Lewis Hamilton set the pace in a cold opening practice in Mexico, a session in which Felipe Nasr’s shattered front wing brought out the red flags while Max Verstappen’s brakes caught fire.
Cold temperatures and dust meant grip was not easy to come by as the drivers took to the newly resurfaced Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez for the start of FP1 on Friday morning.
Fernando Alonso topped the early running before he was overhauled by Valtteri Bottas and then Nico Rosberg. The championship leader, out on the soft tyres, crossed the line with a 1:22.748.
Hamilton slotted into second place despite reporting that he had “no gears [displayed] on my dashboard.”
The Brit continued lapping, lowering the benchmark to a 1:21.633, on what was effectively his fourth hot lap on the soft tyres. Rosberg was 0.213s off the pace.
The session was red flagged after 33 minutes as Felipe Nasr’s front wing failed, shattering and spewing debris all over the track. He had been running over the kerbs at the final part of the Esses moments before the failure.
The Brazilian’s car was fitted with Halo at the time but given that the debris went under his Sauber, the cockpit protection device did not get its first true test.
FP1 resumed with 48 minutes on the clock.
Verstappen was the next driver in trouble as the fire extinguishers were needed on his rear brakes, forcing a lengthy delay in the pits as Red Bull took “out the scorched bits” as Christian Horner put it.
Swapping to the medium tyres Hamilton upped his pace to a 1:20.914 while Sebastian Vettel slotted into second place. Using the soft tyres the Ferrari driver clocked a 1:20.993 to cross the line 0.079s short of Hamilton’s best.
Kimi Raikkonen took third place, a further 0.079s off the pace. Sergio Perez was fourth for Force India on the supersofts as he edged his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg and Bottas while Rosberg dropped to seventh place as he finished up on the medium tyres.
Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Massa and Daniil Kvyat completed the top ten as a few drops of rain few in the closing minutes.
1. L Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.914 34 laps
2. S Vettel Ferrari 1:20.993 23 laps
3. K Raikkonen Ferrari 1:21.072 19 laps
4. S Perez Force India 1:21.200 23 laps
5. N Hulkenberg Force India 1:21.409 23 laps
6. V Bottas Williams 1:21.447 34 laps
7. N Rosberg Mercedes 1:21.673 32 laps
8. D Ricciardo Red Bull 1:21.727 27 laps
9. F Massa Williams 1:21.836 31 laps
10. D Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:22.215 29 laps
11. R Grosjean Haas 1:22.500 21 laps
12. C Sainz Jr Toro Rosso 1:22.563 32 laps
13. M Ericsson Sauber 1:22.723 17 laps
14. M Verstappen Red Bull 1:22.877 10 laps
15. E Gutiérrez Haas 1:22.910 23 laps
16. F Alonso McLaren 1:23.089 25 laps
17. F Nasr Sauber 1:23.089 12 laps
18. J Button McLaren 1:23.342 24 laps
19. K Magnussen Renault 1:23.556 32 laps
20. E Ocon Manor 1:24.083 30 laps
21. J Palmer Renault 1:24.097 35 laps
22. P Wehrlein Manor 1:24.350 28 laps