Max Verstappen wary of run to Turn 1, but quick Red Bull is ‘most important’

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, talks to reporters. Mexico, October 2022.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, motions with his hand as he talks to reporters. Mexico, October 2022.

While Max Verstappen could be in a vulnerable position at the Mexican Grand Prix start, he has faith in the Red Bull RB18 at his disposal.

Claiming pole for the Mexican GP is always a fantastic achievement worth celebrating, Verstappen taking top spot on the 2022 grid with a buffer of three tenths of a second over Mercedes’ George Russell.

However, starting from P1 is not always the ideal spot at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez since the monster start-finish straight makes for an impactful slipstream effect.

Indeed, only twice in Formula 1’s six most recent Mexican GPs has the pole-sitter won the race, Verstappen a three-time winner of the event despite 2022 being his first pole position there.

But Verstappen, victor in seven of the last eight grands prix, is not too concerned as he has confidence in the RB18, a challenger known to be rather mighty when it comes to straight-line speed.

“It was a good qualifying,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1. “I think it was a close one but I think after FP3, we made a few adjustments and the car got into a better rhythm.

“To be on pole here is of course amazing. I know it’s a very long run to Turn 1 so we need a good start. But anyway, I think we have a quick car and that’s of course what’s most important.”

Speaking to reporters in the post-qualifying press conference, Verstappen revealed the track, which he feels always makes it difficult to nail a lap, was especially tricky as the temperature rose between FP3 and qualifying, which meant more sliding.

Verstappen had found out on Friday how tricky the surface can be having spun in FP1, likening the conditions off-line to being “like ice”.

The Dutchman was pleased then to put it all together in Q3 to deliver a time that was good enough for pole.

“It was a bit of a tricky start to qualifying because the track was a bit warmer than FP3,” said Verstappen. “So I think everyone was sliding around a bit more and it was a bit more difficult to find your rhythm.

“So it was really about [learning changes from] Q1 to Q2 to Q3, trying to find the balance in the car again.

“At the end of the session it got a little better and I think in Q3 we finally could push a little bit more with the car and [I did] two decent laps, I think.

“Of course, I’m very happy with them because around here it’s very hard to, for me at least, to nail the lap.

“It’s just very low grip and there are a few kerbs you have to perfectly hit to actually gain time.

“So it’s definitely not the easiest of qualifyings or races. And the same for the tyre warm-up. But it seems like in Q3 we had the right picture.”

Read more: George Russell ‘kicking himself’ after missing out on pole position with ‘terrible lap’