Valtteri Bottas topped a Mercedes one-two in the opening practice session for this weekend’s FIA Formula One World Championship Mexican Grand Prix with the Finnish driver beating title-contending team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.076s as championship leader Max Verstappen finished third for Red Bull, a little over a tenth of a second off the pace.
Mexico City’s Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez has been rarely used in recent times and when running got underway the surface was extremely dusty and low on grip.
And early on the tricky conditions caught out Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s home hero Sergio Pérez. Both drivers lost control as they headed into the last part of the Foro Sol stadium section and spun backwards into the barriers but while Leclerc suffered minor damage, Pérez hit the wall harder, breaking the rear wing. He limped back to the pits and when his team removed the floor of his car it looked like he would be sidelined for some time.
On track, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly led the way in the wake of the Leclerc/Pérez crashes with a soft tyre lap of 1:20.316s set just after the quarter-hour mark. Hamilton then appeared but he too struggled in the conditions and a front right lock-up approaching the first corner caused him to go off track. And in returning he failed to go to the left of the bollard in Turn 2, and was placed under investigation for failing to rejoin safely.
Verstappen then moved to the top of the order with a hard-tyre time of 1:20.214 but he was ousted from P1 by who posted a soft-compound lap 1:20.085. Verstappen beat that with a later tour on the white-banded tyres but Hamilton raised the stakes again to reclaim top spot with a lap of 1:19.781.
Soon after the half way the field switched to new softs for early performance running. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz stole top spot with a lap 1:19.470 before Bottas emerged to take P1 1:18.834. Verstappen then moved ahead with a lap of 1:18.464 but Bottas went for a second run and set the best time of the session with a lap of 1:18.341. With just over 10 minutes remaining, Hamilton slotted into second, 0.076s slower than Bottas, leaving Verstappen with third place, 0.123s behind the Finn.
Pérez rejoined the action in the last third of the session and gradually worked his way up to fourth at the flag ahead of Gasly, Sainz and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. Leclerc also returned to the fray and ended up eighth ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who rounded out the top 10.
2021 FIA Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:18.341 28 197.781
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:18.417 0.076 24 197.589
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:18.464 0.123 28 197.471
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:18.610 0.269 20 197.104
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:18.985 0.644 23 196.168
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:19.463 1.122 26 194.988
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:19.656 1.315 26 194.516
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:19.667 1.326 20 194.489
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:19.759 1.418 20 194.265
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:19.858 1.517 27 194.024
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 1:20.011 1.670 30 193.653
12 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:20.026 1.685 26 193.617
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:20.030 1.689 27 193.607
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:20.273 1.932 25 193.021
15 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:20.301 1.960 26 192.954
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:20.344 2.003 27 192.850
17 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:20.517 2.176 23 192.436
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:21.580 3.239 23 189.928
19 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:22.144 3.803 27 188.624
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:22.819 4.478 24 187.087