed things very well during Q1 and Q2 and we had the advantage of having two new sets of Softs for Q3 for both Charles and Carlos and the first flying laps proved to be the best. Of course we will enjoy today’s result but we must not get carried away and we are already focused on how we can convert this performance to the best possible result tomorrow as we saw the field is very tight. It’s a very long run to turn 1 and the slipstream here is an important factor, but we still prefer to start from the front row. Having both drivers there separated by six hundredths shows the team is doing a good job".
Probably no one expected to see the tough Ferraris on the front row. And this thought is well expressed by Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner:
"Not the qualifying session we are used to seeing. We did well but Ferrari really pulled it out at the end. I think even they were surprised. Q1 and Q2 looked like a struggle for them and then they put in a very strong time that first run in Q3. They couldn’t better it on the second run, we put in a strong lap but it wasn’t enough. Congrats to them they were very quick in a very confusing session but equally, good to see both Daniel in P4 and Checo in P5. We are looking forward to tomorrow, we have a good race car and as long as they stay out of trouble on that first lap we should be set up well. Arguably starting in the front is not where you really want to be on this track with that huge run down to turn1. It will be interesting to see if there is some formation driving by Ferrari, but it’s a pretty wide track and it will make a really exciting race".
A thought shared also by Sergio Perez:
"I don't know where the Ferraris came from, we were not expecting them to be that fast. Overall, it got a clean lap and it felt ok but I just lacked some progression through qualifying, which I didn't get fully and that really hurt us. Not having a new set in Q3 wasn't ideal, that probably proved quite costly with the evolution and being on a used tyre. We wanted to be on the first two rows but we are still P5 and a lot of things can happen tomorrow, I need to overtake four cars and anything can be done in this sport. It's a long race and it's a long way into turn one, we know overtaking here can be really difficult, but anything can happen and I know I have the support of this crowd behind me".
While Max Verstappen, who was the only one who managed to come close to the performance of the two Ferrari drivers, candidly admits:
"I tried to do the best I could but it just didn't come together today. There's very low grip around this circuit because of the altitude, so it's not as easy to push as hard as I usually would in qualifying. I didn't have the perfect balance in Q3 and that cost us a few tenths here and there. Nevertheless, we were still close to the Ferraris and it's a long race tomorrow. I am feeling confident, I of course would've liked to start first tomorrow but we'll have a good slipstream into turn one so let's see what we can do".
In contrast, it was not a satisfactory qualification for Lewis Hamilton, who all weekend had to struggle to find the right balance of the car:
"I've been struggling all weekend with the car and it has been a bit of a nightmare to drive. We've had to try and put the performance together piece by piece, and we made good changes going into qualifying so that I was much happier with the car. Q1 and Q2 weren't looking too bad - especially the second run in Q2. But the car is just really peaky - sometimes it's in the window, sometimes not. And I couldn't squeeze anything more out of it on that final lap. The race is definitely going to be a challenge: we will be overheating the tyres and the brakes, so it won't be easy to battle the cars around us. I don't really know what kind of race to expect but it's going to be on a knife edge".
That the problem is team-wide is evidenced by the performance of George Russell, who was visibly displeased with the poor end result:
"It was a bit of a shame to end up P8 because we showed signs of strong pace at points, but we didn't deliver when it counted. We lacked consistency today - some runs we were strong, others not, so it was a confusing picture. On the final run, we had one set of new tyres and tried something different on the out lap, and it didn't work and the tyres weren't in the window. As for tomorrow, it will be hard from P8 - the brakes will need managing and PU temperatures are always a challenge, too. We came here expecting to be competitive and I hope we can make progress in the race, but it won't be easy".
Toto Wolff, Team Principal of Mercedes, adds personal remarks to what this his two drivers have said:
"P6 and P8 are less than we had hoped for from qualifying today. We made some good steps with the car today, but we couldn't put the lap times together when it really counted. Ferrari made a massive jump from Q2 to Q3, and you could see all the way through the session that it was all about fine margins - two or three seconds of out lap pace, and getting the tyres perfectly in the window, or just slipping out of it. On our final new tyre, it looks like we were a bit too slow and the tyres a bit too cool - but it's just tricky to find that sweet spot. We are less than three tenths off pole, but it feels like a lot more given our starting positions. We showed some decent race pace yesterday - but we don't know if that will translate tomorrow, after the set-up changes we made. But the only goal will be to move forward from where we start".
While Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director, adds technical details to the talk:
"To qualify P6 and P8 is disappointing after we made good progress with the car since yesterday - and doubly so when the gap to pole is less than three tenths of a second. The field is just so tight these days and we were not fast enough when it mattered. It's frustrating as the team worked hard overnight to get the car into a better place and it feels like we have made good progress, it's just clearly not enough. It's very difficult to know how the race is going to pan out; we've made enough changes overnight that our Friday long run data is not particularly relevant, but hopefully we've improved the pace. Ferrari certainly look like they have a good car here and, given the championship position, it's important that we can stay in the race with them. Also, interesting that Daniel is up there. We've had good race pace recently but for many different reasons we've not been converting it into points. Hopefully we'll do a good job of that tomorrow".
It was undoubtedly suspenseful the performance of Daniel Ricciardo, who if in Q2 it could be assumed that his performance was due to the use of the slipstream granted by Yuki Tsunoda, certainly the same cannot be said for the final result:
"I’m very pleased. P4 is a little higher than we expected within the top 10, but the pace has been there from the start of the weekend. After Austin, knowing we had a normal weekend in Mexico to try things with our setup, we started with a slightly different car and definitely more toward what I was after. I was happy to hit the ground running yesterday. The confidence in the car was there, and we were always a solid P10 car, with some purple sectors sometimes. Before qualifying, it wasn’t about whether we could make it into Q3 but how far up the grid we could qualify. Yuki was great and gave me a slipstream in Q1 and 2, so that definitely gave us the extra tenth or two to get in, and then Q3 was just our pace. From that point of view, we had the pace to do it. The lap I was visualising in my head was maybe P7, or P6 at best, but P4 is wild. As a team, we have to enjoy it because it’s a big moment. It’s not often that we get this far into the top 10, so there’s a part of me that will be enjoying it for the next hour. Points are awarded tomorrow though, and I believe we have a chance to score a lot. Half the job is done but it’s a long run to Turn 1, so I’ll keep calm, pick a good line, and race hard".
On the other hand, he is rather disappointed Alex Albon, who was forced to struggle with a car that presented little grip, and to accept a really questionable commissioners' verdict regarding exclusion from Q3 as a result of exceeding track limits at a point where it is quite difficult to succeed in such a feat:
"I don't think it was track limits, however I might be wrong. Based on the external view of the shot, it looked to me that my rear tyres were still on the white line, however it is what it is. It's really frustrating but what's more frustrating is the lack of pace in Qualifying; I was four of five tenths slower than I was in FP3, losing a lot of grip, so I almost had to do tyre management to keep the tyres alive into sector 3. It was the same from FP1 to FP2 and now FP3 to Quali, so we really need to look into it. We'll look to tomorrow and see what we can do".
Surprising was the qualifying result of Lando Norris, who was stopped by numerous problems that prevented him from passing Q1:
"Today's result is obviously not what we wanted. An issue with the car on the first run meant we didn't set the banker lap we needed. I made a mistake on my second run, and didn't get a chance to complete my third lap due to the yellow flag, but that's the way it is sometimes. It's frustrating as the car was good and the speed was there. I'll bounce back tomorrow".
In this regard, Andrea Stella, McLaren Team Principal, adds:
"A tricky qualifying here in Mexico City with mixed results. Oscar completed a strong qualifying, building through Q1 and Q2. We thought we had decent pace for Q3, but we didn't see the step forward in pace that we would have liked. Nevertheless, Oscar lines up in a strong position to score points tomorrow. On Lando's side, we had an issue on the first run, which we are reviewing. This meant we couldn't put a banker on the timing sheet on the Medium tyre. From there our session was compromised by an imperfect lap from Lando when on Soft tyres and then by the yellow flag on the final lap at an unfortunate time. This sequence of events prevented us from progressing to Q2. Our objective for tomorrow remains the same, to score good points. Oscar starts in a good position, and we know the pace in the car merits more than 18th on the grid for Lando, so he will aim to move forward and into the points. Tonight we'll analyse the data, prepare our plan for the Grand Prix and get ready for an exciting race".
