Lewis Hamilton has admitted he didn’t expect Nico Rosberg to qualify alongside him on the front row for the Mexican GP.
The world championship leader appeared set for a relatively low grid position after struggling throughout practice and the opening segments of qualifying.
But Rosberg, producing what Sportsclubsociety News HQ’s Craig Slater suggested may have been “one of the most important laps of the year”, suddenly rediscovered his groove in the final stages of Q3 to leapfrog both Red Bulls and claim a precious front-row berth alongside his Mercedes team-mate.
“I definitely didn’t expect him to be the closest challenger, he’s been struggling all weekend,” Hamilton told Sportsclubsociety. “He’s been working pretty hard in there trying to work out where he has gone wrong on set-up and eventually he followed me on set-up and got there in the end.
“He did a great job with his last lap which is when it counted. It shows that he’s a great competitor.”
Although Rosberg’s last-gasp recovery to second on the grid was a blow to Hamilton’s fragile title aspirations, the presence of his team-mate, who will have to start on the dirty side of the grid, could put a useful buffer between the Englishman and the supersoft-starting Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
While Hamilton’s frequent engine failures have been a fashionable focus of attention throughout the year, a spate of bad starts this season have arguably been just as damaging to his bid for a fourth world championship. The 900m dash in Mexico to the first corner is one of the longest of the year but Hamilton is confident he will enjoy a fast start to rebuff the advances of his team-mate.
“The starts have looked positive this weekend and I plan to deliver tomorrow,” he vowed.
Hamilton has looked a cut above throughout proceedings this weekend and even after Rosberg’s qualifying recovery the German still trailed by two tenths of a second.
Asked how he was approaching the weekend in the knowledge Rosberg could be crowned champion on Sunday night, Hamilton replied: “There is no real tactic really.
“I turned up to do the job and I’m going to try to do the same thing as I did last weekend here. So far this weekend has gone well and I’m looking forward to the race.
“The long runs seemed good and the car feels great, so just looking forward to getting out on track.”