Teams and drivers report from the first day of the Mexican Grand Prix weekend, Round 19 of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
Daniel Ricciardo: “Our car worked really well on low fuel runs in both sessions today which should put us in a good position for qualifying, but I don’t want to be naïve as I’m sure Mercedes and Ferrari will turn it up and give us a push tomorrow. If it stays like this it could be a close six-way fight for pole which would be pretty exciting for everyone. Tomorrow I want to work more on our race pace and the high fuel runs as we weren’t quite as competitive on those. It seems with the altitude here everyone’s power levels are closer, we will see tomorrow once everyone goes into qualifying mode but today on paper we look good. The key in qualifying will be to get a clean lap as it’s still quite slippery around here and it’s easy to make small mistakes. The Hypersoft is graining a lot, which is actually quite nice, as most of the races this season have been easy on a one-stop so maybe we will actually get a two-stop this weekend.”
Max Verstappen: “Today has been really good, better than expected. Not just for me but for Daniel also, it’s nice to have us both at the top. We have a very good car at this circuit, good downforce and good mechanical grip. This was already clear from Monaco earlier in the year and you can see again it is working really well here. If you have good grip you can make quite a big gap quickly because the surface is quite slippery out there. As always there are areas to improve but for now it’s looking good. I said in Japan that it was one of my worst Friday’s in F1, this has been one of the best. The car was quick here last year but after today I think we are more competitive than 2017. We think I had a small issue with hydraulics at the end but we haven’t been able to check the car yet. We are not too concerned ahead of tomorrow, the guys will investigate this evening but hopefully it is a quick fix.”
Lewis Hamilton: “The car was good in some places, but not so good in others. It’s not about one particular area; there are lots of different things that we can improve. It was difficult with the high track temperatures, which were melting and graining the tyres, but a lot of people were experiencing that today. We run the biggest wings at this track but are still quite quick on the straights because of the altitude, but then there’s not a lot of grip through the corners, even on the hypersoft tyres. We’ve got some ground to catch up on, so we’re now going to go through everything in the debrief and look at all the details to find some answers. Red Bull seem out of our reach at the moment, Ferrari are right there with us, but we’re here to try and compete, so we will do the best we can to have a real race.”
Valtteri Bottas: “It was a pretty difficult day. We struggled with the pace in both sessions and like nearly everyone else we also struggled with tyre life. Both of the compounds started to grain quickly and it feels like we’re lacking overall grip, so the car is sliding around a lot which is then wearing the tyres. We don’t have a definite answer why the pace isn’t quite there yet; we’re going to have to analyse it and look at it from every angle. We have plenty of work to do for tomorrow and, while we are scratching our heads a little at this point, I’m confident that we’ll find answers over the course of the evening and come back stronger tomorrow.”
James Allison, Technical Director: “This is an unusual track, which places unusual demands on the chassis, power unit, cooling systems and tyres. From all our running today, we have to conclude that we have not yet found the best way to meet those unusual demands with good performance on both single laps and in the long runs. We were overheating the power unit in a number of areas today, and that meant we had to protect against this by turning it down as a precaution. With a bit luck, and no little hard work, we can get ourselves into better shape tomorrow and on Sunday, when conditions are also forecast to be cooler. We have plenty of work ahead of us overnight and in FP3 tomorrow to put ourselves in a stronger position than we were able to achieve today.”
Sebastian Vettel: “Today it was difficult to make the car work the right way. However, it was interesting to compare the packages this morning, while during the afternoon session we focused more on preparing for the qualifying session and the race, which was good. On the fast lap though, we struggled to find the right balance and squeeze everything from the tyres. The difficult part is that there is no grip and downforce, so it’s pretty slippery and the tyres don’t work the right way. So, I think this is why, in some cases, you can see big gaps in lap times. We’ll try to fix everything for tomorrow. This will be the main job to do. I believe everybody can still improve for tomorrow, and we’ll try as hard as we can, but I think the key point will be the tyres”.
