Max Verstappen put himself top of the timesheets in Mexico on Friday morning, with his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo second quickest in the first free practice session for the Mexican Grand Prix.
Renault had an unusually strong morning, with Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg both ending FP1 ahead of the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers.
2018 Mexican Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
First into action on Friday at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez was McLaren’s Lando Norris, who had been assigned driving duties for FP1 from Fernando Alonso. He wasn’t alone out there for long, with everyone bar the two Mercedes cars heading out during the first ten minutes for a quick shakedown lap, albeit without setting a time.
After a brief pause with no cars out on track, Norris once again led the way back out. However it was the two Ferraris that stayed out long enough to record the first time on the day. Kimi Raikkonen was first up with 1:19.798s on the hypersoft tyres, which was soon bettered by his team mate Sebastian Vettel’s 1:19.696s.
All drivers were suffering from low grip on the very dusty track. It was also significantly cooler conditions than drivers are expecting for the race on Sunday, despite glorious early morning blue skies and sunshine much in evidence.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz showed that the track was starting to clean up when he briefly went top. He was swiftly ousted by local hero Sergio Perez who recorded a time of 1:19.459s in the Force India, before Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen got down to business and took over at the top.
The late-starting Lewis Hamilton finally headed out and immediately went quickest with 1:18.268s. However the Red Bull boys continued to improve with their next runs, before the fun was interrupted by the need for everyone to return to pit lane and hand in their first set of tyres to Pirelli.
“The track is very dirty, not too much more to say at the moment,” was the verdict from Hamilton, who also noted drop-offs in power during subsequent runs. His team mate Valtteri Bottas in fourth place added: “Very low grip. The track is super green. If you go offline it takes a lap to get the tyres clean.”
Raikkonen would soon prove the point about low grip with a spin a turn 6, but he was able to gathered things up and got back underway. His subsequent run on ultrasofts put him up to fifth place a full second off Ricciardo’s benchmark at the one hour mark.
Verstappen took over at the top of the timesheets with his best run of the morning clocking in at 1:16.656s almost half a second quicker than Ricciardo. The Australian was doubtless happy to see equally strong performances from the team he is moving to in 2019, with Sainz and his Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg taking up third and fourth ahead of Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel and Raikkonen.
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Hartley seemed to be getting a good response from Toro Rosso’s latest aero upgrades and was running in ninth ahead of Force India test driver Nicholas Latifi who was sitting in for Esteban Ocon and comparing favourably with Perez in 11th.
Antonio Giovinazzi continued to prepare for his promotion to the Sauber race seat in 2019 by going 12th ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean, with Marcus Ericsson 14th ahead of the two McLarens of Norris and Stoffel Vandoorne. Slowest in the session were Kevin Magnussen, Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll.
Failing to set a time in FP1 was Pierre Gasly, as Honda worked on another engine change that will leave the French driver once again at the back of the grid on Sunday.
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