Mad Mexico Throws up shock Free Practice

Less than a week after Austin, Texas, the Formula 1 paddock touched down in Mexico in a flurry of Sombreros and in the case of the Red Bull drivers some wonderful face paint too.

Free Practice 1 saw the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton continued the momentum from his win last weekend by setting the fastest lap with a 1:20.914 on the slowest tyre available for this weekend, the medium tyre. Hamilton, realistically needs to win the last three races, with team mate Nico Rosberg finishing lower than 4th in one of them to close the 26-point gap and get a fourth world title. However, if Free Practice 1 was anything to go by that could be possible, as it was the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel who was less than a tenth of a second behind Hamilton in 2nd, while team mate Kimi Raikkonen was in 3rd.

Following behind the Ferrari’s was Force India, with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg 4th and 5th respectively. The team will be looking for a better weekend after a first lap incident meant Hulkenberg had to retire after the first lap, while Perez fell to the back and had to fight his way through the field. Critically the two were ahead of the Williams of Valtteri Bottas in 6th and Felipe Massa in 9th, as the two teams stay embroiled in their battle for 4th in the constructors. The pace from both drivers is promising, seeing as Williams very rarely show the car’s true pace on the Friday.

Rosberg was only able to finish the session in 7th, prompting many to wonder if this will be a race Hamilton can capitalise on, he looked shaky during the session whereas Hamilton looked dialled into the track from the off. The result is Rosberg was over seven tenths slower than his team mate.

Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo was the fastest Red Bull in 8th place, with Daniil Kvyat sneaking into the top 10 in his Toro Rosso. Ricciardo’s team mate Max Verstappen’s weekend began in troubled fashion, as the Dutchman lost half of the session after his rear brakes caught fire.

“We had an issue with the rear brakes overheating,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said. “We had an energy-recovery setting that we were trying that got the brakes a bit out of control and it damaged a couple of the electrical looms. That caused a bit of downtime to get that fixed.”

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr caused a mid-session red flag when part of his front wing disintegrated down the straight after breaking it on one of the circuit’s high kerbs. He still managed to finish the session 17th fastest and ahead of the McLaren of Jenson Button.

In Free Practice two the shock of the session was the Ferrari of Vettel setting the pace on a 1:19.70, just four thousandths of a second ahead of the Mercedes of Hamilton. This is the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix Ferrari have headed a Friday practice timesheet. The surprising pace has led many to speculate they may be strong around here and able to challenge the Mercedes. The team haven’t won a race in over a year, and have made some costly strategic errors this year. However, that seemed to be far from Vettel’s mind.
“We had a very good day,” Vettel said after the session. “Lewis’s lap didn’t look particularly good so I think he has more in the pocket, so tomorrow we need to be realistic.”

It was a slightly more positive session for Championship leader Rosberg as he was able to improve from 8th to 3rd, though he was still complaining of issues in the car towards the end of the session. Much like in FP1, Rosberg never looked at home on the circuit like Hamilton was. Proving it when he almost had an off into the wall during one of his hot laps. Meanwhile the second Ferrari of Raikkonen was 4th.

It was once again another tricky session for the Red Bull team. The car doesn’t seem to suit the circuit as well as some of the other cars do. Meaning Ricciardo and Verstappen lacked the pace of both the Silver Arrows and Ferrari and ended the day just 5th and 7th respectively, split by the Force India of Hulkenberg in 6th.
The Williams of Bottas once again had a good Free Practice session in the Williams, finishing the session in 8th in what will be a critical weekend for the team. Carlos Sainz managed to set the 9th fastest time, while the McLaren of Fernando Alonso was able to round out the session in the top ten.

Mexican Free Practice One Results

1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:20.914,
2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, + 0.079
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 0.158,
4. Sergio Perez, Force India, + 0.286
5. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, + 0.495
6. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, + 0.533
7. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, + 0.759
8. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 0.813
9. Felipe Massa, Williams, + 0.922
10. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, + 1.301
11. Romain Grosjean, Haas, + 1.586
12. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, + 1.649
13. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, + 1.809
14. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, + 1.963
15. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, + 1.996
16. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, + 2.175
17. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, + 2.175
18. Jenson Button, McLaren, + 2.428
19. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, + 2.642
20. Esteban Ocon, Manor, + 3.169
21. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, + 3.183
22. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, + 3.436

Mexican Free Practice Two Results
1. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:19.70
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, + 0.004
3. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, + 0.435
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 0.469
5. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 0.658
6. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, + 0.784
7. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, + 0.829
8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, + 0.839
9. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1.184
10. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, + 1.213
11. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, + 1.403
12. Jenson Button, McLaren, + 1.408
13. Felipe Massa, Williams, + 1.536
14. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, + 1.652
15. Sergio Perez, Force India, + 1.789
16. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, + 1.995
17. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, + 2.190
18. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, + 2.207
19. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, + 2.247
20. Romain Grosjean, Haas, + 2.315
21. Esteban Ocon, Manor, + 2.508
22. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, + 2.618

Feature Image Credit: Scudaria Ferrari Press Release.

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