Aston Martin's downward trend continues, with Fernando Alonso excluded from Q3 and forced to start from 13th position:
"It was a very tricky Qualifying session today and we've not been performing at our best so far this weekend. We've tried a few different things with the set-up, but we seem to be losing pace everywhere over the lap".
"The race will be tough for everyone with the high temperatures and usually there is a lot of traffic around this circuit. However, we remain hopeful of scoring points tomorrow. After all, we were running in the top 10 in Austin despite having started from the pitlane. It's a long race tomorrow and we will keep pushing".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, concludes the series of post qualifying interviews by talking about impressions at the end of the second day of practice:
"Qualifying produced quite a few surprises, which bodes well for a spectacular race tomorrow afternoon. As has often been the case this year, qualifying was very closely contested, with the top three all within less than a tenth of one another and the top ten within less than a second. Compared to last year's race here, the fastest time of all was a bit more than six tenths (0.609 to be precise) quicker, in line with the performance between the Soft used in 2022, the C4 and the one used today, the C5, as well as matching our previous simulations. Today, over the course of the two sessions, we saw that the track evolution stabilised. Looking ahead to tomorrow afternoon, we expect the one-stop will still be the favourite strategy, with two alternatives: starting on the C4 before switching to the C3 after around one third distance, or opting to start on the C3 and lengthening the first stint to two thirds of the 71 lap race. The two-stop is a possibility, using a mix of C3 and C4, but it's not as quick as one pit stop strategy".
On Sunday, October 29, 2023, before the start of the race, Lance Stroll's car is fitted with elements of different specifications than those originally used, along with a modification to the suspension setup under the closed park conditions. The Canadian driver for Aston Martin is forced to start from the pit lane. Additionally, the British constructor is fined 100 euros by the Federation as Fernando Alonso exceeded the speed limit in the pit lane during the reconnaissance laps before lining up on the starting grid. At the start, Max Verstappen overtakes the two Ferrari drivers, moving into the lead. As they approach the first corner, Sergio Pérez attempts to pass Charles Leclerc on the outside, resulting in contact. The Mexican is forced to retire after returning to the pits. Behind the damaged car of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr., Daniel Ricciardo follows, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri, and George Russell. Debris from the collision prompts the race director to impose a brief virtual safety car period during the fifth lap. The order remains unchanged until the 11th lap when Lewis Hamilton passes Daniel Ricciardo. On lap 20, Max Verstappen pits for Hard tires. The World Champion re-enters the track in seventh place but overtakes George Russell, Oscar Piastri, and Daniel Ricciardo without major issues. Meanwhile, on lap 25, Lewis Hamilton also makes his pit stop, switching to Hard tires. In the following laps, Oscar Piastri and George Russell also pit. On lap 29, Max Verstappen takes the second position from Carlos Sainz Jr. Between laps 31 and 32, the two Ferrari drivers make their pit stops. Upon returning to the track, Lewis Hamilton manages to stay ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr.. Shortly after, Kevin Magnussen loses control of his Haas in the mixed part of the track due to the failure of the left rear suspension. The race director initially deploys the Safety Car and then decides to red-flag the race to allow the marshals to repair the safety barriers where the incident occurred. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen takes advantage of the Safety Car period to make his second pit stop. For the second start, which takes place from a standstill, Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri, George Russell, Nico Hülkenberg, Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Esteban Ocon, and Logan Sargeant decide to use Medium tires, while the others restart with Hard tires. Max Verstappen retains the lead in the second start, followed by Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz Jr., and Daniel Ricciardo. George Russell quickly manages to overtake Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo, while on lap 40, Lewis Hamilton passes Charles Leclerc. Later, George Russell tries, unsuccessfully, to attack Carlos Sainz Jr., and Yuki Tsunoda pressures Oscar Piastri. However, on lap 49, the Japanese driver of AlphaTauri misses the braking point at the first corner after an unsuccessful attack and loses several positions.
