Morning After: Ricciardo Flips the Script

The stars seemingly aligned for Max Verstappen to become Formula 1’s youngest-ever pole-sitter, Daniel Ricciardo managed to play spoiler with one of his best laps to date.

Comprehensively beaten by Max Verstappen all year in qualifying, Daniel Ricciardo picked a good time to reverse his fortunes on Saturday.

Realistically, the Mexican Grand Prix was always going to be Red Bull’s best (and perhaps only) chance of picking up another win this season, but all signs pointed to Verstappen being the one to lead the charge come Sunday. Instead, it will be the Aussie, who managed to pull out a 26 thousandths gap when it counted.

Truly it’s a stunning result for Ricciardo, who was not only second-best in all three practices to his teammate but has been consistently smoked by Verstappen on one-lap pace this year, having failed to out-qualify his teammate since Azerbaijan in April.

No, this one performance doesn’t remotely even-out the head-to-head, but it does give more credence to the notion that Ricciardo is a different driver when there’s a carrot within reach. When there’s a win or pole suddenly on the table, the Aussie seems to kick into a higher gear than when he knows he’s just playing rear-guard to Ferrari and Mercedes, and here at the Hermanos Rodriguez certainly qualifies.

Still, there’s a long way to go yet, and every man and their donkey knows Verstappen isn’t going to make the start easy, to say nothing of Lewis Hamilton and Seb Vettel right behind them. Anyone of the four can still win, and with them should come plenty of fireworks.

Quick Hits

  • While he seems to have got a mixed reaction from fans, I for one thought Verstappen’s post-quali antics were fantastic. Knocking over the P2-marker was downright funny, and while there was definitely some sour grapes, it should always be appreciated when a driver lets his raw emotions through the PR-filter.
  • Interesting comments from Lewis Hamilton regarding the lack of running in FP3. Obviously the solution would be to provide more wet-weather tyres, but as they can’t be reused at another race, the extra costs incurred probably make that an issue for the smaller teams.
  • It really is incredible how poor McLaren is. Fernando Alonso’s Q2 time was 0.683s behind the closest Renault-powered car of Carlos Sainz, while Stoffel Vandoorne still hasn’t got out of Q1 since Canada. Really they’re lucky they dropped Honda last year, otherwise Honda would’ve dropped them.

Race Tyre-Strategy Preview, Courtesy of Pirelli

With the amount of tyre degradation expected for as dry race, the thoretical quickest pit-stop strategies predicted by Pirelli are as follows: 

  • THE TWO QUICKEST TWO-STOPPER: 1 stint on ultrasoft for 9 laps + 2 stints on supersoft (31+31 laps) and  TWO-STOPPER: 1 stint on hypersoft for 5 laps + 2 stints on supersoft (33+33 laps)
  • 2ND QUICKEST ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on ultrasoft for 15-18 laps + 1 stint on supersoft to the flag (plenty of management needed)