Today's post-qualfying press conference with Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.
Q: Max, that's an excellent pole position on a track that had Ferrari written over it in terms of top speed. You missed out on the narrow margins last year but you've got the job done and given yourself the best chance tomorrow.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it's been quite an interesting day but of course to come out on top was incredible. Yeah, the last few races we know that Ferrari have been really quick on the straight but for us to come back like this and take pole position here, a big thank you to the team for that. They always kept pushing very hard. They kept bringing new parts to the car and it showed today that we are very quick.
Q: Have you believed all weekend that you've had a car good enough for pole position?
MV: Secretly you always hope and you always keep pushing. You try to find the right balance in the car and in Q3 that all came together.
Q: And the start tomorrow? We know these Ferraris are quick down the straight, you've obviously got to defend there but you know what you've got to do based on last year.
MV: Yeah, it will be a bit different for me, starting first instead of second on this track. We're going to give it all. We have a good race car anyway so even if something happens in the start and we lose a position I think we are still fine.
Q: Well done Max, nice to see you battling with the Ferraris. Charles, best of the rest I guess. Looked like the lap wasn't going too bad until a small mistake right at the end of the lap on that last one.
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, the first lap was quite good. The second one, we tried to put a bit more balance in the car to have a bit more front, which helped the first sector but then the last sector was too tricky and I lost the rear, so I lost all the time I made up in the first sector. But Red Bull was very quick. Max especially was extremely quick and the race is still long tomorrow.
Q: I guess when you look in the distance there, you know you have a top speed advantage on these guys, you must be looking forward to the start and applying your strategy to try and optimise.
CL: Yeah, definitely. The start will be very important but the top speed we have is very good so hopefully we can take advantage of this.
Q: Sebastian, third place, I know you're going to be disappointed with that. You've looked in very good shape all weekend, actually, and you were the king of the first sector but it looked like you struggled at the end of the lap?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, I had a mistake on my first run, so I was quite confident that in the second run I could make up for it. But unfortunately there was the double yellow so I had to slow down. So the lap was lost. But yeah, the car is good. Obviously I would have liked to be a bit further up, I think it was possible. But let's see tomorrow. It's a long race and I think we have the speed, as all weekend we have been quite quick.
Q: You optimised that in Russia, which was a long run to the first braking zone. Do you still think you can get the business and do well tomorrow?
SV: We'll see. We hope to have a good start and then take it from there. Obviously it's a long race, a tough one on brakes, cooling in general, so let's see. Also with the tyres, I think it will be quite an adventure tomorrow. I think all top six cars opted to start on the medium tyre, so we will see who dares to go the longest. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
Q: Max, sensational performance by you, well done. Just how tough was it out there to find the limit in those ever-changing conditions?
MV: Well, I think it was just because the track is very slippery and it's difficult to get the tyres working in the right window, so it all depends on your out lap and everybody is trying to be close to each other and in the last sector we are always slowing down but then you just hope that your tyres are working for Turn 1. This time it was all going well and from the start of qualifying the car was working like I wanted it to be. Of course very happy then in Q3 to get pole.
Q: You said this morning that pole might be a step too far. Did the car exceed your expectations?
MV: Yeah, maybe a little bit. I think compared to yesterday we even made a step forward, so that's always good, that's always positive, and like I said before, with the tyres, they were working well this time so that's good.
Q: Many congratulations and good luck for tomorrow. Charles, you're starting on the front row for the sixth consecutive race. How happy were you with the performance of your Ferrari?
CL: Very happy, especially in the first run of Q3, I think the car there was very good. In the second run of Q3 I asked for a bit more front and it was just too much for the last sector, so I lost all the time I made up in the first sector. But overall Max was just too quick today for us. But the race is tomorrow. We have got good straight-line speed, which I hope we can take advantage of at the start.
Q: Were you surprised by the pace of the Red Bull?
CL: Yes and no. I think we expected them to be strong. After FP3 maybe we thought we had a shot for pole and then in qualifying they were too quick. So a bit surprised in qualifying.
Q: Sebastian, coming to you: on pole last time out in Suzuka, P3 today. How would you describe your session?
SV: Overall I think it was good. But unfortunately in Q3 on the first run I had a mistake and the second run I was caught out by the yellow flags, so yeah, not ideal. I didn't peak when it was time to peak in the sessions, especially in Q3. But other than that, the car felt good. I think there was more in hand. Obviously Max was a fair bit faster than us but I think with a clean lap we could have challenged him.
Q: Looking ahead to the race, how big a factor will tyre management be?
SV: Yeah, it will be the most important part of the race. Obviously we'll see how everything gets going. I think everybody opted to start on the medium tyres. We'll take it from there. Obviously it's a long race around here.
Questions From The Floor
Q: (Scott Mitchell - Autosport) Max, what do you think made the difference here to previous races, to have this sort of performance in qualifying and how satisfying is it to hit back after a few near misses since the summer break?
MV: Yeah, I think the last few races we have been really hurt of course on straight line speed and on most of the tracks you can't gain enough in the corners compared to what you lose on the straights and I think here it's still big but this track has very low grip so it's not only aero, it's also mechanical grip, which is a little bit more important and good kerb riding and stuff like that and I think traditionally our car has always been very good. We just made a mistake in Singapore with the set-up, otherwise I think we could have been really quick there as well. For us it didn't work out there. We learned a lot from it and I think we came here with a car which was very well prepared already on the simulator, where I was very happy with it and basically we didn't need to change too much on the track and it was working.
Q: (Fréd Ferret - l'Equipe) Question for all three of you. Do you think that the first straight line will be as at Sochi and how will you deal with the tow?
MV: Well, just look at the last tow year. I guess that says enough.
CL: Yeah, this time I won't be starting on pole, second, so hopefully I can take the tow from Max and have an opportunity, but yeah, the start will be important for sure.
SV: Nothing to add.
MV: You will have a mega tow.
SV: We'll see.
Q: (Lawrence Edmondson - ESPN) Max, it looked like you set a fastest final sector despite the accident of Bottas. Can you explain whether you backed off or if you were aware of it, if you saw the yellow flags coming into that corner.
MV: I was aware that Valtteri crashed.
Did you back off?
MV: It didn't really look like it, did it? No.
Q: (Abhishek Aggarwal - INDIAinF1.com) Sebastian, as we know at this track, in the whole calendar it's at the highest elevation above sea-level - 2.5km - Do you think there could be something like the thin air changing strategy for tomorrow's race - comparing it to other circuits?
SV: Well, it is a big challenge around here because obviously it's a very demanding track for the car. First of all we lose a lot of downforce despite running all the downforce that we have. So, as Max was saying, the cars are sliding a lot, very difficult to drive. So, that obviously leads on to tyres and tyre management. It will be very difficult to get the tyres to work and make the tyres last. The other one, obviously, with such thin air up here is to make sure you cool all of your components such as brakes, engine, oil. A bit of everything.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Mexico City, here.