I n the second division of Formula 1, seventh places are like a win. In qualifying for the GP Mexico, the title “Best of the Rest” went to Nico Hülkenberg once again. The Rhinelander is starting the race from seventh place for the seventh time this season. At the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez he left team-mate Carlos Sainz in the second Renault by two and a half tenths behind him, which means he is starting row four eight meters ahead of the sister car.
“It's always nice when you get the most out of it Get the car out, ”said Hülk, satisfied. “More than seventh place was simply not possible today, even if the gap to the front is not as great as on other tracks.” The driver was not able to give a satisfactory answer to why Renault managed the turnaround and is suddenly back in fourth place. “The balance of the car doesn't feel that good. But when you look at the times, it doesn't look too bad. A lot depends on the track. ”
On Friday, Renault seemed to be clearly leading the midfield. But on Saturday, Sauber suddenly turned it up too. A successful setup change and the cooler temperatures seemed to give the Swiss racing car wings. “We turned things around again. Our performance was really strong today. I'm happy with 9th place, ”said Charles Leclerc after qualifying. With only a tenth behind Sainz, it might even have been in 8th place.
Force India foregoes Q3 entry
Force India could also have intervened in the battle for the top ten places. But theStrategists of the team from Silverstone decided to rely on the harder Ultrasoft in Q2 and thus to sacrifice better starting positions. They wanted to avoid starting on the wear-prone hypersoft rubbers like Renault and Sauber and having to make an early pit stop.
'11th place was the goal today. And we achieved that, ”Ocon explained with a tight smile. “It was a bit strange to drive out in Q2 with a tire that you knew didn't offer the best grip. That wasn't exactly a good feeling. I'm sure that in terms of pace we would have fought at eye level with Sauber and Renault. Now we have to hope that it will pay off tomorrow. ”
With team-mate Sergio Perez, Force India could have fallen on the face with the tire poker. Ironically, at the home game of the Mexican, “Checo” only started in 13th place behind Fernando Alonso's McLaren. “Unfortunately, I didn't have the grip anymore at the end of the lap. But I firmly believe that our strategy will bring us forward on Sunday, ”said the local hero, optimistically.
How long does the Hypersoft last?
Die The question of all questions is now how well the hypersofts at Renault and Sauber will keep in the race. And whether the drivers can delay the first tire change so far that they can then get over the rest of the 71 race laps with the super softs. 'In Sochi you saw that starting on Hypersoft doesn't necessarily have to be a disadvantage,' remembers Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder. At that time, Leclerc drove off on the softest tire, pitted on lap 10 and then landed on rank 7 thanks to consistently fast times on the soft tire.
Sauber will probably try the same strategy in Mexico Earning points. 'But it won't be easy to keep Force India behind us and collect points,' fears Leclerc. Hülkenberg also expects the tires to play the decisive role: “Today we decided on the best possible starting positions. Whether we are using a one-stop strategy with the Hypersoftsyou have to wait and see. That also depends on how hot it gets on Sunday. We may have to adjust the tactics during the race. ”
During training, Renault had already practiced a lot with the supersoft tires. One set was driven over 90 laps and held out well. At Force India, on the other hand, they start with question marks: “We only tried the Hypersofts in training,” reported Ocon. “I have no idea how the Ultrasoft and the Supersoft behave over a distance. We trust a little in the experience of the previous races. ”
A clean long-distance duel with Toro Rosso
Sauber team manager Zehnder pondered how the Hypersoft faction's chances in the race could be improved. The veteran in the team already had an idea ready, but it wasn't meant to be taken seriously: “The secret of Charles' good placement in Sochi was that he was able to drive freely in the second stint and control his pace. Maybe we should discuss things with Renault and use a common tactic. ”
For Sauber, every point is important in the battle with Toro Rosso for eighth place in the team standings. With three races to go, the traditional team from Hinwil is four points behind the competition from Faenza. “First of all, I'm reassured that the two Haas are not near us,” Zehnder scoffed. Kevin Magnussen had Leclerc played in Sochi. In Austin, the Sauber spearhead was torpedoed by Romain Grosjean.
Now they finally hope to get through again without incident. “If we don't make it here in Mexico, we'll just have to fix it in Brazil. We are traditionally strong here, ”says Zehnder from experience. Only the weather could thwart all strategy games in the end. Showers are forecast for Sunday. “If it rains we would be screwed with our starting positions and without tire advantage,” fears Ocon. And Hülkenberg is not a fan of rain either: 'On this slippery asphalt, it would end in chaos.'