E a week after the victory in Austin Ferrari seems suddenly to be only the third force in the field in Mexico. In qualifying on Saturday (October 27, 2018) Sebastian Vettel could not undercut the times of the two Red Bulls and the brand of Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton. Although he was just 0.211 seconds behind, it was only enough for fourth place in the starting order.
After weak training times on Friday, it almost looked as if Vettel could turn things around again. Thanks to the good top speed of his Ferrari, the Heppenheimer moved closer and closer to the two Red Bulls. Max Verstappen's best time was not two tenths missing after the first run in the decisive qualifying section. From the outside, you had the feeling that pole position was within reach.
Vettel over the limit
But from the cockpit perspective, the prognosis was not that optimistic: “I was really satisfied with the first round of Q3. I knew it would be difficult to beat Red Bull. So I had to try something different on the second run. But unfortunately that didn't work out that well. In retrospect, I don't think it would have been much faster. '
Although there was hardly any room for improvement, the 31-year-old tried to squeeze a little more out of his Ferrari:' I wanted to exit the corner 3 be a bit more aggressive, then I lost the rear a bit. Because we lose a lot of time in the last sector, I tried something there and started sliding. But none of that was dramatic. The lap was only a tenth slower than the one before. But unfortunately it wasn't enough for an improvement. ”
Vettel has already identified the basic problem. “We lose in all corners. This is mainly due to the lack of aerodynamic grip. We are very fast on the straights because we lack the downforce. Here in Mexico, our efficiency doesn't count as much as it does on other routes. You just need maximum downforce. ”
Vettel attack at the start?
These are the ideal conditions for Red Bull. Ricciardo and Verstappen were able to fully exploit the downforce advantage of the RB14, while the disadvantage of the high air resistance in the thin air was not so important. “We expected Red Bull to be quick here. Also thanks to the big turbo that theHas Renault engine. They lose less power here than we do, ”says Vettel, explaining the strength of the competition.
But nothing is lost yet. As in Austin, Ferrari could turn the race around at the start. With their slightly weaker engines, the Red Bulls are in the wind in the front row, while Hamilton and Vettel behind them can pull in on the 890-meter-long approach to turn 1.
Vettel had to experience it first-hand last year that the pole position in Mexico is not a cushion of calm. Verstappen passed in turn 1. In turn 2 he had to let Hamilton pass. Then there was a crash in turn 3. 'It depends on how well we get away,' Vettel looks at the first few seconds of the race. “I start on the dirty side. Let's see how big the downside is. The way to turn 1 is long. But the problem is often that you simply cannot find a gap. Let's see what happens there. ”
Ferrari finds answers
If it doesn't work out at the start, the only option left is strategy. Overtaking is almost impossible in Mexico. Changing places is only possible through the tactics: 'The most important issue in the race will be to take care of the tires,' predicts Vettel. All six pilots of the three top teams start on Ultrasoft and, if things go normally, will switch to Supersoft at some point. It all depends on the right timing.
In addition to winning the race, Ferrari also traveled to Mexico with a second goal. The aim was to collect data during training in order to find out more about the upgrade packages from the last races, which did not make the red car ever faster. When asked whether the desired answers were found on Friday, Vettel was tight-lipped: 'We found answers.'