Home hero Sergio Pérez set the fastest lap of final practice for the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship Mexico City Grand, beating Red Bull Racing team-mate Max Verstappen by two tenths of a second as Mercedes Lewis Hamilton finished third, six tenths of a second off the Mexican driver.
The session got underway with the field biding their time in the pit lane. AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda broke the silence after five minutes and the Japanese driver soon posted the opening time of the day at 1:20.922 on soft tyres. Over the next nine laps he worked his way down to 1:19.744 before being pushed out of P1 by Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen who in turn was edged out McLaren’s Lando Norris who established new benchmark of 1:19.244 as the session passed the 20-minute mark.
It was then that Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton made his entrance and the Mercedes driver swiftly rose to the top of the order with a lap of 1:18.770. His stay was brief. However, as team-mate Valtteri Bottas soon crossed the line in 1:18.661 to take P1.
Just before the half hour mark, Sergio Pérez emerged to a huge roar from his home fans and the Red Bull driver rewarded them with the fastest time of the session, a 1:18.625 set on soft tyres.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc jumped to P1 with a lap of 1:18.213 but Pérez restored Red Bull pre-eminence as he improved to 1:17934.
Verstappen then made his late entrance and the championship leader powered past his team-mate’s best effort, knocking almost four tenths of a second off Pérez’s time to take top spot with a lap of 1:17.537. He then went for another flying lap and lowered the marker to 1:17.217 as the field retired to the pit lane to prepare for their qualifying simulations.
Hamilton and Bottas were among the first back on track and though Bottas failed to improve on his first run, Hamilton jumped to third place with a lap of 1:17.903.
Pérez then returned to the fray and though the Mexican logged personal best times in all three sector he couldn’t eclipse his team-mate’s earlier time and settled into P2 with a lap of 1:17.272, just 0.055s off Verstappen.
The Mexican wasn’t done, however, and after returning to the pit lane he went for a second run. And after setting purple times in the final two sectors he took top spot with a lap of 1:17.024.
Verstappen emerged for his qualifying sim but the Dutch driver couldn’t find an improvement and complained to his pit wall that his lap was “weird, no grip at all”.
It left Pérez top, almost two tenths ahead of his team-mate.
Hamilton improved to 1:17.675 to leapfrog Bottas and take P3 but the Briton was still over six tenths of a second off the pace of Pérez.
With Bottas fourth, fifth place in the session went to Sainz, with Tsunoda sixth ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Ninth place went to Leclerc and Norris ended the session in tenth place.
Elsewhere there was bad news for Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, with his team confirming that the Frenchman would be taking a new power unit and he will thus drop to the back of the grid for tomorrow’s race.
2021 FIA Formula 1 Mexico City Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:17.024 15 201.163
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:17.217 0.193 12 200.660
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.675 0.651 14 199.477
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:17.708 0.684 17 199.392
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:18.029 1.005 20 198.572
6 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 1:18.037 1.013 25 198.551
7 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:18.121 1.097 15 198.338
8 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:18.202 1.178 18 198.133
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:18.213 1.189 20 198.105
10 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:18.312 1.288 16 197.854
11 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:18.352 1.328 20 197.753
12 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:18.531 1.507 22 197.302
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:18.556 1.532 19 197.240
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:18.614 1.590 17 197.094
15 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:18.847 1.823 15 196.512
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:18.999 1.975 17 196.134
17 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:19.211 2.187 19 195.609
18 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:19.238 2.214 14 195.542
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:19.313 2.289 12 195.357
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:20.479 3.455 15 192.527