Another week and another Grand Prix and this could be the weekend when Lewis Hamilton clinches his fourth world title if he can finish fifth on Sunday. Mercedes face a tough battle though at a Mexican Grand Prix that isn’t going to play to their advantage.
The belief was that Mercedes might have a tough time of it in Mexico this weekend. The altitude in Mexico City is 2,250m and that means less downforce being produced by the car’s wings. When cars use maximum downforce, it’s not good news for Mercedes as was experienced in both Monaco and Hungary.
Despite that, it was a 1-2 for Mercedes in the first practice session but with Valtteri Bottas, who could do with a good weekend, who finished 0.466 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton. It was the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in third and fourth with Sebastian Vettel back in fifth, 0.762 seconds slower than Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen was in sixth place but had an eventful session losing control on the dusty and low-grip track surface. He wasn’t the only one to have problems with the track. Alfonso Celis would have been happy to be given the chance to sub for Estaban Ocon, but not so delighted when crashing his Force India at the last corner and damaging the rear wing and rear end.
It looks good on paper, but the Mercedes set their fastest times on the ultra-soft tyres, unlike Red Bull and Ferrari. The fact that Verstappen got within 0.571 seconds of Bottas despite using the slower set of tyres bodes well for the weekend.
It’s going to be another awkward weekend for McLaren. Fernando Alonso finished in eighth just behind Sergio Perez, but has a 35-place grid penalty this weekend due to the usual engine infringements. He must be counting down the days till Honda don’t supply the engines next season.
Red Bull got the upper hand in the second practice session with Daniel Ricciardo finishing just ahead of Lewis Hamilton with just 0.131 seconds between the two drivers. Max Verstappen was in third with Sebastian Vettel in fourth, 0.332 seconds behind the championship leader.
Hamilton didn’t get off to a great start in the session spinning his Mercedes early on. He had a good second half though and the race-simulation run was an impressive one, though the Red Bulls look set for a good race on Sunday.
There often seems to be something that causes Sebastian Vettel to have a bit of a moan and this session was no exception. He wasn’t in the best of moods when the fire extinguisher in his cockpit went off. “Initially it was just burning but it turned out to be very cold. I had to go back, and we changed it and lost some time. ” He described his Ferrari as a “a bit so-so,” not the description needed when trying to get back into the title race.
It’ll be interesting to see if Vettel’s Ferrari can be a bit better tomorrow as he chases pole for Sunday’s race. I’ll be back tomorrow evening with a report on qualifying, until then enjoy your racing.