Max Verstappen says he is confident Red Bull has the top speed to defend from pole position at the Mexico Grand Prix despite the long run to turn one.

The longest run to turn one this year, the last four races in Mexico where the pole sitter has failed to take a win, with Verstappen winning on three of those occasions. While Mercedes look particularly competitive this weekend, Verstappen beat George Russell and Lewis Hamilton to the halfway mark and believes he has the performance to hold off both at the start.

“I started … everywhere but pole and we won the race, so it’s always important to have a good start here,” Verstappen said. “I think our top speed isn’t too bad to defend … when people are in the draft so we just have to focus on that and to be honest I think if we have good race pace , it will still be a good fight. But of course we will try to stay ahead until the first corner.

“(Race pace) is a bit unknown because we’ve been running on these advanced tires so (it’s) a bit hard to tell, but I think with the car we have today I expect to be fine tomorrow.”

This time, Mercedes were favorites for pole position in Q3 after Hamilton won the first two qualifying sessions, but Verstappen pulled back by 0.3s in the final part of the session and it looked like it was all settled then.

“The start of qualifying was a bit difficult because the track was a bit warmer compared to FP3 so everyone was sliding a bit more and it was a bit harder to find your rhythm,” he continued. “So from Q1 to Q2 and Q3 we tried to find the balance in the car again and with each session I think it got a little bit better.

“I think in the third quarter we were finally able to continue a little bit more with the car. Two decent laps, I think, very happy with that because it’s very difficult to achieve a lap here, at least for me. It has very low grip, there are a few curbs that you have to hit perfectly to gain time, so it’s not the easiest qualification. It’s the same with the tire warm-up here, but it seemed like we had it under control in the third quarter.”

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