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Mexico City GP qualifying: Valtteri Bottas on pole from Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes stun Red Bull and Max Verstappen

Mercedes seal a shock front-row lockout with Valtteri Bottas beating title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen; Championship leader Verstappen was hampered by Yuki Tsunoda off on his last Q3 lap; watch Sunday's Mexico City GP live on Sky Sports at 7pm

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Yuki Tsunoda and Sergio Perez run wide on their final laps to disrupt Max Verstappen as Valtteri Bottas leads a Mercedes front-row lockout in Mexico City GP qualifying

Valtteri Bottas took pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton in an unexpected front-row lockout as Mercedes pulled off one of the turnarounds of the season to shock Max Verstappen and Red Bull in Mexico City GP qualifying.

Completely shifting the momentum Red Bull had built through two days of dominating practice, Mercedes bounced back in extraordinary fashion at a track that had seemingly suited their title rivals and topped all three segments in Saturday's shootout, with Bottas storming clear in Q3.

The Finnish driver, who unlike Hamilton and Verstappen is not in championship contention, posted two laps that would have been good enough for pole and eventually beat his team-mate by a tenth of a second with his 1:15.875.

Title-leader Verstappen will start next to Hamilton on the grid but - contrary to form leading up to qualifying - not ahead of him, the Dutchman only third and 0.350secs off a pole he was the overwhelming favourite for.

"Honestly that first run in Q3 was one of my best laps," said Bottas, while Hamilton added: "I really have no idea [what changed]. I'm just as shocked as everyone but we'll still take it."

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Go onboard with Valtteri Bottas as the Mercedes driver secured pole position for the Mexico City Grand Prix

Verstappen was hampered by a lack of grip, as well as a distraction on his last lap as his team-mate Sergio Perez and the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda ran wide off track ahead of him. He blamed Tsunoda's off for costing him pole but he is still optimistic for his chances in the race, with the longest run-down to Turn 1 on the calendar at over 800 metres.

"Of course third is not amazing but I think it's still better than starting second," said Verstappen, who leads Hamilton by just 12 points with five rounds remaining, starting with Sunday's race live on Sky Sports at 7pm.

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Perez was fourth in the other Red Bull ahead of Pierre Gasly, who was aided by the slipstream provided by the grid-dropping Tsunoda.

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Aston Martin's Lance Stroll crashes into the wall on the final corner during Q1 at the Mexico City GP

McLaren also aimed to utilise the tow by using Lando Norris, another one of the five drivers with a penalty this weekend, to help Daniel Ricciardo, although the Australian still placed seventh behind Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel qualified 11th but will start 10th thanks to Norris' penalty, though his team-mate Lance Stroll had a much more disappointing day after a heavy crash at the start of Q1. He was already due to start from the back of the grid, but he may now be subjected to the pit-lane due to car damage.

Mexico City GP Qualifying Results - Top 10
1) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
5) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
6) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
7) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
8) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
9) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
10) Lando Norris, McLaren

How did Mercedes overhaul Red Bull? Hamilton's title boost vs Verstappen after Mexico turnaround

"That's a very powerful statement from Mercedes. And an underperformance from Red Bull."

Sky F1's Martin Brundle aptly summed up Saturday's qualifying and a pecking order refresh that not even the most optimistic of Mercedes fans could have predicted.

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Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was surprised to qualify second at the Mexico City Grand Prix

Red Bull, already favourites coming into the weekend, had a four-tenths advantage at the end of Friday while, just a few hours before qualifying, had extended that practice lead to well over half a second. Even Hamilton admitted Mercedes were already planning simulations on starting third and fourth for Sunday's race.

But Red Bull did not even get close to sealing their first front-row lockout of the season and, while Verstappen had showed signs of pace through Q1 and Q2, his Q3 fell flat via one poor lap and one disrupted lap.

Who's got a grid penalty in Mexico?

Driver Team Penalty
Lando Norris McLaren Back of grid (engine)
Esteban Ocon Alpine Back of grid (engine)
Lance Stroll Aston Martin Back of grid (engine)
Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Back of grid (engine)
George Russell Williams 5 places (gearbox)

"We got Tsunoda'd," said team boss Christian Horner. Sky F1's Ted Kravitz suggested other reasons for the turnaround were increasing temperatures leading to a lack of balance, and rear-wing issues - which the team were working on prior to and during the shootout.

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Max Verstappen says the dust brought up by Yuki Tsunoda was enough to put distract him on his qualifying lap in Mexico City

Horner, however, insisted the Mexico City change-up was more down to Mercedes gains on a rapidly improving track than Red Bull falling back as the world champions turned the tables, just as the title challengers had done two weeks ago in the USA.

What it has done has completely revitalised the weekend and indeed the championship battle, with Hamilton now eyeing cutting Verstappen's championship lead.

An epic run-down to Turn 1, and an epic race, awaits. Do not miss the next chapter of the 2021 season.

Mexico City GP Qualifying Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:15.875
2) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.145
3) Max Verstappen Red Bull +0,350
4) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.467
5) Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +0.581
6) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.886
7) Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +0.888
8) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.962
9) Yuki Tsunoda* AlphaTauri +1.283
10) Lando Norris* McLaren +20.955
Out in Q2
11) Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:17.746
12) Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1:17.958
13) George Russell* Williams 1:18.172
14) Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:18.290
15) Esteban Ocon* Alpine 1:18.405
Out in Q1
16) Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:18.452
17) Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:18.756
18) Mick Schumacher Haas 1:18.858
19) Nikita Mazepin Haas 1:19.303
20) Lance Stroll* Aston Martin 1:20.873
*grid penalty

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