Kimi Raikkonen: “This track has always been tricky to start with, because of the very low downforce, and today it was no different. It was a normal Friday in Mexico, with very limited grip on the track, so it’s easy to make mistakes and flatspot a tyre. Because of this, we had a lot of vibrations in the car, which is not ideal, but towards the end it was getting better. How good we are against the others we’ll see tomorrow. For sure we improved through the session, but there is still some work to be done”.
Sergio Perez: “Friday was a day of learning and we’ve come away with good information. This morning we were a bit surprised to see how the tyres were performing and they will have a big influence on the race result. If you understand them, you will find a big advantage. Qualifying well is important here, but I think even more important is to have strong race pace and that is where we are focussing our energy tonight.”
Nicholas Latifi: “It was a good session for me. I was happy to be back in the car after missing out last week in Austin [due to the adverse weather]. It was a pretty straightforward session, testing set-ups and helping the team learn about the tyres. The conditions were quite tricky today and I experienced the lowest grip and the most sliding I’ve ever had in a Formula One car. The altitude reduces the downforce and you really feel it, but it was quite fun. Each time I drive the car I want to make a step forward in performance and I think today was one of my better FP1 performances.”
Esteban Ocon: “I did my best to get up to speed quickly, but we didn’t have many laps on the hypersoft tyres. The long runs went to plan and we learned about the tyres, but I think everybody discovered that managing them on Sunday is going to be a big challenge. It’s the same for everybody and it should be entertaining for the fans.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO: “As always here in Mexico, we had very low grip at the start of the day, with a dirty track and the drivers getting used to the reduced downforce the car generates at this altitude. Nicholas did an excellent job this morning, helping us complete our test programme. We ran some test items on the car and he gave us good feedback. The tyres are proving to be a challenge with a lot of graining, but we expect that to improve as the weekend progresses. There is still plenty of work to do with the car, but overall it was not a bad first day of action.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “The car felt good today, in line with our expectations for balance and feeling. It was a pleasant surprise to see how quick we were especially for a Friday. Tyre degradation is obviously something we’re looking at for the race as the Hypersoft gives good pace, but that performance doesn’t last. We have a few set-up areas to work on, so there’s potential for more to come tomorrow.”
Carlos Sainz: “It’s always a great feeling to take to the track in Mexico and that feeling is even better if your lap times look good relative to the opposition, even though the third places just have a symbolic value! It was a good Friday in general, with some testing in the morning and a strong programme in the afternoon that we managed to complete without any issues. Tyre understanding and management will be crucial for Sunday, so that is one of the main things to analyse. We are looking forward to tomorrow.”
Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director: “We showed good performance on single-lap runs and showed strong pace on the long runs with both drivers. We completed our programmes without any issue, including aerodynamic tests for correlation. Tyre management is a real focal point at this track, with the added challenge of temperature and weather changes forecast for tomorrow. Today’s performance was nevertheless promising for the rest of the weekend.”
Pierre Gasly: “Today wasn’t an easy day. The engine change in FP1 meant I couldn’t run much in the morning, which affected the preparation for this afternoon’s session. As for FP2, it wasn’t a very clean session due to the traffic and a few drivability issues, so we have quite a lot to do tonight to get ready for tomorrow. Due to the penalty on Sunday, we will have to start from the back of the grid, so our main focus will be on the race pace. I’m still positive though, because even if it makes my life more difficult here, it’s a strategic move for the remaining two races of the season.”
