Valtteri Bottas showed some handy pace to set the early benchmark time in the first free practice session of Mexican Grand Prix weekend, with teammate Lewis Hamilton making it a one-two for Mercedes.
Bottas set a best lap time of 1:17.824, which was a tad less than half a second better than Hamilton’s best in the morning session at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The Finn also packed in the most mileage in the 90 minutes.
Next up were the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen in third and Daniel Ricciardo fourth, Verstappen only fractionally slower than Hamilton and 0.571 of a second down on the top time, while Ricciardo was only two hundredths of a second shy of his teammate’s best.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who ended the session fifth, was the only other driver within a second of the benchmark time, while his teammate in sixth was 1.184 seconds adrift Kimi Raikkonen of Bottas.
It was a day of mixed fortunes for Force India as local hero Sergio Perez was best of the rest in seventh place, but his fellow countryman Alfonso Celis – on duty in place of Esteban Ocon – smacked the wall on the exit of Turn 16, crumpling the rear end of Ocon’s car in the process. The incident prompted a red flag period as the track was cleared.
Fernando Alonso showed some handy pace i the McLaren, at the championship’s highest venue, clocking the eighth best lap time. But it was a frustrating session for teammate Stoffel Vandoorne who had issues with his Honda engine and as a result could only manage three timed laps. He was last on the timing sheets at the end of the session.
Felipe Massa was ninth fastest in the Williams, ahead of Renault pair of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz in 10th and 11th respectively.
Interestingly it was the first session in which Hulkenberg was faster than Sainz since the Spaniard joined the team a week ago in Austin. But the gap was very slight – two thousandth of a second separated the yellow cars on the timing screens!
Down the order Formula 1’s latest rookie Brendon Hartley – WEC Champion and Le Mans winner – was 18th, slower than fellow Toro Rosso driver Sean Galeal who ended the session 17th. The Indonesian driver on duty in place of Pierre Gasly.