Charles Leclerc leads Ferrari front row at Mexican Grand Prix

By Sports Desk October 28, 2023

Charles Leclerc saw off team-mate Carlos Sainz by just 0.067 seconds as Ferrari locked out the front row for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen improved on his final run at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez but could not usurp the Ferrari drivers, finishing 0.097 sec adrift.

The triple world champion also faces a nervous wait to see if he is moved down the grid after being summoned to see the stewards.

Verstappen, charged with impeding on the pit exit, is among four drivers who will be hauled in front of the race officials.

Lewis Hamilton, disqualified from finishing runner-up to Verstappen at the United States Grand Prix a week ago, may too feel the wrath of the race referees for failing to slow under yellow flags. Hamilton finished only sixth, 0.288 sec back.

George Russell, who qualified eighth, and Fernando Alonso, 13th on the grid, have also been called to see the stewards for blocking on the pit exit in Q1.

Verstappen hit the kerb at Turn 8 in his first attempt in Q3 to leaving him trailing Leclerc by 0.120 sec.

The Red Bull man, who has won 15 of the 18 rounds so far, produced a better last lap, but could not prevent Leclerc from sealing his second pole in as many weekends.

“I didn’t expect to be one pole because we looked to be lacking quite a bit of pace after practice,” said Leclerc.

“But for some reason once we put everything together it went well and on the new tyres we gained a lot.

“I’m already focusing on tomorrow’s race because we have had many pole positions this season, but we need to convert it into victory and that is going to be very difficult.”

Nearly 400,000 spectators will pass through the gates at the high-altitude Mexico City venue this weekend with the majority here to support Sergio Perez.

But the home favourite failed to deliver, finishing nearly three tenths adrift of Verstappen and qualified fifth, one position behind Daniel Ricciardo who impressed in his AlphaTauri.

Earlier, Lando Norris was the surprise name eliminated from the opening phase of qualifying, leaving the in-form British driver in 19th place.

Norris, who has finished on the podium at the past four races, attempted to progress from Q1 on the slower medium rubber in order to save a set of speedier softs.

But the plan backfired when Norris’ lap wasn’t quick enough. Norris bolted on the soft tyres but then made a mistake a Turn 10.

He aborted the lap and prepared for one last attempt, only to run into yellow flags at the opening bend after Alonso spun in his Aston Martin. Norris’ qualifying was over leaving him a tall order to salvage anything from tomorrow’s race.

American rookie Logan Sargeant, who earned his first point in F1 last weekend in Austin, will prop up the grid after he saw two laps scrubbed off by the stewards for exceeding track limits.

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