On lap 56, Oscar Piastri gives way to the faster Lando Norris, his teammate, who has climbed from fourteenth to seventh in a few laps. Four laps later, Lando Norris also overtakes Daniel Ricciardo. Five laps from the end, the British driver of McLaren rises to fifth place after passing George Russell. At the end of the last lap, Lewis Hamilton sets the fastest lap. Max Verstappen wins his 51st career Grand Prix, the fourth consecutive and the sixteenth of the season, as well as the third consecutive victory in the Mexican Grand Prix and the fifth overall at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez. The three-time World Champion equals the historic wins of Alain Prost, placing him fourth in the all-time ranking. For Red Bull Racing, it is the eighteenth championship victory, the fourth in a row, the 110th in its history, and the third consecutive win in Mexico. Despite the monotony, Max Verstappen cannot help but be pleased with another victory in his career and in this monotonous World Championship, which is coming to an end:
"The pace of the car was very good today, we were planning to do a different strategy to everyone else but unfortunately we couldn’t show that with the red flag. Nevertheless, we were very strong on the hard tyres at the end. To win 16 races in a season is something I never thought would be possible, this season has been unbelievable. I understand from Checo’s side why he went for it at the beginning, it would have been incredible for him to be on the podium at his home race here in Mexico. Thankfully the crowd stayed, and they’ve been amazing all weekend, I’ve felt so welcome here as I always do. For now, my head is already on to the next race, let’s see what we can do in Brazil".
Those who, on the other hand, recriminate about yet another bad performance is Sergio Perez. The disappointment is double, however, when one considers that this umpteenth withdrawal was consummated in front of his own audience:
"I had a tremendous start, probably my best of the year, the gap was there and if you don’t go for it what’s the point in being here. I went for it and to be honest I wasn’t expecting Charles to brake as late as he did and simply, there was not room for three cars. I wanted this victory badly and I knew it was risky but if it had worked, I would have ended up in the lead. At your home grand prix, after being on the podium twice you want to give it your all and I went totally for it, I really wanted the win today and I massively tried to get that. I go home really sad because of the result but proud of myself and my Team that we left it all out there, this is just racing, and this is how the sport goes sometimes".
For his part, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner tries to console the Mexican driver:
"A race of contrasting fortunes. Another amazing race by Max today, total and utter dominance, but for Checo, an absolutely gutting home race. He had a rocket ship launch of a start and had so much momentum going into that first corner. You can't blame him for going for it to try and take the lead at his home race. but ultimately, three does not go into one and it was a crushing blow to see him out. Dietrich Mateschitz always used to say: no risk, no fun. And we gave it our all from the very beginning. Both cars started incredibly well. Our starts haven’t been our strongest this year, there has been a variance to them. The control guys did a great job today. Great starts with Checo and Max in the first run and then obviously the restart and Max getting that that blinder as well”.
The championship is drawing to a close, and the only reason for interest in these last Grand Prix may be the fight for the role of vice World Champion, involving Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton. The Briton, however, despite having to make up 20 points in the standings, is back from a series of excellent results, if we exclude the disqualification in Texas that was certainly not due to his mistake. At the end of the race, Lewis Hamilton admits:
"It's a great result considering we started from P6 and amazing day for the team. We pushed hard and I'm proud of the whole team for all their work. It's been a difficult couple of weeks for us so it's great to finally bounce back. The car felt much better today, and the pace was strong. Today was about the balance of the car and managing the tyres and we managed to do that well. We dug really deep this weekend to improve the set-up and get it right and the result today shows the hard work everyone in the team has put in to achieve that. Now I can't wait to get to Brazil and hopefully continue with the strong pace of the car".
Regarding the feelings transferred from the car to the Mercedes drivers, George Russell is also of the same opinion proposed by his teammate:
"I felt really good in the car today, the pace was there so definitely a positive from this weekend. I was right behind Carlos wanting to overtake when my brakes overheated. We were concerned about making it to the end, so I had to back off and that's where I lost all the temperature in the tyres and didn't manage to get them back into the right window. It was like driving on ice for the last 20 laps so I'm glad I managed to finish in P6. Another difficult weekend for us but the car was performing well. We just need to have some clean weekends and show consistency, but I'm confident we'll achieve that. I'm looking forward to Brazil and I hope that we will show some good pace there too and hopefully we will be in a position to fight for the podium".
