Dusty conditions of Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez heavily affect early track times after year-long hiatus from F1
By Olivia Kairu
Red Bull, who were predicted to be the favourites for the Mexican Grand Prix weekend, lost out in the first session as the Silver Arrows but rose to the top in the second one on Friday.
Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheet with a 1:18.341 lap time on the soft compound in the FP1, followed by teammate Lewis Hamilton just 0.076s off the benchmark time. In the FP2, championship leader Max Verstappen
Hamilton received a reprimand as a result of a stewards’ investigation after the session for unsafe rejoining of the circuit after struggling to brake at Turn 1. The Mercedes driver ran across the grass and rejoined the track on entry to Turn 3 after reporting that he “couldn’t slow down there” due to the dusty conditions that impacted several drivers in the session.
While rejoining the track, Hamilton neglected to “pass on the left-hand side of the bollard on the apex of Turn” according to Race Director, Michael Masi’s race requirements.
The seven-time world champion struggled with the set-up of his car in the second session complaining of front tyre grip issues and called for alterations to the front axle and front suspension.
Bottas, on the other hand, frequented the top of the timesheet and eventually finished in P2, 0.424s behind Verstappen’s Red Bull. Hamilton was close by in P3 with a 1m 17.810s lap time on the red-marked C4 compound.
Mexico’s Sergio Perez spent a considerable part of the FP1 in the garage after losing half of his Red Bull rear wing at Turn 16, shortly after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had a similar incident at the same Peraltada corner.
The Mexican driver eventually returned to usual running and to overwhelming cheers from his home crowd in the middle of the session. Perez secured P4 in both sessions with an overall fastest lap time of 1m 17.871s in FP2, five-tenths off his teammate’s time.
Verstappen lost out to both Mercedes drivers in FP1 in third with a 1m 18.464s time, just 0.123s off Bottas’ leading time.
The Dutch driver set the fastest time of the day in the second practice session, a lap time of 1m 17.301s during qualifying simulations on the soft compound after previously running on the medium tyre, looking to extend his championship lead.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly clung to P5 in the first session which soon dropped to his usual P6 in FP2 losing out to Carlos Sainz Jr. by just a tenth of a second. Rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda had a strong start in both sessions and eventually dropped down to P8 in the second practice session.
Tsunoda is set to receive an engine penalty to start at the back of the grid for exceeding his allocation on a new Honda Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), turbo, MGU-H and MGU-K as well as a new exhaust.
Incident proved costly for Leclerc
Leclerc’s incident at the penultimate corner of the circuit which saw him lose the rear wing on his SF21 cost the Monegasque driver a sizeable amount of time in FP1 running. The Ferrari driver clipped the outside curb while driving into Turn 16 sending his car into the barrier.
Leclerc was able to resume normal running and finished in P8 eventually improving to P7 in the second practice session of the afternoon. However, the Ferrari driver complained of “engine issues” at the end of FP2. Teammate, Carlos Sainz bested his teammate in both sessions finishing in P5 in FP2, 1.017s off Verstappen’s Fastest time.
Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon returned to Mexico City after last racing at the circuit in 2018. Ocon dropped from P9 to P14 complaining that his Alpine was “turning itself”, while teammate Alonso finished in P10.
Sebastian Vettel improved on his previous P10 to ninth in the second practice session. The Aston Martin driver crossed his wires and stopped in the wrong pit box waiting for mechanics.
Lance Stroll closed the second session in P17. The Canadian driver will also receive an engine penalty for exceeding the allocation of Mercedes power unit components. His AMR21 will be fitted with a new ICE, turbo, MGU-H, Control Electronics as well as his fourth exhaust.
Daniel Ricciardo led teammate Lando Norris in an underwhelming P14 and P15 for the McLaren pair in FP1. Unfortunately for Ricciardo, gearbox issues rendered his MCL35 boxed for the remainder of the second session after just seven laps, earning him only P15. Norris hardly improved on his previous position ending FP2 in twelfth, splitting both Kimi Raikkonen in P11 and Antonio Giovinazzi in P13.
Raikkonen was also a recipient of a reprimand from the Stewards’ office for a similar Turn 1 incident to Hamilton’s earning him a meeting after FP1.
Mick Schumacher secured P16 ahead of his Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin who only managed a low P19 an improvement from his previous P20 in FP1. Mazepin was also summoned to the stewards after FP2 for failing to follow Michael Masi’s race directions at Turn 8
Williams driver Nicholas Latifi stayed eighteenth on the timesheet for both Free Practice 1 and 2. George Russell rounded up the grid in P20 with just two laps completed and no time set in FP2 after complaining that his “gearbox has gone” causing the Williams driver to retire his car.
The Mexico City Grand Prix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit is set for Sunday at 2 PM EST, 11 AM Pacific Time. The Qualifying session on Saturday is set for 4 PM EST, 1PM Pacific Time.
See the full FP1 results:
See the full FP2 results: