Honda embarrassment; Celis crashes, Vettel explodes

Mark Scott

Stoffel Vandoorne’s new power unit failed to make it through the installation laps, Alfonso Celis Jr crashed in FP1, Lewis Hamilton spun in the afternoon and Sebastian Vettel’s fire extinguisher exploded.

Honda were keen to bring the morning cheer with a nice weather report, but it is the usual doom and gloom for Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, who have respective 20 and 35-place grid penalties for the Mexico Grand Prix this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton arrived at the track on Friday morning knowing that a P5 finish in Mexico City would be enough for him to seal a fourth World Championship title.

After being at the centre of controversy in Austin, Max Verstappen apologised for his post-race comments after being stripped of a podium spot and was eager to make a fresh start at a track he loves.

There was a scattering of reserve drivers getting more laps under their belts in FP1…

The slippy track meant there was plenty of lawn-mowing going on in the early stages, but Brendon Hartley sparked the first Virtual Safety Car period after his Toro Rosso came to a stop at Turn 4. He soon got it back going though.

News emerged of more engine penalties, with Pierre Gasly receiving a five-place grid drop after new control electronics were fitted.

But, not to be outdone, the new power unit on Vandoorne’s car didn’t even make it through the installation laps without breaking.

The session was red-flagged at the half-hour mark as Alfonso Celis Jr lost the Force India into the barrier at the final corner.

But, FP1 got back underway with 23 minutes remaining, albeit minus Max Verstappen who departed early while his RB13 underwent set-up changes.

Valtteri Bottas remained top for the rest of the session, but Ferrari and Red Bull both opted not to use the quickest ultrasoft tyres in FP1.

And the FP1 classification in full…

Romain Grosjean returned to the cockpit of his Haas F1 car for FP2 having sat out the earlier session for Antonio Giovinazzi. It was, however, not a very successful return as he spun out of the last corner and brought out the red flags as his Haas spewed rubber and bits of floor all over the track

Daniel Ricciardo celebrated the Mexican customs as he sported a revised helmet on Friday.

Sebastian Vettel was one of several drivers to have an off during the practice sessions.

Brendon Hartley back in action for Toro Rosso will be happy to note that this time around he doesn’t have an engine penalty. Gasly, though, does.

Vandoorne’s Friday troubles included a loose wheel…

Vettel’s included a fire extinguisher that burst while he was driving the car. “Something burst. There’s acid or something on my seat,” he reported.

Ricciardo was quickest of all.