Inside Line: Welcome back Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari.

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It may be a tad too late to revive his championship hopes, but after a dismal run of form/luck, the Scuderia everyone was expecting to keep this season interesting finally showed up in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix.

Just 0.086s ahead of Max Verstappen, but more importantly 0.446s up on Lewis Hamilton’s Silver Arrows, Vettel affirmed what we thought we knew about his pace coming out of the summer break – given the right track and right conditions, it was as good as anyone’s. His beatboxing might need some work, though.

As was the case in Russia, Hungary, Singapore and Malaysia, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is another track where keeping tyre temps in the ideal operating window can be a struggle. Whether it’s due to a track’s dustiness or general underuse, it’s extreme temperatures, or in this case, both, Ferrari tends to have enough of an advantage to make Vettel’s talents count. If only they hadn’t botched so many races…

That said, the attitude coming out of the Mercedes camp seems far more positive than it was after a similar Saturday in Singapore – is that because they’ve already sealed the title, or is their long-run pace good enough to turn the tables? We can only wait and see.

Verstappen Nearly Makes History

Sorry Max, you can’t have all of F1’s ‘youngest’ records… yet.

Losing out to Seb Vettel by less than a tenth of a second, Verstappen could hardly have come closer to breaking his Red Bull predecessor’s youngest polesitter record, and by a fairly significant margin, too.

At 20 years, 28 days old, Verstappen would’ve overhauled Vettel’s mark by a full year – the German was 21 years, 79 days old when he took pole in the 2008 Italian GP – and looked for all the world like he was about to do it, as rapid as he was.

In the end, he’s had to ‘settle’ for P2, but coming that close, while also blitzing teammate Daniel Ricciardo by 0.873s shows you just how good he’s driving right now – either that or the ‘Kvyat effect’ is as real as it is powerful.

Quick Hits

  • Be sure to keep an eye on the Renaults in Sunday’s race. Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz are starting P8 and P9 respectively, and have to like their chances of leapfrogging Toro Rosso in the championship after Sunday
  • Speak of Renault, they’re not exactly leaving Toro Rosso on a high note, are they?
  • Haas getting outqualified by the Saubers with year-older engines might be the lowest point in team history – particularly inopportune given their championship predicament

Sunday Race Tyre-Strategy Preview, Courtesy of Pirelli

  • THE FASTEST One-stopper: 1 stint on ultrasofts (30-34 laps) + 1 stint on supersofts to the flag
  • NEATRLY AS FAST (maybe in case of Safety Car or if one gets jammed in the traffic) One-stopper: 1 stint on ultrasofts for 16 laps + 1 stints on softs to the flag
  • ALSO INTERESTING (but unlikely to be chosen) Two-stopper: 2 stints on ultrasofts (25+25 laps) + 1 stint on supersofts to the flag.
  • This simulation doesn’t take into account the effect of diminishing fuel loads.
  • Different permutations of compound usage within each strategy are possible.