Max Verstappen was fastest in first practice ahead of this weekends Mexico City Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver set a 19.718 on the soft tyres going just under a tenth ahead of Williams Alex Albon. The Dutchman goes into this weekend as the favourite, asides from his record breaking season the Autodromo Hermanos Rodrigues he has dominated this season.
More records are on the line this weekend, winning Sunday’s race would be his sixteenth win of the season one better than his fifteen wins last year having broken the record last year.
Albon’s form was impressive to be nearly a tenth off, though early in the weekend Williams are normally fighting towards the lower end of the top ten. But the British-Thai driver managed to go faster than the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, its however unlikely that performance will continue through out the weekend.
Lando Norris put his McLaren fourth continuing to show how tight the midfield is, the British driver was six hundredths faster than Charles Leclerc. Norris had topped the times having been the first to switch to the soft tyre, then Verstappen went half second faster. The Ferrari drive managing to spilt the two McLarens after going nearly two tenths faster than Carlos Sainz.
Sainz however did miss part of a session after crawling back to the pit lane following his first run in the session, a loss of hydraulic pressure saw him crawl back the pit lane in fourth gear. Ferrari were able to resolve the issue and he returned to the track shortly after.
Practice one looks difficult to read with nine of the ten teams having one car in the top ten which was covered by a second. The teams all had a set of Pirelli test tyres to try during the session, which meant reading into the times was even more difficult than usual in first practice.
Daniel Ricciardo put his Alpha Tauri eighth, nine tenths behind Sainz and a tenth ahead of the Alpine of Esteban Ocon an Lance Stroll. But Fernando Alonso was only sixteenth, the two time champion spent most of the session testing the teams new floor introduced in Austin.
This weekend is the first since late September which isn’t a sprint weekend, this made FP1 less busy on track. as teams have three sessions to decide their set-ups for race and qualifying rather than only one, and it was characterised by five teams taking the opportunity to use up one of their two mandatory young driver outings.
It also allowed teams to run mandatory session for young drivers, Ollie Bearman going fastest in the Haas the Ferrari driver four tenths off Nico Hulkenberg in fifteenth. Hulkenberg himself was twelfth just under a quarter of a second behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
Hulkenberg having aborted his fastest lap, after coming across a slow Aston Martin within the Foro Sol stadium section. This put him ahead of Guanyu Zhou, who was spotted with work being done to his Alfa Romeo towards the end of the session, and Williams’ Logan Sargeant.
Hamilton said going into the weekend, he believed like last weekend in Austin he could challenge Verstappen. But it was a low key start for Mercedes, as Fred Vesti was only nineteenth.
Bearman had a scary moment when he got the car on the kerbs at the Esses and had to rescue what could have been a crash, but set a faster time on the soft tyres on his next lap. Isack Hadjar was seventeen a second and a half almost off regular Alpha Tauri driver Daniel Ricciardo.
The Frenchman was a tenth faster than Jack Doohan with Vesti nearly a tenth off. Hadjar’s fellow Frenchman Theo Pourchaire failed to set a time because of a braking problem saw his session brought to a premature close.
a nightmare second outing at the top level for F2 championship leader Theo Pourchaire, who was unable to complete a timed lap due to problem on his Alfa Romeo.