Brendon Hartley: “It was a really positive Friday for us. To be in the top 10 in both sessions and to finish P6 this afternoon was great! I enjoy coming to this track, I’ve raced here a few times before and it’s my second visit in a Formula 1 car. We did a lot of testing on the new aero kit. I really think it suits my driving style so today it felt like we started getting the car closer and closer to what I want. It’s great to come out punching after a few really good races for me, and I’m feeling good about the weekend so far.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer: “We travelled to Mexico expecting poor weather, but we’ve had a fantastic sunny day and we’ve managed to get a lot of track time on one of the cars. Both cars had very different programmes which we planned coming into the weekend; we took a tactical PU change for Pierre, which meant he only got a couple of installation laps in FP1. We then fitted a PU that was already in the pool for FP2 onwards. The main focus for us as a team today was to understand the brakes, the cooling, and in particular, the tyres and the new aero package. They’re the key items here because this track is extremely difficult on the brakes and cooling. They both seem to be under control which is positive. We also evaluated the aero package and gathered data with the rake in FP1, which looks good. We were playing with the setup on Brendon’s car throughout FP1 and into FP2, to try to learn and optimise the aero platform after the limited running in USA, and maximise the performance of the new package. You can see from the timesheets that it appears to be working well, but we still need to go through all of the data tonight and confirm that. We have very big tyre graining here. We expected some, but not as much as we’ve seen today. Since the Hypersoft grained so much, it didn’t give Pierre the chance to get a lot of timed laps in, so I think his position on the timesheet is not representative of where he can be. The key for us now is to see what we can do to mitigate the graining for Sunday or adapt the strategy around it.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: “As planned, we sent Pierre out in FP1 with a new latest spec PU for a couple of installation laps and then immediately brought him in to replace that PU with a pre-Russia spec version. Brendon was already running this specification since the start of FP1. We have thus put another new engine in Pierre’s pool for the remaining two races. Brendon’s sixth place this afternoon was certainly encouraging, while Pierre had to deal with missing the first session. We therefore had plenty of work to get through today and everything went smoothly.”
Romain Grosjean: “Not an easy day to find the balance of the car and getting the tyres to work. The hypersofts weren’t having a good time. We were suffering, as well, with the cooling and the altitude. There’s a lot to work on with the car. It wasn’t the performance we were expecting. I think the order is a bit surprising – the Renaults are very competitive, as was the Toro Rosso of (Brendon) Hartley, and Ferrari were a bit behind. There’s a lot of work to be done tonight. Hopefully, it’ll be a better day tomorrow. The exciting part is it looks like we’ll have more than one stop in the race.”
Kevin Magnussen: “It wasn’t a good day. We didn’t learn too much. The tyres were just not working at all. We’ll see what we can do on the tyre side to get them into the window tomorrow. They weren’t working on low fuel or on high fuel. We’re looking for answers. We’ll have to think hard and come up with some ideas for tomorrow. I didn’t get my first lap in. I had to try again, but the tyres had already died by then. It’s not as bad as it looks. It’s just frustrating when you want to go racing and you’re sliding around like crazy and the car isn’t behaving as you expected. We’ll see what we can do for tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “Not our best FP1 and FP2 sessions of the season. We were struggling with getting the tyres to work, to get them into their working range. There needs to be a lot of thinking happening tonight. Hopefully, we come out better tomorrow. I’m sure our guys will come up with some solutions. At the moment, the chance of rain is high. Maybe we’ll do all this work for nothing. Not a fantastic day, though.”
Fernando Alonso: “It’s always a pleasure to come and race on this unique track, with low air density, fast straights and little grip. We had good feelings today. In FP2 we were testing different things that we carried on from FP1, and obviously the biggest issue was the tyres. There seems to be quite high degradation, so we wanted to check both compounds – also because there might be some rain tomorrow. We have gathered good information. This is the kind of circuit where you need to adapt to a lot of things. It’s mechanically very demanding because of the engine and brake temperatures, so all in all we had an important day of testing. It’s difficult to guess where we’ll be tomorrow and on Sunday, because the Hypersoft tyre only gives you one lap. Some of the top guys today on that lap maybe had traffic or a lock-up and didn’t put the lap together, which I think they will do tomorrow, so the pecking order will be more ‘normal’.
Stoffel Vandoorne: “It was a reasonable Friday. I think for everyone the talking point was probably the tyres today. It was important for us to be on track and see the long runs, and we split the tyre compounds between us to see the degradation. I think everyone’s been struggling with it a lot today. It’s a very slippery track to start on too and there’s a lot of evolution, so we’ll see how that goes. Actually, for us I think it would be a good thing if it’s like that on Sunday – it would definitely make the race more entertaining. It’s hard to tell where we are in the competitive order as the field is actually very tight. The Red Bulls are definitely a step ahead but behind them it seems very close, so if we figure a few things out on our side and gain a little bit of performance we might be in for something good. The most important thing is going to be managing the tyres, and that’s going to be the biggest chance to score points here.”
