Hamilton 'shocked as everyone' after Bottas and Mercedes outpace Red Bull in Mexico

By Sports Desk November 06, 2021

Lewis Hamilton admitted he was "as shocked as everyone" after Mercedes outpaced Red Bull to lock out the front row for the Mexican Grand Prix.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was the fastest in qualifying as he and star team-mate Hamilton stunned Max Verstappen's Red Bull on Saturday.

Red Bull had been the team to beat in practice, but that form was thrown out the window after Bottas turned the tables with a 1:15.875 qualifying time to claim pole position.

After Mercedes set a record with their 81st one-two qualifying performance, eclipsing Ferrari, Hamilton revelled in the surprise display.

"I've really no idea," Hamilton said when asked about Mercedes' turnaround. "They [Red Bull] were like six tenths ahead at some stage, then four-tenths, but whatever happened, we went into qualifying and we had better pace. I'm just as shocked as everyone, but we'll still take it."

Defending world champion Hamilton, who is 12 points adrift of Verstappen in the title race, added: "We've come into this weekend from P1 onwards we've generally been behind by half a second, so through the whole weekend working away at trying to improve the car, extract as much as we can from it but knowing they've generally got higher downforce, a bigger wing they use in places like Monaco, but so we've struggled in certain parts of the track.

"It's a real surprise and shock to us to see we're on the front row, I don't really have an answer for it but I'll take it for sure, grateful to be up there with Valtteri to get a 1-2."

After clinching his 19th career pole – 0.145s ahead of Hamilton and 0.350s from Verstappen, Bottas said: "Everything came together even better than I was expecting.

"I definitely surprised myself but as a team it was a big surprise as well that we were one-two because we seemed a bit off [the pace] in FP3.

"So a really rewarding feeling that all the changes we made were still in the right direction, stay calm and still try and execute the best out of the car. And it worked."

"This sport continues to amaze me," said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. "You can see that it can change so quickly from one session to the other.

"In Austin we were dominant on the Friday and then we lost the performance. Then here we were far behind then suddenly in Q2 we unlocked the potential of the car and it came together."

Verstappen, however, was not surprised by the pace of Mercedes.

"We just had a terrible qualifying. So nothing surprising," the Dutchman said. "I just think we were really slow and had terrible grip in Q3. I think my last lap, we recovered it a little bit by getting the tyres into a little bit of a better window, but we were still not what we would have liked and how the car was behaving in all the practice sessions. 

"So that was a bit of a mystery. But then tomorrow we maybe race on different tyres anyway so I expect the balance to be good again."

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