Aussie Daniel Ricciardo slips back into overdrive at Mexican Grand Prix
Daniel Ricciardo put the pedal to the metal and secured fourth spot in Mexico City. Photo: Getty
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo will start fourth on the grid for Formula One’s Mexico Grand Prix after recovering from the crash that left him nursing a broken hand.
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari secured the pole position ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz, recording the fastest time of 1.17.166 — barely one-fifth of a second better that Ricciardo, driving for team Alpha Tauri.
The other Australian in the field, up-and-coming Oscar Piastri, placed seventh with a time of 1:17.623.
Ricciardo, who made his post-injury comeback at the US Grand Prix last weekend was ahead of home favourite Sergio Perez, who is rumoured to be at risk of losing his seat next season. Ricciardo, a former Red Bull driver, would be among the standout favourites to replace him.
“I expected we would see the old Daniel, whom we know can win races,” team principal Franz Tost said. “It looks like he is already here, on this level.”
Ferrari had a terrible third practice session earlier on Saturday, with Leclerc (13th) and Sainz (15th) out of the top 10.
“I did not expect to be on pole position today, we were lacking in FP3,” Leclerc said.
“We’ve had pretty good pace all weekend, but I’m not sure if it will be enough to challenge for the win.
“First place here I’m not sure is the best starting place.”
Sainz was also surprised with the team’s performance saying he battled the whole weekend to put a lap together.
“I struggle to understand, but we manage to put together a good lap when it counted,” he said.
Verstappen’s eye on the prize
Leclerc will now try to spoil Verstappen’s attempt to claim a season record 16th win in Sunday’s race.
“It’s very difficult, it’s very low grip around here because of the altitude,” Verstappen said of his relatively poor qualifying run.
“The last sector we were struggling a little bit more than we liked, but it is a long race, a lot of laps to be raced.
“I would have liked to start first, but we’ll have a good slipstream down to turn one.”
Verstappen, along with Mercedes’ George Russell, faces investigation for holding back the other drivers at the pit exit in Q1. Both could receive penalties and lose positions.
Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes was sixth – but he’s also under investigation for failing to slow for yellow flags – Piastri was seventh, while Russell and the Alfa Romeo cars of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu completed the top 10.
Red Bull have missed the highest place on the podium only once in 18 races so far this year, when Sainz won the Singapore GP last month.