Red Bull expect ‘incredibly competitive’ Mexico pole fight after tight practice outings

Henry Valantine
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in the cockpit.

Max Verstappen predicts a tight battle for pole in Mexico.

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both think the fight for pole will be a close one in Mexico City, after a closely-run Friday practice day.

Verstappen topped both practice sessions at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez on Friday while Perez admitted to his day being not as “straightforward”, with several teams behind being in close proximity to the reigning World Champions on the track.

While Verstappen admitted race pace is “a different story”, hinting Red Bull may have more up their sleeves, the fight over one lap is set to be an intriguing one in qualifying.

Max Verstappen predicts ‘incredibly competitive’ battle for Red Bull on Saturday

Despite taking top spot twice on Friday, Verstappen believes things will be close on Saturday throughout the field, with the top 16 runners having gone within a second of his benchmark in FP2, during qualifying simulations.

With Mexico City presenting unique demands on the cars due to the altitude at which the circuit sits, there are other factors for the drivers to consider throughout the weekend as well – though Red Bull still look like the team to beat.

“We look competitive so that’s good, there are always a few things to improve but overall I think it was a positive start to the weekend – probably a little bit better than I expected, so that’s always good I guess,” Verstappen said after the session.

“You can see the track is very slippery like always, tyres are very difficult to manage as well in the long run, so there are still a few things I think that we can work on.”

Having had his rivals in close proximity during free practice, with Lando Norris only a tenth behind during qualifying simulations, Verstappen is predicting a close time of things over one lap on Saturday.

“I mean, they’ve been close already for a few races now you know, so for me there is no surprise there,” he said in response to Norris’ pace for McLaren.

“I think tomorrow is going to be incredibly competitive over one lap, and the race pace again, that’s a different story.”

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Team-mate Perez was roared around the circuit in Mexico City every time he took in a lap as the home hero received huge support on Friday.

He was very much focused on the job at hand during practice, but acknowledged that as soon as he stepped out of the cockpit, the realisation of home hits him.

“It’s nice, you know, because it’s funny – when you are in the car you forget where you are,” Perez explained.

“But as soon as you are out there’s a lot of attention, and it’s good to have so much support from all the fans.

“I think we didn’t have a straightforward day, we didn’t get a good read on the on the soft over a single lap.

“I had a yellow flag on my lap, so I ended up doing it on the second timed lap, so plenty of things to understand.

“We obviously went with different compounds also to understand them for Sunday, so I think overall, we are looking in a good position. I think we have a good direction that we need to take.”

Given his and Red Bull’s strength this season, it was put to Perez that a fight for pole might be on at his home race – and he is relishing the challenge of trying to take the P1 grid slot.

“Yeah, definitely. I mean, my lap wasn’t really tidy, nearly went off in the in the final corner, but I think there is good potential.

“Things are looking good but, as we know, tomorrow is going to be really tight.”

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