Toto Wolff, Mercedes Team Principal, adds:
"We had a strong car today so we're happy with the result and it gives us confidence. Once Lewis managed to get into free air, the lap times were good and great job that he managed to get fastest lap at the end of the race too. The pace was there and that's a positive for us building on the last two races. Tyre management at this track is so marginal, a few degrees of track temperature and they're out of the window and the other way around. George unfortunately totally ran out of tyres, so it was tough for him to defend. Still, a strong result for him today and he fought well to keep the position from Daniel in the final lap. We don't know yet how we will perform in Brazil next week. We will keep both feet on the ground, do our best job there and hopefully we're in position to fight at the front".
While Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director, concedes as always his technical viewpoint:
"A great drive by Lewis to take second place from sixth on the grid. We've had a tough run of races recently and it's really encouraging to see the pace in the car, especially on a weekend where we have found it really difficult to get it into the window. George was disappointed to lose the place to Lando in the final stages, but he was clearly much quicker than Carlos on the restart and whilst it's easy with hindsight to say we should have backed him off and preserved the tyres, we'd rather be a team that's looking forward in races than one that is looking behind. We've not had an easy weekend here, it's been difficult, very difficult to keep the tyres in the right window and we were very disappointed with how qualifying went. However, to leave here having matched Ferrari on points given our grid positions is encouraging. The car was working well, we were managing brakes and we'll fix that for next year but the pace was strong. We can improve on this weekend and we'll be working hard preparing for the sprint race next weekend in Brazil".
After yet another pole position won, Ferrari with concretize the result with a victory. In this case, however, it was also the suspension of the race that determined the final result, which probably could have been more positive. Not to mention the damage and the loss of at least 15 load points due to the damage resulting from the contact with Sergio Perez at the beginning of the race, for which the Monegasque is absolutely not to blame. In this regard, Charles Leclerc said:
"It was a tricky one. I was caught between the two Red Bulls at the start and unfortunately Checo and I touched, which led to me picking up some damage on the car and to Checo retiring. Later on, we struggled a bit on the Hards after the restart. Lewis (Hamilton) was really strong on the Mediums and had very little degradation, getting ahead of us. It’s not where we wanted to finish, but we maximised our result".
The same cannot be said of Carlos Sainz Jr., certainly not the author of a brilliant race:
"It was a long and tough race today, having to manage tyres and temperatures constantly. Looking at the pace today I think the result is the maximum we could have achieved. Both the starts were quite chaotic, but we kept it together and stuck with our preferred strategy of doing one stop, which we had opted for before the red flag. In the end we scored some good points for the team and now we focus on the upcoming Sao Paulo race with the Sprint format".
Ferrari's Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur recriminates about the race restart, which as mentioned compromised the Maranello team's strategy:
"When you start on the front row, a P3 and a P4 finish is not the result you aim for, but, given how the race was run, I think we almost did the best we could with our car today. We knew the start would be tricky because of the long run to the first corner, in which the slipstream can have a big effect and for sure our start today was not ideal. In the first stint we were on the pace, but then, like many others, we struggled at the restart with the Hard tyre. And this is what cost Charles the position to Lewis, who was on Mediums, but for us it would have been really on the limit to get to the end on that tyre, if we had taken the opportunity to fit it again when the race was stopped. We need to keep working to reduce the performance difference between our qualifying and race pace, given that, especially on the Hards, we struggled too much compared to our rivals who were able to manage the tyres better than us".
Daniel Ricciardo seems to be back in splendid form after his second Formula 1 comeback. His performance today, following Saturday's, was incredible. The Australian driver earned valuable points for AlphaTauri in Mexico, allowing the team to move up to eighth place in the standings:
“There’s a lot of emotions, and I’m definitely feeling better than good. Two starts on this track hold your breath because it’s such a long run until Turn 1, and anything can happen. The first start, we went into Turn 1 fourth and came out of it fourth as well, so I was happy. For the second start, I knew the Red Flag would hurt our race, but I’m happy to hear that Kevin (Magnussen) wasn’t injured after the big crash he had. Restarting on the hard compound, with others opting for the medium tyre, and only losing one position, was close to the best scenario, and we did well. We tried to settle into our rhythm, where I had a little fight with Norris but then let him go. We thought if he could catch George (Russell), he'd bring him closer to us, and he did. On the last lap, we got close but didn’t quite make it. Regardless, to be fighting with a Mercedes at the end is exciting. Overall, it was a good weekend during which we scored six important points. Now let’s keep the ball rolling".
