Max Verstappen continued to set the pace in second practice for the Mexico City Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver set an 18.686 which put him just over a tenth faster than Lando Norris. The Dutchman looks to continue his record-breaking wins to go one better than he managed last year.
Verstappen has won four times at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and victory would see Red Bull move ahead of Lotus. Charles Leclerc was third going three thousandths faster than the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas, while the Ferrari was a tenth and a half off Verstappen. The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez was fifth.
The high altitude in Mexico City usually leads to closer lap times because the engine performance drops off and levels off, thanks to there being less oxygen at the highest circuit of the season. Bottas going fourth was a perfect example of that, he was only a quarter of a second of Verstappen.
Going into the weekend despite this being a circuit where Verstappen is very strong many expected the circuit conditions to see the gap close. However, the Dutchman contradicted that and his own prediction by topping the sessions.
Norris had gone into the weekend suggesting that the circuit’s slow corners may not suit his McLaren, but produced another impressive display to suggest he will be in with a chance of claiming a fifth successive podium finish on Sunday.
While it was an unorthodox day of F1 practice, with the young drivers competing in FP1 and prototype development tyres used, not exclusively, in both sessions, the Dutchman established himself as favourite for qualifying on Saturday.
Daniel Ricciardo was sixth, the Alpha Tauri driver was one of three other drivers to top the session before Verstappen seized control with his best time nearly a second faster. Ricciardo ended the session just over two hundredths faster than Lewis Hamilton, with Esteban Ocon six hundredths behind the Mercedes.
Hamilton had gone into the weekend having hoped to challenge Verstappen following a closer battle last weekend in Austin, however the seven-time champion was over three-tenths off. While his teammate George Russell, after missing FP1 with Fred Vesti fulfilling a young driver session, was a further two-tenths off in tenth.
But all is not lost for Mercedes, despite not fighting for wins for the last two years they have retained the ability to find gains between second and third practice throughout the season, and Hamilton will undoubtedly be working late into Friday evening.
Oscar Piastri was ninth having at one point topped the session, the McLaren driver was eight hundredths behind Ocon and ahead of Russell by seven hundredths. The Englishman rounding out the top ten, which was covered by just over half a second, that could create a close battle in qualifying.
While Mercedes may be disappointed not to have shown more speed following their upgrades last weekend in Austin, the uniquely high altitude of Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez means there are likely to be significant overnight adjustments which could alter the pecking order.
Carlos Sainz was eleventh the Ferrari driver three hundredths behind Russell, and ahead of Yuki Tsunoda.
The long runs were interrupted by a few spots of rain, but heavier rain has fallen overnight. Although the rain didn’t interrupt the race runs enough to force the teams to switch to inters.
Alex Albon was fourteenth eight hundredths ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, however, the British-Thai drivers session ended slightly early as Williams needed to inspect the car after a piece of underfloor aerodynamics began trailing along the floor as the session’s end approached.
Hulkenberg did look as if he could have improved his time on his one of his qualifying simulations, while he went fastest in the middle sector, all that time was in the final sector.
Pierre Gasly was sixteenth going ahead of Logan Sargeant and Lance Stroll, while Kevin Magnussen was nineteenth.
Fernando Alonso rounded out the field, the two-time champion having the most dramatic moment of the session. About halfway through the session, the Aston Martin driver went too hard over the kerb at the high speed Turn Nine, which sent him into a spin leading to him pirouetting across the full duration of the short straight leading down to Turn Ten.
The Aston pair not completing a soft tyre run meant the top five places went untouched to the end. Alonso’s teammate Stroll completed the least laps on his way to eighteenth because of a problem with the left-front wheel on his Aston confining him to the pits. Alonso also failed to set a reprehensive lap following a spin on his qualifying simulation.