Carlos Sainz topped the timesheet in Friday’s only practice for the Mexican Grand Prix, but Max Verstappen kept his rivals in the dark as to his pace as he stuck to the hard Pirellis.
Having spent most of the session focused on race pace, Ferrari made a late swap to the Soft tyres with Sainz going quickest with a 1:11.732 to beat his teammate Charles Leclerc by a tenth with George Russell on the mediums only 0.025 further back despite running the Mediums.
As for Verstappen, he spent the entire session on a set of the Hard tyres and finished 16th, a second down on the lead Ferrari.
Late Soft run hands Ferrari the 1-2
As the threat of rain increased along with the gusty wind and cloud cover, the Formula 1 drivers didn’t wait around in the garages as the weekend’s only practice hour began with Max Verstappen heading up the queue in the pit lane.
The Pirelli Hard tyres were the rubber of choice as Verstappen clocked a 1:13.9 to get the timesheet rolling, the World Champion’s opening gambit six-tenths quicker than anyone else’s with Pierre Gasly up in P2.
His Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon reported an unusual problem with a “screw on my front tyre” while Oscar Piastri had a broken mirror. Verstappen also had a problem as his seat was “flexing”. Red Bull told him not to worry about it as it wasn’t a safety concern. It clearly wasn’t hurting his pace as he shaved eight-tenths off his previous best time.
Sergio Perez closed the gap to Verstappen to 0.025s with the Mercedes teammates making gains as Lewis Hamilton shot up to third, 0.3s down.
The Aston Martins were in the pits for set-up changes, the team altering the ride height of the AMR23s with Fernando Alonso ninth and Lance Stroll P16. Stroll’s first flying lap after the changes saw him jump to 11th, Alonso up to sixth before he had to pit with a puncture.
With a new rule in play this weekend, one that bans the drivers from stopping in the pit lane but has cleared them to build a gap between the pit exit and the first Safety Car line, drivers were practicing slow exits with some strenuous white flag waving from the first marshal post.
First to swap to the Mediums, Yuki Tsunoda stuck his AlphaTauri up in P1 with a 1:12.8. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo was stuck in the garage with a broken floor as his mechanics worked on that with a roll of tape.
Verstappen still on the Hard tyres edged back ahead of Tsunoda before George Russell hit the front with a 1:11.8 on the Medium rubber while last year’s pole-sitter, Kevin Magnussen, was the first to try the Softs. He was still 0.8s off the pace.
His teammate Nico Hulkenberg also made the change but aborted his lap after bouncing off Lando Norris, who was on a hot lap. Race Control noted the collision. Hulkenberg’s second attempt put him P2.
Logan Sargeant had what looked to be a suspension issue late in the session as he found his Williams driving on two wheels as he went off at Turn 1. “Somethings wrong with the front left man,” he bemoaned before heading back to the pits.
Ferrari, who spent the bulk of the session, doing long runs made a late swap to the Soft tyres with Carlos Sainz up into P1 with a 1:11.7 while Charles Leclerc went second, 0.108s slower than his teammate. Russell dropped to third.
As for Verstappen, he finished FP1 down in 16th place, 1.061s off the pace, but he spent the entire session on the Hard tyres. Perez also didn’t run tyre other than the Hards.
1 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari 1:11.732
2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.108
3 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.133
4 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +0.196
5 Alexander ALBON William s+0.312
6 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.404
7 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.452
8 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +0.749
9 Logan SARGEANT Williams +0.847
10 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.860
11 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.883
12 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.906
13 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +0.982
14 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +1.046
15 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.047
16 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +1.061
17 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.280
18 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +1.324
19 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.897
20 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +2.106