Red Bull Fortify Their Place in Mexican Grand Prix After Outpacing Mercedes in FP3

Published 11/06/2021, 2:04 PM EDT
Formula One F1 – Mexico Grand Prix – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico – November 6, 2021 Red Bull’s Sergio Perez during practice REUTERS/Andres Stapff


If Friday’s session of the Mexican Grand Prix taught us anything, it was that there’s no clear distinction between who’s the faster team- Mercedes or Red Bull. Therefore, in a way, FP3 was the one tie-breaker before the qualifying session. After a lot of tussling on the top of the timesheets, Red Bull and home hero Sergio Perez hoisted their flag on their circuit.

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The tracks around the circuit continued to be slippery after a lorry spilled some oil on the tarmac in the morning. Although covered with cement dust, it continued to be a nuisance for the drivers throughout the session. Hopefully, it would be less of a problem for the qualifying session.

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Turn 1 continued to send the cars off the track; this time, the drivers were more careful with the exit on the bollard. Charles Leclerc spun off at Turn 5, marking the only spin in the session.

The tow at the circuit is one to monitor as teams like McLaren and AlphaTauri practiced their tow on the straight. But, it’s a tricky track to get it right on. If drivers execute the tow perfectly, it will prove powerful in qualifying.

Red Bull confidently head to Mexican Grand Prix qualifying

Mercedes left Friday as the slower car in the title fight, however, they are still very much in the game. With Lewis in 3rd and Valtteri in 4th, the Silver Arrows will show no sign of weakness ahead of qualifying.

However, the difference in pace dismayed Lewis Hamilton in the final minutes as he was shocked on the team radio: “Six and a half tenths?” to Perez’s fastest lap time.

Formula One F1 – Mexico Grand Prix – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico – November 6, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during practice REUTERS/Andres Stapff

Under the microscope, Red Bull set much more impressive sector times than their rivals. Although Mercedes continued to have their trademark straight-line pace, the turns of the Autodrom were for the Red Bull to conquer.

Sergio Perez, fueled by the adoring crowds and the monster-like speed of the Red Bull, finished on top. Max Verstappen, with his eyes on the increased lead, heads to qualifying reassured with his car’s pace. However, he struggled with the tires in the final minutes of the session, thus placing him behind his teammate.

Engine penalties strike again

George Russell, who entered the session with a new gearbox, looks to start Sunday’s race with a five-place penalty. However, the solution seems to have been very effective as Williams had an improved pace this session.

Lando Norris has taken a new PU in Mexico; with his first engine penalty, he will start the Mexican Grand Prix at the back of the grid. Will this boost Ferrari’s position on the constructors’ board? With Norris’ pace putting him 10th on the timesheets, it’s an uphill battle for the driver.

Later in the session, Alpine announced Esteban Ocon will run on a new PU as well, joining the Brits at the back of the grid on Sunday. All the components on his chassis will be new ahead of the qualifying session later.

The midfield battle intensifies ahead of the qualifying session

AlphaTauri‘s special appearance in the midfield battle has been more than welcome. With the Honda engines performing at a miraculous speed, it looks like Gasly and Tsunoda will make themselves comfortable amongst the likes of McLaren and Ferrari this weekend.

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After the engine issues and setup issues at the Red garage, Ferrari may bounce back at the qualifying session. Once again, the Prancing Horses galloped ahead of McLaren and AlphaTauri this session, in terms of overall pace. However, Carlos Sainz finished 5th and his teammate was in four places behind him.

Formula One F1 – Mexico Grand Prix – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico – November 6, 2021 Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. in action during practice REUTERS/Henry Romero

The rivals in the Papaya garage looked to have tirelessly worked on their machine as well. After Daniel Ricciardo‘s early exit from FP2 due to gearbox issues, the Aussie placed a decent 7th at the end of Saturday’s session.

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It makes the race a lot more interesting, the fluctuating paces and the penalties- all shaking up the grid for Sunday. However, the qualifying session coming up will soon bring some stability to the hubbub.

Watch this story: Everything You Need to Know About Daniel Ricciardo’s Famous Tattoos

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Shreya Sanjeev

642 articles

Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.

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