MEXICO CITY GP – Max Verstappen fastest by seven hundredths in third practice with times looking tight
Max Verstappen was fastest in third practice for the Mexico City Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver set a 17.887 on the soft tyre which put him seven hundredths faster than Alex Albon. Verstappen goes into qualifying as the favourite for pole after topping all three practice sessions.
The three-time champion sat out the first third of the session before coming out, he soon threw down the challenge going second behind under a tenth then session leader George Russell. Before steadily Improving to top the times, going a second faster with his best time at the end of the session.
The unique nature of the track, coupled with the altitude, has thrown up some surprises in practice and Williams’ slippery car in a straight line and strong mechanical grip has put them in the running.
Sergio Perez was third ahead of his home Grand Prix, the Mexican was over a tenth off his teammate. But he was comfortably faster than Russell in fourth, Mercedes appears to have turned it around after struggling for pace on Friday, Russell looked competitive from the start and went fastest with his first time by half a second, he would also top the session at one point.
Mercedes went into the session following a disappointing Friday, but Russell looked more competitive than they did on Friday. Lewis Hamilton, however, could only go tenth three-tenths further behind, the seven-time champion dropped time through the Turn Four/Five chicane.
Oscar Piastri was a quarter of a second behind Russell in the McLaren, ahead of Valtteri Bottas by four and a half hundredths. Bottas delivering strongly, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez plays to his strengths given its smooth surface which allowed him to take pole two years ago.
Ferrari however appeared to struggle to get a competitive time in on the soft tyre, Charles Leclerc only thirteenth and Carlos Sainz fifteenth. However, both were caught in traffic highlighting a key problem that will come up in qualifying because of the short lap.
Leclerc also had to abort one of his competitive laps after encouraging a slow Kevin Magnussen in the flowing middle sector, while Sainz also had to back out after spinning trying to avoid Lance Stroll who spun.
Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo had strong showings, Tsunoda seventh half a second up on his teammate. The duo while split by the McLaren of Lando Norris who was three hundredths behind Tsunoda and ahead of Daniel Ricciardo by two hundredths, while Lewis Hamilton was tenth.
Hamilton was six-tenths off Verstappen’s session-topping time and three-tenths behind Ricciardo but that shows how tight it has been this weekend. However, the seven-time champion lost time at the second chicane.
Logan Sargeant was eleventh, the Williams driver going two-tenths faster than Guanyu Zhou, Leclerc. Leclerc was two-tenths faster than teammate Sainz spilt by the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, the team may find it difficult getting both cars into Q3 based on their performance this weekend.
Sainz even suffered a spin through the esses as he was blocked by Stroll, appealing for a penalty for the “dangerous” Canadian. Nico Hulkenberg was sixteenth for Haas while Aston Martin’s struggles continued. Fernando Alonso was a distant seventeenth followed by Pierre Gasly.
Kevin Magnussen spilt the two Alpines, despite the Haas being limited to one set after damaging a set. The team opted to send the Dane back out near the end of the session. Esteban Ocon propped up the timesheets in a session in which both Alpines struggled for grip.