Lando Norris – FP1: 1:19.646, P15: “Overall, FP1 was a tricky session. It’s my first time here in Mexico City. The session was a combination of a lot of tyre degradation and a dirty track, which made the car really difficult to drive, so it was quite easy to make mistakes. I had some lock-ups here and there, but overall we got through the run plan that we needed to do, and I think I gave myself a good feeling of the car and the track. That’s the main thing for me, so that when I come back here next year I feel more confident straight away. In terms of driving the car, it was very tricky – the lowest downforce I have driven on. It was good to experience something different again, and in terms of my learning it was a productive session.”
Marcus Ericsson: “It was a difficult first day here in Mexico. I struggled with the balance of the car, as well as with the tyres, and did not feel great driving. We have a lot of work ahead of us to understand how we can improve for tomorrow. The track is a challenging one, especially with the altitude where we are located, so we will push hard to come back fighting for good results tomorrow.”
Antonio Giovinazzi: “It was a challenging session, as the track was quite dirty and there was not much grip. We ran on the hypersoft compound, so the degradation was high as well, which made it even more tricky. In the end it was still a good session and the lap times were alright. I am happy with the work we have done and my focus remains on working with the team for the remainder of the season.”
Charles Leclerc: “I completed one practice session today, getting into my car for FP2. It was quite a difficult session, and we have a lot of work to do for tomorrow. I hope that we will be able to make the step we usually do from Friday to Saturday, so that we can improve our performance on this track.”
Sergey Sirotkin: “It was a busy Friday. We had an interesting morning where we went through a couple of interesting things. I don’t think they gave us any performance, but it was good to get the experience. In the afternoon we switched to long runs with high fuel. Performance wise, it was tough, which was not a surprise for us. Ahead of tomorrow we have a few things to optimise but we ran some productive tests, so we should be happy with that. All in all, a tough but reasonable Friday.”
Lance Stroll: “It was the usual Friday. We did a fair bit of running and learnt a lot in these conditions with high altitude and low grip. It took some adapting from my side and for the engineers this weekend. We must think about a few things going into tomorrow. We will try to get into Q2, but we don’t really know where our competitors stand, as you never really know on a Friday. Looking at the time sheets today it is close, but that is Formula One. It is going to be tricky on the tyres, especially for the guys starting on the hypersoft – I wish them luck! We will see what Sunday brings and I am sure it is going to be a very unexpected race on race strategy and other things. On fuel it is going to be challenging, but it is not the only track that has its fuel limitations, so that is nothing we haven’t experienced before. Tyres, brakes, high altitude will be factors on Sunday.”
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: “We have had some good weather today in Mexico and it was a busy session for us in FP1 with a large number of experiments going on both sides of the garage. We completed our programme to plan. The stand out point was the high level of graining on the hypersoft tyre. Going into FP2 it was clear the graining was a big problem on both the hypersoft and ultrasoft tyre compounds. We had a much better run on the supersoft tyre with Sergey. Again, we managed to get through all our homework this afternoon. This is an important circuit to dial in a lot of system points for the race due to the altitude of the circuit. We will be optimising overnight seeing what configuration we can run in qualifying and the race. We will particularly look at how to get through the race with the tyres we have available, which I’m sure is also a concern for many other teams. This is going to make a very challenging but interesting race.”
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing:“It was quite a tricky day to interpret, although in many ways a bit similar to what we saw in Mexico last year. Today, there was high degradation on the hypersoft in free practice, which is of course two steps softer than the softest compound we brought to Mexico in 2017 (ultrasoft). If this continues throughout the weekend, it will influence qualifying strategy, with some teams perhaps choosing to prioritise durability over outright pace, and a few different strategies presenting themselves for the race. A lot more data analysis is needed tonight and FP3 to fully understand the situation. There’s a chance of rain on Saturday night, which would obviously ‘reset’ the track and wash away the rubber that’s been deposited so far. In any case, it already promises to be a great fight over the rest of the weekend.”