Max Verstappen remained on top for the second practice for the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix, but Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc emerged as his challengers.
FP2 saw some rain hitting the track at the start but stopped, only to return at the end of the session, in the final ten minutes but was not hard enough to interrupt the running.
Verstappen was fastest yet again, but Norris and Leclerc edged closer to him, and are expected to give him a hard time in qualifying, that is if they carry their form to Saturday.
And while the reigning Formula 1 Champion showed his dominance on one-lap-pace, his long runs on high fuel loads were not the best, as Norris and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton were faster.
Keeping in mind that we do not know the exact quantity of fuel each of them was carrying, it is nevertheless and interesting observation given Red Bull’s superiority on race pace so far this season.
Hamilton did not show strong one-lap-pace while Fernando Alonso had another tough session, clearly not happy with his AMR23 yet.
Buildup towards FP2
Verstappen topping FP1 was hardly a surprise, but Alex Albon being less than tenth behind him in second place was definitely not expected, but can Williams maintain that form for the remainder of the weekend?
Local hero, Sergio Perez seemed to be closer to his teammate, but still needs to work hard if the dream of become the first Mexican to win his home grand prix is to be realized.
Hamilton did not seem to have any pace in the first practice, while Alonso had a tough session, spending most of his time in the garage, as Aston Martin are still trying to get their upgraded AMR23 to work.
In FP2 all the drivers will be back in action, after five of them (Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda, George Russell, Kevin Magnussen, and Valtteri Bottas) gave their places to young drivers (Jack Doohan, Isack Hadjar, Frederik Vesti, Oliver Bearman, and Theo Pourchaire respectively) as part of the mandatory two practice sessions for young drivers each team has to provide.
Tsunoda will start the race from the back of the grid as he had several components changed on his AlphaTauri.
The Japanese driver will take a new Internal Combustion Engine and Turbo Charger as well as a fifth gearbox case and cassettes in addition to a fifth change of the gearbox driveline, gear change components and auxiliary components.
As was the case in FP1, Pirelli will still be running its 2024 prototype C4 compound in the second practice session.
Mexico FP2 session highlights
The conditions were clearer in FP2 and the temperatures recorded being 40 degrees Celsius for the track and 27 degrees Celsius for the air.
The start of the session saw a mix of Hard, Medium, and the Pirelli prototype tyres being used by the drivers.
Verstappen soon reported rain, he said: “It’s raining here a little bit I think.” Hamilton also reported: “It’s raining in the last sector.”
And indeed the rain was quite visible in the pitlane.
More cars started to switch to the Soft tyres, namely Verstappen who immediately set the record straight and retook the lead, over a tenth ahead of Norris. That was halfway into the session.
Hamilton started to show his form and went third fastest soon after that, but Perez had a moment at the final corner, lost the car a bit, but kept it pointing in the right direction.
The teams soon set out to do some long runs on high fuel loads, and Alonso’s race engineer informs him it was about 10 to 12 laps into his run before the rain returns.
With 18 minutes remaining, Logan Sargeant informs the Williams pit wall that the rain has returned. Russell reported the same and was informed that rain will get heavier in the final ten minutes of the session.
The long runs showed that Mercedes (Hamilton) and McLaren (Norris) had a slight advantage over Red Bull (Verstappen), which is unusual given the latter’s superiority in that department all season long.
With ten minutes remaining, Perez informed the pit wall that the rain was picking up in the final sector.
Sainz lost time in FP1 due to a hydraulic problem, and is still not feeling comfortable in the car in FP2, and had a moment riding the kerbs quite hard.
In the end, the rain was not hard enough to affect the running, and the drivers head to the start/finish line for some practice starts.
How they finished
Verstappen topped the session with a 1:18.686 and was 0.119s faster than Norris in second and 0.266s faster than Leclerc who was third fastest.
Bottas, who missed FP1, was fourth fastest in the Alfa Romeo, 0.269s off the pace and 0.033s faster than Perez who was fifth fastest in the other Red Bull, keeping in mind the Mexican’s best lap on Soft tyres was compromised by a Yellow flag.
Daniel Ricciardo looked in decent form and was sixth fastest posting a 1:19.002 and was 0.022s faster than Hamilton who was only seventh.
Esteban Ocon was eighth fastest in the Alpine, 0.391s off the pace and 0.086s faster than Piastri who was ninth.
Russell was tenth, while Sainz was 11th and Alonso was dead last.