Mercedes braced for ‘big strategic battle’ with Red Bull in Mexico

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Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff says the team is braced for a “big strategic battle” with Red Bull in Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix (NBC and NBC Sports app, 2:30pm ET).

Mercedes scored a record-equalling 18th pole position of the season in qualifying at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez as Lewis Hamilton set the pace in Q3.

Hamilton will be joined on the front row of the grid by teammate Nico Rosberg, who continued his streak of qualifying either first or second that dates back to the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix.

“We might have both cars on the front row today but that was a really tough qualifying session, and it took some special laps from Lewis and Nico to put us there,” Wolff said after the session.

“Lewis had the performance in the car all day and was able to deliver it when he needed in spite of the threat from Red Bull and Ferrari. This is a tricky circuit for putting together a clean lap but he managed two laps good enough for pole in Q3 and did it by a decent margin.

“As for Nico, he was having a tougher time through practice and the early parts of qualifying, struggling to get the tires into the right window for his quick lap. He found half a second of performance on his first run in Q3, then another three-tenths on the final lap to really pull it out of the bag and put himself P2. It was a great response under some big pressure.”

Both Hamilton and Rosberg will start the race on soft tires, but will need to be wary of the threat posed by Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified third and fourth on super-softs.

With the softer compound, Wolff expects the Red Bulls to pose a threat in the early part of the race, and is ready for a fight between the pit walls.

“Looking at tomorrow, we will start on the soft tyre with two Red Bulls behind us on the super-soft,” Wolff said.

“Maybe we will have a small disadvantage off the line, so it will be a very interesting run to the first corner and a big strategic battle after that.”