Max Verstappen qualifies on F1 pole in Mexico with a record-breaking 14th victory in sight

Max Verstappen pole Mexico
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

MEXICO CITY — Max Verstappen inched closer to a record 14th victory of the Formula One season by holding off a pair of Mercedes and Mexican favorite Sergio Perez to win the pole Saturday for the Mexico City Grand Prix.

It was the sixth pole of the season for Verstappen, who clinched his second consecutive F1 title earlier this month. Red Bull wrapped up the constructors title last week.

With three races left in the season, the last remaining drama involves Verstappen trying to snap a tie for the single-season wins record with Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton looking to avoid the first winless season of his career, and Perez trying to become the first Mexican to win an F1 race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Having won seven of the past eight races, Verstappen is the betting favorite Sunday.

With a packed crowd chanting “Ole! Ole! Ole! Che-co! Che-co!” every time Perez passed on the track, the roar was deafening as he shot into the top three. But Hamilton, who had his first lap wiped away, still had to complete a qualifying run.

Hamilton qualified third, behind teammate George Russell, as the Mercedes drivers seek their first win of the season. Hamilton, a seven-time champion, has never gone winless since his 2007 F1 debut.

He was second to Verstappen a week ago at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where Verstappen raced to his record-tying 13th win of the season. Verstappen has not promised to give Perez any favors to help Perez win in front of his adoring fans, but Perez did himself no favors in qualifying fourth.

Red Bull has won eight consecutive races headed into Sunday.

The final three races are important for Perez, who heads into Sunday trailing Charles Leclerc of Ferrari by only two points for second in the standings. It gives Red Bull a chance to go 1-2 in the final standings of a season it has totally dominated, and it’s also an opportunity to shift the narrative from its penalty for cost cap overspending.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”