What a difference a week makes! After playing second fiddle to Ferrari in Austin last weekend, Red Bull showed impressive pace in the first free practice for the Mexican Grand Prix with Max Verstappen topping the timing screens ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen’s best lap time of 1:16.656 was half a second up on his teammate, the Dutchman the only driver to dip into 76 seconds zone around the 4.304-kilometer Autodrome Hermanos Rodriguez.
Next up. surprisingly, were Renault duo Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg in third and fourth respectively, albeit 1.2 seconds down on the top time of the similarly powered Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton was fastest of the Mercedes drivers in fifth, 1.4 seconds adrift of Verstappen and a quarter second up on teammate Valtteri Bottas in sixth, suggesting that the Silver Arrows are still in race mode and yet to unleash hot laps.
Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen appeared ill at ease, the Finn spinning at one point while his teammate complained about graining, as did others. However, like Mercedes, the Reds are probably also keeping their powder dry as they back-to-back tested floor updates during the 90-minute morning session.
Brendon Hartley was ninth in the Toro Rosso but a full second down to their normal rivals Renault. In the other car, Pierre Gasly did a couple of laps with the Spec-3 power unit before pitting to swap it out for a Spec-2 version. He sat out as his mechanics toiled to get the car ready for FP2.
Nicolas Latifi was tenth in the Force India, replacing Esteban Ocon for the session. Sergio Perez was fractionally slower in 11th.
Other reserves in action during FP1 were Sauber’s Antonio Giovinazzi and McLaren’s Lando Norris, the pair ending the session 12th and 15th, both faster than the teams’ regular drivers