The challenge in these last three Grands Prix will also pit AlphaTauri and Williams against each other. Fortunately for the British team, Alex Albon again managed to win valuable points, despite the fact that the restart had penalized him at first.
"It was a great race, which surprised me, as we didn't have that much race pace. The track was a little bit too hot for us so required a lot of tyre management, which I expected. We had very good starts where we gained some good positions and also had a good strategy, but the red flag ruined that a little bit, so we had to reset before the restart. We made up the places lost during the Safety Car, and I think regardless of Qualifying yesterday, P9 was the best result we could've done today, so I'm happy".
Nonetheless, the driver of the day is still Lando Norris, again the author of a splendid race, which led him to a fifth place finish on a circuit not very favorable to McLarens:
"A very good race. Our pace was excellent from start to finish. The different strategy worked perfectly. A great day for us, probably one of our best Sundays in terms of race pace, overtaking and race management. We moved on from yesterday and made the most of it. I'm very happy with the team and how I drove today".
Oscar Piastri defended himself well and managed to gain some valuable points for the standings, but the fact that he was a rookie on this circuit greatly affected the final result:
"A tough Sunday. I had a fair few battles out there, which made life interesting but definitely not the most straightforward of days. The pace was reasonable and then, after the Red Flag, life was a lot more tough. After the battling, I definitely struggled a bit more with the tyres and picked up some damage, which didn't help. Good to bring home some more important points, but a few bits to look at for Brazil".
Finally, Andrea Stella, Team Principal of McLaren, concludes the topic related to the British team by saying:
"It was definitely an interesting and entertaining Mexico City Grand Prix. We have been able to consolidate the good points finish with Oscar, who drove a very strong race with some robust racing moments, top-class defending and good race management after sustaining damage with a significant loss of aerodynamic load. On Lando's side, not only was it one of his best races, but also one of the best races I have been part of. His first stint, from P17 on the grid, was excellent, overtaking with great pace. We pitted him under the Safety Car believing this would put him in a very strong position, and then he lost out with the Red Flag. When we further lost out at the restart down to P14, we thought points were gone today, but Lando managed to overtake all cars up to a P5 finish in 30 laps. This is one we'll remember for a long time. Well done to the team at the factory, our colleagues at HPP and the team here at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez for not being discouraged after a difficult Saturday. Today's results show the strength-in-depth and the resilience of McLaren. We're heading to Brazil encouraged, looking for a competitive weekend in São Paulo".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, is pleased with the result that Pirelli has been able to guarantee to all teams, who in fact cannot complain about the quality achieved over the years by the Milanese manufacturer:
"As always, since Formula 1 returned to Mexico, the atmosphere at this race was amazing, despite the premature retirement of crowd favourite Sergio Perez. On the tyre front, we saw how track evolution and higher temperatures led to the C4 emerging as the most effective compound overall. That was particularly evident after the restart when those who went for the aggressive choice of fitting the Medium, were able to make the most of it when they could attack with it, without the lap times dropping off towards the end, as we saw with Hamilton and Norris for example. Verstappen's superiority meant he could choose what he wanted to do in terms of stops and the Safety Car meant he made his second pit stop without losing position, given that his rivals were just making their scheduled stops. As is often the case with a driver on top form, luck seems to want to help him out still further".
Thus concludes yet another Grand Prix of this Formula 1 season, which is highly likely to be remembered as one of the most boring in the entire history of the World Championship. It's a real shame, considering the goals that Liberty Media had set. Although it must be said that lately, they seem more interested in organizing their Grand Prix in Las Vegas rather than the predictable and, consequently, boring outcome of the races. The only thing keeping interest high is the battle for the second position in the standings, involving Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez. Everything else is boredom.