FP1: Bottas quickest, Hamilton given reprimand

Date published: November 5 2021 - Henry Valantine

Valtteri Bottas puts on a mask. Mexican Grand Prix November 2021.

Valtteri Bottas went fastest in FP1 for the Mexican Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton received a reprimand for re-entering the track in the wrong place.

Hamilton was only 0.076s slower than his Mercedes team-mate to rank second in the first session, with the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in P3 and P4 respectively.

Hamilton came back on track at Turn 3, having run wide at Turn 1 and taken to the grass as he locked up on a flying lap, and he has been called to see the stewards to discuss the incident because he should have gone around a specific bollard.

Dust billowed into the air as the cars headed out of the pit lane, which meant there was plenty of running to be done to get grip into the track, which hasn’t been used since early 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Home hero Perez received a standing ovation from the home crowd as he took to the track for his first laps, but the drivers were clearly cautious to start with in the tricky, hazy conditions. As a result, it took a little while for the times to start coming down as the drivers pounded round.

A 1:21.327 was the first benchmark time from Bottas – almost seven seconds slower than Verstappen’s pole time in 2019.

Charles Leclerc had complained about the amount of dust on team radio, and he spun his Ferrari into the wall at Turn 16, damaging his rear wing in the process – before Perez followed suit just seconds later in an identical incident.

Half of the Red Bull rear wing snapped off in the incident, but the Mexican was seen out of his car as his team worked on a fix, which was hardly ideal for Perez at his home race as he eventually missed out on half of FP1.

Elsewhere, the reigning World Champion tested the limits heading into Turn 1 at full pelt, locking his front right tyre under braking and having to take to the grass to get himself back on track, while Bottas ran wide on a couple of occasions as he searched for speed.

Due to the way Hamilton re-entered the track, however, the stewards confirmed he is under investigation for not coming back on in the right place, which will be looked at after the session finished.

Verstappen and Hamilton topped the times half-way through FP1, but lap times then began to look more representative as the dust started to clear away and the cars went out on the soft tyres.

Daniel Ricciardo said prior to the weekend that both McLaren drivers would put up a fight for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship, but Lando Norris appeared to disobey instructions from his team, as he refused to offer his team-mate a tow in what would have been a practice qualifying run, insisting over team radio that he wanted to complete his lap on his own.

At the top of the leaderboard, the Red Bull cars tucked in narrowly behind the Mercedes pair, as the Silver Arrows looked on the pace in the first session on Friday – potentially allaying fears that they would lag behind their title rivals in Mexico.

Pierre Gasly was ahead of Carlos Sainz for P5 and P6, followed by Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc, with Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel rounding out the top 10 in FP1.

The stewards later reprimanded Hamilton – for the first time this season – as he had failed to drive around the bollard at Turn 3 on returning to the track, while Kimi Raikkonen met exactly the same fate for a near-identical incident later in the session.

Times

[All drivers’ fastest laps on soft tyres]

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:18.341 28 laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.076s 24 laps
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.123s 28 laps
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.269s 20 laps
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 0.644s 23 laps
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1.122s 26 laps
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1.315s 26 laps
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1.326s 20 laps
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.418s 20 laps
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1.517s 27 laps
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1.670s 30 laps
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.685s 26 laps
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.689s 27 laps
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.932s 25 laps
15 Lando Norris McLaren 1.960s 26 laps
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 2.003s 27 laps
17 George Russell Williams 2.176s 23 laps
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 3.239s 23 laps
19 Mick Schumacher Haas 3.803s 27 laps
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas 4.478s 24 laps